Thursday, November 24, 2011

In Other Words...

On the Protection of State Information Bill

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I always try and keep things rather light-of-heart here at Miss Boo HQ. Life is tough enough; there are more than enough things to be stressed and grumpy about, and more than enough opportunities to share those feelings. But by the same token, I think that if I were to use any space, any platform, to address the things which make me do more than think, but really ponder, what better platform than the space I call my very own?

When I was about thirteen, we had to do an essay for school on what careers we would like to follow when we were done with school. I thought and thought, and whittled down a list of plenty to ‘Top 5 Potential Careers’. I couldn’t decide which one would be best to write about, so I asked Daddy Boo. Without having to think about it, he said, ‘Writer’. We spoke about it, and decided that the best way to approach the essay was to look at the ‘traditional writer’ idea, sitting in a little writing shack, hunched over a typewriter, knocking out story after story; as well as examining journalism as an option. That essay was one of my favourites, and it showed. I got a B for it, which rocked my world to no end. The teacher’s comments were something along the lines of, ‘You could do this in your sleep’. ‘Strue! So, of course, on the wings of a little praise and approval, I started looking into studying literature and journalism. Since I already loved to write and read, I figured it would be a case of ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. I worked hard at my English classes, wrote extra essays and started writing short stories and (admittedly shocking and nauseating) poems, read as much as I could (much to the chagrin of my mom, who never had any time to read because, while Daddy Boo and I were lost in fantasy worlds, she was in the real one, doing real chores… *shame face*), and dreamed of being the next Christianne Amampour (When I was little, instead of playing ‘House-House’ or any such nonsense, I was the only one who ever suggested ‘Reporter-Reporter’. Complete with bomb blasts rocking the feed. Yes.) My English classes were often the only ones that got my full attention lesson after lesson, and I put more effort into that subject than any of the others.

And finally, after all my hard work, I applied to the one and only university I ever wanted to attend: Rhodes. Once the application went off, life went on, and, in typical life fashion, veered a bit left of centre. When the university sent their response, my life was rather different from when I had applied. When I read that I had been accepted, I shrieked so loud the neighbours came out. Unfortunately, because of life veering the way it had, I wasn’t able to go off and live that particular dream. BUT, I’ve never given up on the dream, or on writing. I have countless short stories, essays, novellas and books in various stages of completion littering my computers and my mind.

Because of this undying passion for words, and an equally strong aversion to bullshit, I’ve always considered myself a writer-journalist in the making. And because of that passion, I’ve been on the verge of tears for a large part of this afternoon. You see, for a  while now, there’s been a storm brewing over the Protection of State Information Bill. I’m not going to give you a history lesson on it… If you found me, you have Google, and you can figure out how to find all you want to know. In a nutshell, though, the government is slowly trying to gag the media. If they get it right, there will be no more reporting on government corruption and in terms of the bill it will, therefore, be illegal to make secret state information public, even if it exposes serious corruption or crime. (From News24 article). So the government is covering its ass and tying the media’s hands in one fell swoop. There have been protests, the bill has been pushed from pillar to post, gone back for redrafting, and on Tuesday parliament voted in favour of the bill. Dubbed Black Tuesday, people wore black in protest, and there were set protests around the country. When the results of the vote were made public, people panicked (myself included there for a little while). I felt a sadness equal only to the horrific violence that swept through the country a couple of years ago when awful xenophobic attacks were happening everywhere and life meant less than it usually does, which is terrifyingly little to start with to a lot of people. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so helpless and defeated.

But it’s not over yet! The Bill can still be opposed! It goes directly against a key part of the constitution, so the next likely step, if it’s not redrafted to include a public interest defense clause, is to oppose it in the Constitutional Court. As an optimistic cynic (or a cynical optimist, depending on the day), I really, really hope that someone, somewhere out there with a little power will use it well, instead of using it in greed. After everything South Africa’s been through, surely we can see that passing this bill into law will be taking infinite giant steps backwards, and land us right back at square one. You might call me naïve for believing in the power of South Africans, but it’s not going to stop me from believing in us anyway. This year has shown just how powerful people can be, and how fragile governments are. If the rest of the world can bring about change through enough people caring enough to do something to change things, then so can we! All we need to do is stop waiting for someone else to change things (a chronic South African ailment!) and be the change ourselves!!! That’s not to say we need to overthrow the government and start from scratch (look to Egypt to see how quickly people tire of an interim government), but we can and must do something!!

Even though South Africa is my adopted country, I love her beyond measure, and can’t imagine being anything other than Proudly South African. I don’t want to feel anything but pride and glory when I sing our national anthem, and I sure as hell don’t want to stop singing it all together. I love this country, and I will fight as hard as I can to keep her as gorgeous (no matter how flawed) and proud as she is in my heart.

And now, back to regular programming…


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