A guy called Sipho Maga wrote an article on MyNews24 yesterday titled “Who cares about rhinos anyway?” The gist of the article, which seemed reasonable, well put, and balanced from where I was sitting, was that it was perhaps a little unreasonable to be making such a big deal about rhinos when there was so much human suffering and hardship around.
This being the internet, the responses he got were not reasonable, well put, and balanced. His argument, according to some of the troubled geniuses who took the time out of their busy schedules to reply, was logically invalid, because his girlfriend looked like a rhino and black people didn’t invent the wheel. The usual sort of stuff that makes one proud to be a human being.
The thing that these angry and unhappy people don’t seem to have paused long enough to consider is that Sipho is absolutely correct about one thing. South Africa’s poor, by and large, don’t give a rat’s ass about rhinos. Why should they? And does it matter if they don’t.
Even if Londolozi introduces mid-week, off peak, two-for-one specials for South African citizens, I don’t think the good people of Diepsloot are going to be lining up to take advantage. Most of them will never see a rhino. Certainly not a wild one. They will see their neighbours get murdered, their children go hungry, and their services undelivered, but rhinos? Not so much.
And even if they are lucky enough to have glimpsed a rhino or two, and actually quite liked them, I would imagine that rhinos would fall pretty far down the list of “things that need to be taken care of”. And that’s not a problem at all.
Rhinos are not going to be saved by the shuffling, unemployed masses of Khayelitsha forming a human chain around Phinda. If anything is going to save them, it will be working out who is buying them, and why, and trying to find a way to stop them from doing so. In the short term, however, I see absolutely nothing wrong with middle class, educated people doing what they can to try and protect them.
This was where I disagreed with Sipho. The world is a huge and troubled place. There is famine, poverty, prejudice, oppression, extinction, global warming, the works. The world gains nothing by breaking these things down into some sort of moral hierarchy; no one gets to save the whales until we’ve sorted out that whole mess in the Middle East. Female circumcision is off the table until North Korea becomes a democracy.
It is far too easy to make something like saving the rhinos seem morally repugnant. It’s also just a little disingenuous. Caring about the rhinos does not mean that one does not care about poor people. And even if you care deeply about rhinos and not at all about poor people, you are still contributing vastly more towards the welfare of those poor people through your taxes than you are to the rhinos.
But even in saying these things, I’m being a little unfair to Sipho. He was not, If you read the article properly, against the idea of saving rhinos. What he was against was the idea that the media had decided that the rhino crisis was a bigger story than Marikana. But that does actually make sense. Marikana was shocking. It is a stain on our national conscience.
But it happened once. It’s a huge story; one that can, and should be looked at and picked apart and scrutinised, so that it never happens again. But what is happening to the rhinos is an ongoing story. A collection of stories. There’s a new story, with new details, and victims, and protagonists every week. Every day. And the world is rapidly running out of victims. Maybe the rhino story was deemed a bigger story because it’s still happening.
Maybe it’s time for us to start listening to our president. Let’s see if we can find a positive story to be the newsmaker of the year this year. Something positive. Uplifting. Inspiring. A story that isn’t about suffering, or poverty, or race, or class. I think I’ve already found it. Apparently that one guy commenting on Sipho’s article invented the wheel. That’s a pretty big deal. It’s the sort of world-beating innovation that we should all be celebrating. And it was a South African that did it!
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.