This is how the BLM movement changed my view on the murder of farmers across South Africa.
Just under two years ago, a call went out for people to wear black for white farmers. I chose not to. More than that, I chose to write an article explaining that I would not be doing so: not because I wasn’t moved by the horrific deaths, but because people across the country were being murdered. I felt we should be marching for all the multitudes who had fallen victim to this horror: the nurses, the teachers, the students, the children and the grandmothers.
I received more hate mail for that column than for any other to that point and have not as much ever since. Although many in the Boksburg area (no idea why this seemed to be ground zero for the anger towards me) claimed to know where I lived, didn’t really concern me as I could hardly imagine being slaughtered in the name of peace.
My position remained more or less the same until the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Following the protests, the phrase “All Lives Matter” became the rage. Whereas there is no doubt that they do (matter), the best explanation that I heard was as follows:
- If someone is passionate about “Saving the Rhinos, “a species unquestionably at risk, would it make sense to tell them that impalas matter as well? And so do all other animals. We know that impalas’ matter. It’s obvious that they do. But the fact that there is a specific threat to the rhino, makes the Save the Rhino movement relevant.
- If a neighbor’s house suddenly bursts into flames and they come rushing out into the street screaming for immediate assistance, it would seem illogical to explain to them that whereas their house might be on fire, they need to please respect the fact that your house is relevant as well. The statement would be absurd in the extreme. It is pretty obvious that all houses are important. Yours is just not on fire.
The logic resonated for me and by applying it to the BLM movement, I was able to understand the approach.
What then about farm murders? There is a reasonable expectation for us to be consistent in the application of a value system. Which is why, when I think about my article two years back, I am able to see a flaw in the approach. If I am able to see that the burning house matters more because it is burning (in the case of BLM), then I need to apply the same consistent approach to farm murders. Yes, there is terrible crime all over the country, the brutality and violence inflicted in the case of the farmers, coupled with the isolation that they face, places them in the house that has been ignited. Failure to apply the same approach, now that I am aware of it, would be not only inconsistent, but also hypocritical.
Here is another area of inconsistency. Over the weekend, the singer Adele was lambasted on social media for wearing her hair in “Bantu knots.” Social media warriors were outraged that she would stoop to that level of cultural appropriation, especially at a time when “race sensitivities are so high”. Aside from the cultural appropriation trend being the epitome of empty, substance lacking virtue signaling, I wondered what position the offended took on the pro-choice or pro-life movement. If they believe that Adele’s body is her own and she gets to choose whether to end a life that is growing inside her, then surely she also gets to decide on her hairstyle. It hardly makes sense that no one can tell her what to do with her body, unless it breaches a code that is determined by social media.
I am perplexed by the scourge of farm murders. I am also perplexed by the politicisation of something that everyone should be equally appalled by. The fact that farmers and their families are being brutalised and robbed, should move us no matter which side of the political spectrum we sit. It’s not easy to be consistent because it sometimes means arriving at conclusions that are uncomfortable and different to what we would want to choose. But the consequences of applying different rules to different situations is not something we should risk.
Which is why given the chance again, I would wear black for farm murders.