The Revolution Will Not Be Hashtagged

2014-05-23 11:30

We are friends. We are friends of the girls that have been abducted by that what’s-its-name group of criminals in that country. We are also friends of the Palestinian people who have been oppressed by that other country. We are their friends and we will fight passionately and commitedly for their cause by... Developing a hashtag for them.

Besides the complexity surrounding the hashtag of getting it right (and not writing “#GiveOurGirlsBack") and spelling it right (since autocorrect refuses to play its part there), the sad bit is that we all know that hashtagging is not solution enough and yet we do it. It presents to us a unique conundrum, this “revolutionary” hashtagging business: you’re doomed if you do it, doomed if you don’t.

Now, if you don’t partake in the hashtag revolution (because you realise the folly of it all) and don’t tweet or write or update every so often about the cause of our fellow friends, you stand a chance of being labelled heartless and ignorant. However, if you do partake in this hashtagging frenzy you’ll be labelled lazy and populist and driven by a desire to get likes and retweets (okay yes: and comments on your blog). And, shame, you really do want to show your support.

The biggest argument for hashtagging the revolution is that it creates awareness around the issue and that it... Well that’s about it really. I somewhat agree: hashtagging creates a lot of buzz around an issue and people know about it. And many people actually get to know about the issue when they see a #FreePalestine or #WhateverElse hashtag. The down-side is that an issue somewhat loses its significance and becomes a part of pop culture and online jokes (some admittedly funny).

So what must happen now? Really, what is one to do when they are thousands of light years from an issue that’s happening in, say, Crimea and Swaziland and Marikana except to, well, hashtag about it? Well I don’t have the answers, but it seems none of us do.

One thing is for sure, though: the hashtag revolution is a glaring symptom of an inactive, impotent society that allows bad things to happen to it without taking any form of responsibility. For emphasis: we are an inactive, impotent society. Us. We blame government or the West or China or the Minister of Education or Police. As a society we have excelled admirably in being unable to sort out things that affect us. Drawing from history, we saw a group of young people actively saying “No” to being educated in an unknown language. We also saw a group of women say “No, we won’t carry passes in our own land”. Sadly, it seems that if we were confronted with the very same issues today, we would have hashtags like #NoToAfrikns (‘cause you also have to think of the Twitter word limit you see).

More can be done and more must be done. But what?

Our inability and ineptitude as a society to think of creative ways of solving our problems is so sad. Why can we not be Africa’s America and be the saviour of those girls in Nigeria or other conflicts on the continent. We can (and many will) easily blame the government for lacking political will to act decisively on the issue of Zimbabwe and Swaziland and Nigeria and Marikana, but, sadly, political will does not grow on trees; the government draws it from its people. Take for example the United States. Even though a succession of American administrations refused to act decisively on the issue of Apartheid South Africa, they finally capitulated and bowed down to the pressure of their own citizens. Which pressure will our government yield to? Hashtags? Clearly.

What can be done in the meantime while we wallow in our weaknesses as society? Well, firstly you can educate yourself about the different struggles out there. Know enough about something before you commit to hashtagging it. Then, play an active, tangible role in whatever solutions there are. Join a movement that supports your cause. The #FreePalestine people must join BDS. The #BringBackOurGirls people must attend night vigils organised by the ANC Women’s League or peaceful marches to the Nigerian Embassy. The ones concerned about #StopRape must join CPF’s (Community Policing Forums). Otherwise, really, you’re not a real friend to the people you’re supposedly fighting for.

If you open your eyes beyond the screen of your mobile device, you will see a whole world out there of activism and social passion. A world that exists beyond hashtags. A fulfilling world that makes society a better place.

#DoSomething!

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