Editorial: Fear comes too close to home

The correct response to the latest mass shooting in the United States this week – 14 people dead in San Bernardino in California – is a mixture of shock, horror and outrage. For some South Africans at least, though, there is a shameful additional element: a hint of superiority. We love comparing our circumstances with those of others, and either celebrating if we are better off than our neighbours or berating ourselves if we are not.

In the case of random public shootings, South Africans can certainly be satisfied with our comparison to the developed world. Not since the late 1990s and the Planet Hollywood bombing in Cape Town have we had to worry about public spaces such as the restaurants still doing thin trade in Paris after the terror attacks there. And the “active shooter drill” – such as those regularly conducted at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino where so many died on Wednesday – is entirely unknown.

Through some happenstance of our social order, our public spaces do not become stages on which lunatics play out their fantasies of political change or revenge by way of mass murder. No, in South Africa we prefer to murder and terrorise one another on a much smaller scale.

In the same week in which we were agog at the US shootings, Statistics South Africa released the results of its Victims of Crime Survey. The correct response to the findings is a mixture of shock, horror and outrage. In recent years, we as citizens perceive crime to have increased to such an extent that our freedom of movement has shrunk considerably. More than two-thirds of us either will not venture outside after dark, or do not feel safe when we do so in the areas where we live.

When the sun sets, we huddle in our homes, fearing that the terror without will enter our homes as burglary or worse. Paris and San Bernardino may fear public spaces now, but we fear our private ones.


Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Real action on gender-based violence a pipe dream as women die every day

Backlogs, booze, testicular cancer — all factors blamed for the apparent ineptitude or unwillingness to tackle a pandemic that is silently killing women all over the country.

Extract from ‘Mermaid Fillet: A Noir Crime Novel’ by Mia Arderne

This extract from Mia Arderne’s debut work of fiction, ‘Mermaid Fillet: A Noir Crime Novel’ introduces readers to Uncle ‘M16-in-your-bek’

Merchants of despair

When imprisonment becomes a business, the profit motive rears its head at the expense of the good of the prisoners. Three recent books deal with the murky workings of the prison-industrial complex in South Africa

Vigorous policing of petty crime during the pandemic suggests a Pyrrhic defeat

The ideological aims of the criminal justice system in dysfunctional societies, like South Africa, is to indirectly legitimise the inequitable economic system

Rise in forced labour expected amid the Covid-19 economic crisis

Criminals prey on desperate people by offering them false promises of a better life. In fact, they are coercing them into lives of exploitation and misery

Security at schools is not the community’s responsibility

It is unrealistic to expect vulnerable people to ensure that nearby schools aren’t vandalised or robbed
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures...

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again

Trouble brewing for Kenya’s coffee growers

Kenyan farmers say theft of their crop is endemic – and they suspect collusion

Unisa shortlists two candidates for the vice-chancellor job

The outgoing vice-chancellor’s term has been extended to April to allow for a smooth hand-over

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday