I am one of those. You know, crazy and news-obsessed. The thud of the newspaper landing in the drive on a Sunday morning used to galvanise me into action. I’d rush to pick it up and delve into the contents.
We are a special breed. We shout at the television news. We stand close to the radio at the top of the hour to catch the news bulletin. We read the paper with nods of our heads and umms and ahhs. We are delighted, enraged, engaged by what is in the news.
I have become my late father. He used to do all these things, before television and Twitter, of course. He cared. Like so many other people who call in to radio stations and write to newspapers, he knew that caring is the beginning of a good society. People who care want to change things. They want to make things better.
These are the people who want to make their local school better and so get involved with its governing body. These are the people who want to make their streets safer, and so get involved with the local policing forum.
What happens when they are bombarded with unbearable corruption and crime?
I thought about this because I am changing. I don’t rush to pick up my newspaper any more. I can skip the news. I don’t shout back at inanities on television or Twitter. I am either going through a period of not caring, or have become inured to the pain, corruption, poverty and crime around me.
It scares me that I might be beginning to accept that the abnormalities in my country, the outrages of our politicians, are “just how it is”.
Last Friday, the Mail & Guardian newspaper published yet another story about the Zuma family.
The president’s 25-year-old daughter had just been promoted to a R1-million-a-year job in Minister of Telecommunications Siyabonga Cwele’s office. I read the story with great equanimity, with nary a flutter of my heart. The truth is, I don’t care any more.
This is what the many scandals around President Jacob Zuma have done to me and others. That poor Zuma child. She probably deserves the job and can probably do it pretty well. The truth is, though – what with the Guptas and all the other scandals that are part of the Zuma train – my instinctive thought is this: that is how they roll: nepotism, jobs-for-pals, corruption, tenders for friends. That is their game.
I have become inured to the scandals of the Zuma family. I have stopped caring. If they are looting the state – as many say they are – then I have come to accept it is part of what South Africa is.
The front page of the City Press newspaper carried a story about the cabinet’s business connections, essentially saying that ministers are more business people than servants of the people. This I know. I have stopped caring. I stopped caring when the minerals minister intervened in the platinum mine strike without considering that it would be proper to declare a conflict of interest because of his ownership of huge shares in a platinum mining company.
I am not even shocked that the agriculture minister did not see anything wrong with paying his worker R26 a day while advocating for farmers to pay theirs upwards of R100 a day.
For five minutes last week we were reminded of the horrors of car hijacking when four-year-old Taegrin Morris was dragged alongside his parents’s hijacked car for kilometres. The stomach turns to think of his agony, his horror, his pain.
The truth is that Taegrin Morris died because we have become inured to violent car hijacking in South Africa. In my neighbourhood, identified yesterday as a hijacking hot spot in the Sunday Times, this sort of assault is frequent. Hijacking never went away. It just became normal. We became inured to it.
Last week a friend’s daughter was hijacked and raped. She is one of the more than 66 000 assaulted every year.
We are not angry. We have become inured to horror.
I keep returning to the initiation schools that spring up every winter. Research says more than 500 youngsters have died in the past five years in these schools.
Deputy Traditional Affairs Minister Obed Bapela says many more have died. Thousands more have had their penises chopped off. Why aren’t we outraged that so many kids have been maimed? Why is life so cheap?
What has happened here? We have become a people who have been made to accept that violence is okay, corruption is the normal way of doing business, that gross sexism is acceptable, that crime is normal.
These things are so commonplace in our public and private lives that we are not shocked any more. We have become inured to what is wrong, what is unacceptable.
Often now I read the newspapers and watch the news and think: Who are these people?