Guest Column

The child is not dead

2017-04-24 15:09

James de Villiers

The child is not dead, Ingrid Jonker wrote in her poem.

His spirit runs over the earth; over the soil, picking up his fists to fight another day. The child is not dead, his memory lives on, making sure his death is not in vain.

The child died on Friday afternoon. A journalist rushed out of her office as she heard the news. The child’s mother collapsed. She pleaded powerlessly. Her cries echoed.

Her child was one of twenty children who died in a freak mini-bus accident – twenty children who were burnt to death. They were on their way back from school in Mpumalanga, unable to escape the blaze that engulfed them.

Yet, the child is not dead. His death should not be in vain.

‘Desensitised we’ve become,’ radio personality Eusebius McKaiser told me in relation to a separate incident on Friday afternoon. Desensitised we’ve become to the violence we endure. In a corner Eusebius stood that afternoon. He tried to help after armed robbers swept into a Sandton shopping centre. Defenseless employees of the jewellery shop handed over the goods. They surrendered petrified to the robbers’ instructions.

We have become desensitised to violence; desensitised to care.

Round and round humanity runs through history, building walls, and sacrificing children for its cause. Bombs and bombs humanity throws without remorse.

How many must still die for this pointless cause? How long until progress actually occurs? Humans are not God, we cannot estimate the value of a life. We must never forget the accidental line that stands between our very own eventual demise.

Violence is not normal, death is not routine, suicide is not conventional, rape is never ordinary and hurt is unacceptable. We should never become accustomed to the tragedy we see.

The child is not dead. The child lifts his fists in the midst of the Syrian civil war and defiantly he roars. The child is not dead, abandoned he’s left on the street - underfed. The child is not dead, Ingrid Jonker the poet says.

The child is not dead, yet the child was burnt to death. His memory begs us to change. 

- James de Villiers is a reporter for News24 in Cape Town.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 

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