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The Fox 5366
 
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Love thy commentator

19 July 2013, 23:27
With this being my 50th article, I figured I'd focus on the observation which means the most to me: South Africans' immaturity in terms of online behaviour.
South Africans are mostly angry, fearful and depressed, and nowhere is this mix more evident than online. If South Africa as a country is a melting pot, then the Internet is very definitely the fire underneath that pot.
Sometimes I wonder whether there's a deeper explanation behind some of the inexplicable online behaviour: maybe to do with older South Africans still enjoying freedom of speech following Apartheid's repression, or possibly to do with people still coming to terms with how to use the Internet as a relatively new entry to South Africa.
In reality, however, I think the Internet is simply a safety valve for the feelings and thoughts we know are too politically incorrect to mention in real life.
Matters in politics, economies and social interaction are still very black and white, literally and figuratively.
If somebody isn't your friend, they're automatically more likely to be trying to either steal from you or make you look stupid, and a surprising number of people react exactly like that to the anti-celebrities in current affairs or in the comments fields of news stories.
People a lot of South Africans love to hate: Justin Bieber, Jacob Zuma, Julius Malema, Nazir Alli, Angie Motshekga, journalists, whoever devises the prices of Ster Kinekor's chocolates, and that person who just wrote that article online you completely disagree with.
With my previous 49 MyNews24 articles I'll admit that I've deliberately gone for some of the hardest and least popular topics, from being sympathetic to the ANC to advocating the purchasing of e-Tags and defending religious people from smug atheists.
Despite all of my articles being reasonably lengthy and substantiated, the overwhelming response - and I've had over 2 000 of them on my articles - is always 'How much is [party X] paying you?' at best and 'You complete *$&#&&$%, you shouldn't be $&#*(%% with a (#(@))#*!' at its worst.
It'd get a bit disheartening, but clearly if I've stuck it out for this long its because of one simple recognition which a lot of the commentators on my articles and others don't seem to have quite grasped yet: all people are generally well-meaning, because we all believe that we're the heroes of our personal stories.
Do I believe that Jacob Zuma deserves all the thoughtless ire, as yet another commentator refers to him as 'Showerhead', as if that's the most original and clever thing in the world to say? 
Do I personally hate Nazir Alli or Julius Malema? Not a chance. I've actually met with Nazir and he seems like a nice guy in his personal capacity, and as for Julius I think he's misguided but at least he's proactive and refuses to be ignored.
An obvious comparison I have to draw is to World War 2, where the Americans were under the full brunt of their own anti-Japanese propaganda, de-humanizing the enemy. It's that sort of de-humanizing which allowed them to cheer when The Bomb dropped on Japan, and the real human cost to the Japanese is still being recounted through empathetic documentaries.
Hating somebody you don't know is easy, but it's not right. A great quote I read yesterday was this: "Resenting your enemies is like drinking poison and hoping they die."
My greatest regret is growing up in an age where it's considered fashionable to insult somebody, and the concepts of 'trust' and 'mutual respect' are forgotten relics of the hippy era.
You're welcome to disagree with me, and no doubt many readers will: however, don't turn me into a faceless Japanese enemy to nuke.
The sooner we all take a step back to consider the reasons why people act like they do, the sooner we'll be able to modulate our reactions in a manner which brings about the change we want to see in the world.
Try it: Mandela (the icon/concept, not just the man) would want you to.

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