Monday, March 17, 2014

The unimportance of being Oscar

I have to thank Linda Martindale for this blog. I don’t know Linda, but her letter to the Cape Times – also read on air by Cape Talk’s John Maytham – put recent media stuff in proper perspective for me. If you ever see this blog please contact me, Linda - I’d like to thank you personally. Your letter follows – I’ve changed nothing but some punctuation that the Cape Times mangled.
– Kaartman, Maart 2014.

Call me Murder Mystery Grinch if you like, but I am already tired of the court case that is oozing into every channel of media known to me at present. I am not even going to mention its name. 
Not only am I weary of the case and all the information that goes with trying to prove a man guilty or innocent, but I am done with all the analysis of the case at issue, and yes ... I am even tired of the analysis of the analyses.
I do not want to follow what the victim had for supper – even though it may be relevant to the man’s demise. I don’t want to follow every word spoken in court. And I don’t want to get sucked into the sick voyeurism of watching a broken person face the distressing knowledge and consequences of his actions, regardless of what led him to them. 
I want to find out at the end of the trial what the verdict is and how they came to that conclusion. That a woman died that night does matter to me. But I don’t want a sensational, blow-by-blow account of the evening in question, or the trial.
What I do want to know more about is how a 6-year old South African citizen with his whole life ahead of him, died in a pit toilet when at school getting a start to his education. I want a blow-by-blow account of how that came to be.
I want to know how a child lost his life drowning in a slush of faeces and urine, and why only now the school will get flush toilets.
Well, if I am truly honest, my breaking heart would rather hear about neither – but if I have to face reality, which I do as an engaged, mature adult citizen and believer, then at least let me hear about the one that we can prevent in the future, that is more directly linked to our past, and that is an injustice on a level that is incomprehensible in a country with the kind of resources that we have.
I know I won’t get what I want in a classist world obsessed with fame and fortune, but I am going to put it out there anyway.
A young boy died the most traumatic and horrible death imaginable. And it has barely made the news – while I duck and dive the incessant talk of beautiful people’s tragedies so public and all consuming – my heart is broken for a mother who lost her son.
And for our country who lost a child – and does not really seem to notice enough to ask why? How?
Not only did we lose another innocent child, as we have recently in gang war crossfire and other traumatic cycles of violence, but we lost a child because of a makeshift faulty “toilet” at a school.
This is not as complicated or linked to complex cycles that are (or are not) being addressed – or mysterious circumstances hidden. No, this is perhaps a simpler one in a complex world of inequality. This should be where the minimum of care and development starts – at school and its sanitation.
This is the raw face of poverty and injustice ... and the disconnect and division that makes the media think, and probably rightly so, that we, the citizens, care more about a public murder tragedy than a child who spent hours trying to claw his way out of his classmates’ poo, before breathing his last breath.

Linda Martindale,

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