Time to stop screaming at each other and listen

2018-07-05 06:00

RECENTLY, Ferial Haffajee, editor-at-large of HuffPost South Africa, was threatened on social media when a Twitter user sent her a message saying she “deserve[s] a bullet in the head”.

This was because the user supposedly did not agree with Haffajee’s stance on corruption at Eskom.

“The hate’s not even hidden any longer and it is right in our direct messages,” Haffajee writes in a subsequent opinion piece.

“What happens when it jumps out of the ether into the real world?”

It’s a question I have been pondering for quite some time. At times it feels like the national conversation has lost humanity, dignity and compassion. We have become such an angry nation that we often forget the common thread that connects us: we are all human beings with stories, feelings and lives.

Sending death threats to someone because of his or her political views does not foster a constructive debate.

When was the last time you listened to someone when he or she screamed at you?

Or, even worse, threatened to kill you? The conversation is over the moment you go on the attack.

Solutions are not found between the spaces of words such as “kill” and “bullet”; they are found in meaningful, compassionate conversations. This doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the tough issues — we should. But it’s the way in which we do it.

It starts with politicians taking responsibility for their actions and realising they have an obligation to provide moral leadership.

When EFF leader Julius Malema says most Indians are racists, he doesn’t consider (or perhaps doesn’t care) that not only is it hurtful, but it also stifles any possible conversation.

How does he think the Indian community will react to this statement?

It also extends to our daily lives. One just has to look at the comments made on news outlets’ Facebook pages to see the distinct disregard for one another. Even when we have a legitimate cause to fight for, the weapons we use are often so destructive that they serve little purpose other than to sow more friction, hatred and division.

For example, if someone is racist, it’s absolutely your moral duty to call the individual out on it — but use it as an educational tool.

Few people respond to being threatened, especially when you want them to change their behaviour and see things from a different viewpoint. As an exercise, I looked at a few opinions expressed on Facebook in response to a News24 article and wasn’t surprised when I found comments like “bloody black racist” and “that is the boer arrogance I’m talking about”.

The former comment was made by a white person in response to a black user; the latter the other way around.

Now, what good does that do?

If the black user’s comments were racist, how would his or her opinion and beliefs be changed with language such as that? The same goes for the white person listening to language such as “boer arrogance”.

It feels like we forget that another human being, one with the same biological and psychological capabilities, is on the other side of the argument.

It has been said that politics is not for sissies, but it has been proven countless times that it doesn’t have to be heartless. Sinking to vileness will not solve our problems. It’s toxic and makes one withdraw from the conversation.

And that is the last thing we need.

— News24.

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