Sibongile Mafu

I'm offended!

2012-12-12 09:59

Sibongile Mafu

South Africans have a sense of humour, right? We can laugh at ourselves without being completely offended by everything. I'm not too sure.

There are times when I wonder how far is too far? We live in a country that has many issues, and we'll be the first to admit that all is not rosy. There are a few delusional people who won't, but for the most part, people are aware that we still have a long way to go to set things right.

There is often a fine line that we tread between being appropriate and being inappropriate, a line that is as volatile as a Congolese aircraft. Are there topics that are off-limits? Things we dare not joke about or make light of because they're too sensitive or taboo?

I'm confused

There are moments where I find myself policing people, gently nudging them with responses like "you can't joke about that" and "you've gone too far". But should a person dare say that to me, I become very angry. Reverse offence? Defence? Now I'm confused.

I surely can't be living my life waiting to be offended.

At the moment, Madiba's health is under a microscope, and everyone seems on edge about how to treat it. He is in hospital. He has a lung thing. He's stable. He's not stable. Don't be alarmed. He's old. No one wants to be the person put on blast for taking it too far. There are very few things you joke about: death, physical abuse and Madiba's health.

More often than not these are the things that get the most passionate reactions from people. Some have even have clauses for their sense of humour. "I will never find rape jokes funny." Then you have the philosophers (a hat I put on sometimes when I've had a bit of wine) who say things like "you choose to take offence" and "only you give others permission to offend you", a slight variation of Eleanor Roosevelt's "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Is that all there is too it? The energy we expend being offended, just gives the subject of what we’re offended by a bit more fire. It makes it stronger. It keeps it relevant.

Sensitivity around death

I remember a Madiba death hoax from last year, which carried across social media. It spread like a Table Mountain fire during gale force winds. Death hoaxes seem to be the current trend. In a rush to be the first person to a story, accuracy and common sense falls away, and many reputable agencies fall into the trap. It's like how humans react when there’s a fire. You have every intention of being calm. You've been through the fire-drill and know what to do, but should it actually happen, everyone stampedes for every door other than the ones marked EXIT.

When people found out the Madiba hoax wasn't true, the person allegedly responsible for it was harassed for a prolonged period. Mercilessly. South Africans were ready to take up arms and find this person.

There seems to be an added sensitivity around death especially. Maybe it's fear of the inevitable that has us gasping for air every time an old person has a cough, or maybe it's the idea that it's easier to channel your fear and anger of the unknown towards a specific body (person) rather than what we’re actually afraid of.

I'm even becoming slightly offended by people quoting Madiba's quotable quotes, which are starting to sound eerily like obituaries.

I need a lie down.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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