Opinionista Ian Von Memerty 12 June 2018

Looking for news that we could only dream about

To all those South Africans who keep sending out the good news – please continue. I really need it.

Being bipolar (type 2), it is I suppose inevitable that I have a love-hate relationship with social media and the media in general. The investigative free press have done more to promote accountability than we dare to dream. And yet the media needs to hype headlines, and bias reporting to feed adrenaline and addiction still drives much of the narrative.

On social media, between Facebook selling off personal information and probably altering the course of liberal democracy with their influence on Brexit and the US 2016 election, and with Twitter breeding countless “trollers”, feeding hate, prejudice and factual misinformation on a daily basis where does one look?

But on Sunday, Twitter made me smile, weep and feel hopeful.

First:

The picture of Siya Kolisi with his wife and children after leading the Boks to victory on Saturday: I am not a sports follower but I follow the news enough to have seen Kolisi’s selection as Springbok captain being used to fuel the destructive race question promoted by short-term political expediency. Political profiling to create maximum discord.

I am really happy about the Boks winning – although since 1995 they have won the World Cup twice so I am always bemused when I hear that they are irreparably damaged and beyond help. They obviously played well enough to win; the selection of Kolisi as Captain was obviously based on merit, and then his wife tweeted the picture of their family.

For me that was the real win, not the win on Saturday. Two South Africans, one black and one white, who fell in love and are now negotiating the most difficult and important of ALL social tasks – raising a healthy and empowered family. The fact that in just 30 years that picture is seen as normal not sensational or illegal reminds us of how far we have come.

Second:

Professor Tim Noakes scored a long-awaited and well deserved victory. The man who has generated more healthy controversy about healthy diet than anyone in the last 10 years suffered egregious personal attacks, and his “genetically traditional” high fat and protein diet was attacked legally by the multi-million dollar low fat and “corn syrup industry”. The case dragged on for four years, and it appears the chief reason it took that long was that the “health industry professionals” kept postponing it as they could not find qualified witnesses to testify against the Banting diet. There was no scientific basis to their claims.

Although the ruling was a “legal quibble” ruling – it does mean that someone who had the courage to challenge the status quo won through, and in a world plagued by obesity we can relook at how we got to this “expanded state”.

Third:

A white man proudly handing over leadership of the SAAF in Port Elizabeth to a black, single mother who is “a fabulous chopper pilot”. This is actual transformation in action. Equal opportunity wiping out social inequality, correcting the appalling gender bias in our country, and an example of the best person for the job getting the job. This story is EVERYTHING that we dreamed of and hoped for in 1994 – and it is everything that we should be celebrating now. Instead I Googled to find out whether it was possible to find out the full name of Lt Colonel Phetoga – and it was no-where to be found. WHY?

I did find it on Twitter only 17 hours ago. Her official title is Lieutenant Colonel Phetoga Molawa.

Sadly good news doesn’t sell. The media’s coverage of the proposed land debacle is opportunism as rampant as Julius Malema’s political opportunism and the ANC’s cowardly hopping on the band-wagon. It is guaranteed to stoke fears, feed racism, and raise emotional temperatures ; and if it is ever implemented it will be disastrous for the poor of our country. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, they are aligning to create “news” which could lead South Africa to being “Trumped”. Donald Trump uses distortion and distraction to gain headlines – and so shy away from real issues that are strangling our future. Here we have so many real issues – but they are old news and so they hardly get covered.

Thirty-million people still living in desperate poverty, women being raped indiscriminately, children being starved and unable to get a decent education, South Africa still the HIV/Aids infection capital of the world, and the government’s inability to wipe out corruption, the shrinking of our economy and the plundering of our pockets at the petrol station (and imagine every taxi commuter and how that affects their meagre salaries). The elevation of Cyril Ramaphosa’s elevation to political “pope” despite these stats. These daily burdens are forgotten in the media need to flame a fire into a conflagration, “worthy of coverage”.

I am having the most stressful financial and professional year in over a decade. Just last month I (among others) lost a contract in a high-profile event through last minute back door political dealing and “jobs for friends”. At the same time, every time I read or watch “news” I want to hide in a hole, which made it refreshing to read about the South Africans changing our country.

So to all those South Africans who keep sending out the good news – please continue. I really need it. My daily Bipolar pills are sometimes not strong enough to deal with everything else I read. DM

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