South Africa’s Darkest Hour

South Africa’s Darkest Hour

The violence is over in South Africa. More than 200 people have died and the Washington Post estimates the looting and physical damage “exceeds several billions of Rand.”

The BBC reported that the “events were democratic South Africa’s darkest hour.”

More than 25,000 troops are assisting police with law enforcement, clean-up and rounding up the instigators. South Africa’s most widely read daily online media said the instigators were a dozen men closely associated with the former president, Jacob Zuma, whose jailing last week sparked the mayhem.

Three of them have actually been arrested but officials won’t disclose the names before tomorrow because of the “sensitivity” of the situation.

Like Zuma, like Trump. Zuma’s July 12th and Trump’s January 6th.

Fortunately for both countries the popular support for the insurrections fell just sort of being strong enough to succeed. Unfortunately for both the support still represents a sizeable and very angry minority.

So both countries now have to deal with the attacks on their governments. The South Africans are more direct, meaningful. The current president has implied more than once that he feels Zuma was at the helm of the destroyer.

Biden has been more cautious, not just because of his feeble ideology but because our system of government constrains much more forcibly the majority from interdicting the minority than in South Africa.

As often as I compare the two countries with one another, the riots last week in South Africa made me realize a major difference.

South Africans tolerate cruelty more than violence, whereas Americans accept violence before cruelty. I think this is a legacy of slavery.

Each hurt – cruelty and violence – contains bits of the other, but violence is more reactionary, temporal. Cruelty is more long-lasting and often more intentional.

Slavery is cruelty. Insurrection is violence.

Given the fact that apartheidism was a much nearer form of slavery, for example than Jim Crow, the South Africans have lived with cruelty for much longer than the Americans have. They’ve learned to live with it.

Whereas America explodes with the slightest hint of cruelty. Our society now seems rooted in violence. It may be the most violent society on earth: Children are shot in the head for being in the way. Our cities are endless vortexes of gun battles yet we do nothing but let more people get more guns.

January 6th came to an end pretty quickly when it was clear it wouldn’t succeed. But the cruelty with which we now endow the policemen who brought about the shortened outcome is unimaginable to a South African. We won’t even investigate the situation as America, but only from a partisan perspective.

July 12th took longer to end but tomorrow I expect some political bombshells, hardly a week after the fact: The government is set to display Zuma and his mobsters as the evil cabal they are. Imagine that having happened to Trump by mid-January.

Racism, though, is cruelty incarnate. South Africa’s journey to end racism will be formidable, but it’s a journey they seem to be on.

America’s journey to end violence hasn’t even started. There may be no America before it does.