End the rumours... let's tell the story

2013-07-02 16:23

The more I am involved in the blogosphere or column-sphere, the more I realize how unhealthy the space can be.

There are so many columnists, wanna-be “specialists”, passionate bloggers and know-it-all media practitioners who are waiting to have their say. Everyone seems to be fighting for attention while others are seeking a following.

It’s actually scary at times how we are bombarded by so many voices.  Whose voice do you attend to? Whose opinion has more authority than the other? Is it the more seasoned columnist who has been drumming the same drone of protest year after year? Or the young reporter who is simply wanting to share his views on a blog post to make you see a different point of view?

Well the ironic part, is here I am writing a blog about blogging or columns. Maybe it’s not the sexiest thing to write about, especially when everyone seems to be going on about our former President Nelson Mandela’s hospital stay.

However, maybe the way we have written about Nelson Mandela in our columns, our blogs, our Facebook statuses and “all-day” tweets reflects on the kind of uncritical society we have become as South Africa.

I don’t know how many times I have seen on a tweeter feed someone declaring that Nelson Mandela was no longer. The first week of Nelson Mandela’s hospitalization people were mourning the legends death. Days after, many online users and media reports were trying to predict his death.

Some were even celebrating his life as if he is long gone. Then even worse, the Barack Obama story that came out, that we latched on to, claiming that our beloved “Madiba” would die after the US President left the country.

My fellow bloggers are embarrassing. Actually I just read one blog by a “Sipho Singiswa” on Thought Leader where he states: “I am, in a kind of morbid way, relieved that Mandela was critically sick and unable to be coerced by the ANC’s corporate giant events-managers to indulge in an internationally staged Mandela and Obama meeting. For this I have to thank our ancestor’s timely divine intervention that spared Madiba from the extreme embarrassment and humiliation of a corporate-driven meeting and photo session with Barack Obama”.

Ehm, is it me or does that statement wreak of “insensitivity” and a “blasé” view that parades in its indifference. The writer clearly claims he is “relieved” that our freedom fighter was critically sick because he didn’t want Madiba to meet Obama.  Hmm… this kind of naivety spells the hazardous talk that clouds our internet.

Well when an experienced columnist like Peter Bruce also goes on his own tangent, it doesn’t help much.  When Mr Bruce starts a column by saying “it is strangely distasteful to sit down and to try and write a column that isn’t about Nelson Mandela.” Did I just read correctly? Maybe we were just waiting for Peter Bruce to sit down and try to write a column about how distasteful it is to write about Mandela.

Surely, that would make an interesting read. Maybe he was the one who was supposed to take a different direction. I guess he is too well-seasoned to take that stance. Instead he insists we should follow the American protocol and demands our doctors speak to media about Nelson Mandela’s condition. But, this is no America, its Africa. The way I was brought up as a South African is that you don’t just go around and announce what’s private to a family and what should be treated as sacred by fellow citizens.

Who is writing about that? Maybe a clever person should investigate how African deaths are announced publicly. Just maybe.

I feel sorry for Mandela’s daughter, Makaziwe, when she was explaining the sacredness of Mandela’s hospitalization.  The media quickly criticised her rightful opinion when she asked for a degree of privacy while calling them vultures.

But maybe she had a point.  The quote in the Mail and Guardian is essential to understand what is happening here. Makaziwe was quoted saying:  "At this point as a family, as an African, I know that at this time you have to be at peace ... you have to have a sense of decorum. That is what is required. I don't know how people come here and just violate everything in the book ..."If you read between the lines, this is reference to protocol and maybe a call for us to respect Madiba.  But, what are “respect” and “honour” when you want to be the first journalist to leak the death of such an icon?

To be honest, I don’t say that media should stay away but maybe let’s find new ways of spelling this season in our country and continent.

How about instead of standing outside the hospital and reporting about who is visiting Mandela, how about we look at the story from a new "angle".  The "we are standing outside the hospital" story is getting tired.

For example, The Mail and Guardian recently published online fantastic feature, ironically by an English writer Robert McCrum that looks at Graca Machel’s relationship with two iconic figures; Mandela and her first husband Samora Machel. Also check out Nic Dawes piece about how brilliantly Nelson Mandela walked away from public life and said goodbye to us long before our current mourning.  Just today, I just finished a radio programme that looks at the obvious story of songs composed and sung by local international musicians that attached Nelson Mandela’s music as a protest or a catalyst to “Africanism”.

There are so many stories to tell.

Let’s speak to the grandchildren; look at their interesting vibrant lives post-apartheid. Let’s go to his home town and speak to the community members. Let’s speak to his pastor who lived in Soweto for years and knew the man from a spiritual perspective. Call up Salif Keita and ask him about what inspired his song “Mandela”. Do we even know how other Africans feel about the icon and his nearing death?

Also let's think about what we tweet. Maybe let's  take a moment or two and think about what we read and post online.

Or maybe, let's remain silent. I promise, we won't die if we do.

Wanna hear your views on twitter at @jazz2ben

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