Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rainbows and clouds

You've obviously seen the pictures coming out of South Africa. A cloud appears to have descended over the Rainbow Nation as the indigenous population in Joburg loot the property of immigrants. So far, more than twenty people have been killed.

Obviously, the instinctive response seems to be, "how could this happen in South Africa, that bastion of liberalism and progressive thought." The truth is that SA has a liberal/progressive constitution, but this liberalism isn't a reflection of actual South African society. See William Gumede's article in yesterday's Guardian. And I've always been suspicious of it. I never thought South Africa's adoption of gay marriage was a genuine reflection of what people thought.

But it's understandable that after suffering under the heavy thumb of apartheid, the politicos and intelligentsia would want a constitution where there's no discrimination whatsoever. It's an argument which has been rumbling since the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s. The "Black community" is generally antipathetic to homosexuality, but gay rights activists always ask what is so different about their struggle. This obviously has greater currency in the US where society is more liberal, and where this conflict for African-Americans exists. In many African countries, homosexuality, or buggery as some constitutions still state, is illegal. Illegality of homosexuality and virulent anti-gay feeling in society are miles apart from acceptance and gay marriage.

Homosexuality is just a reflection of how far perception and reality in South Africa are.

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