Collective ‘vocal against fireworks at Diwali’

2016-01-13 06:00

RABI Sewpursadh reproaches animal welfare organisations, “animal activists” and “neighbours north of the Mzimkhulu” with the charge that we are collectively “vocal against the use of fireworks during Diwali” and “silent about it during the festivals of Christmas and New Year”.

Because Sewpursadh “firmly believes” that complaints about fireworks during the Diwali festival have “a racial dimension” and “nothing to do with animal cruelty, but everything to do with religious intolerance”, it is unlikely that evidence or rational argument to the contrary will alter that mind-set.

Nevertheless, the suggestion that people who condemn the use of big bang fireworks are not in fact concerned about animal welfare, but are intolerant, “acid-minded” and anti-Hindu is a menacing denigration without foundation, and cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged. Here Sewpausadh is guilty of the very “acid-mindedness” of which he accuses others.

Minority groups are known to distinguish and strengthen in-group cohesion by inculcating in their members a false perception of victimisation from outsiders whose criticisms are portrayed as unfounded and hostile, even racist, no matter how pertinent or justified these criticisms may be among independent observers.

Where a custom is under scrutiny, especially if it involves racial or religious difference, it becomes particularly volatile grist for the flock. It is something that the in-group fomenters need to guard against if they are to sincerely evaluate criticism that seeks to distinguish right from wrong, rather than to defend the indefensible as a matter of course or seek attention-diverting scapegoats.

To the best of my knowledge, fireworks are not a Christmas tradition as attributed by Swepursadh. They are part of rowdy celebrations by thoughtless or selfish revellers marking New Year’s Eve as a calendar event. I am not aware of anyone pleading for empathy during the fireworks seasons differentiating between Diwali and New Year’s Eve.

If Sewpursadh has evidence of the anti-Hindu sentiment he claims, he should name the offenders rather than make blanket derogatory statements against whole out-groups of compassionate people who care for animals.

Finally, there are limits beyond which tolerance ceases to be a virtue.

Steven van Staden

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