Black and white

Nelson Mandela has died. As the world reflects on his life and mourns his passing some people, not all of them vicious racists and/or rabid right-wingers, denounce Mandela as ‘a terrorist’ because of the violent actions of the armed wing of the ANC, and while I think it is right to condemn acts which led to innocent lives being lost, I think it is important to do so in context.

The context of course is that of a country divided by racial segregation officially brought into being in 1948 by the National Party that ruled ’til 1994. Apartheid denied many rights to non-white South Africans, such as the right to vote or the right to love freely. In 1960, after the ANC organised protests against the pass laws the South African government made the ANC illegal. Those peaceful protests turned into a massacre of unarmed civilians by the police. 69 deaths were recorded. 50 of whom were women and children.  It was after this state sanctioned mass killing of civilians and the outlawing of the non-violent political party, that the MK, the armed wing of the ANC  came into being.

“[I]t would be wrong and unrealistic for African leaders to continue preaching peace and nonviolence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle.”

Nelson Mandela

Contextually we should remember that, as well as the assassinations and deaths in custody of ANC members like Joe Qgabi and Steve Biko, the South African government killed women, like Ruth First, and children, like six year old Katryn Schoon with letter bombs.  To do so they employed people such as the South African secret policeman responsible for that child’s murder, Craig Williamson, and shotgun wielding hit men like Ferdi Barnard. Of course it is a stark truth that every government has its killers and thugs, but just because actions are state sanctioned does not mean that they should be accepted as just.

Bear in mind that the same police whose statistics we rely on to measure the violent actions of the MK, shot civilian men, women and children in the back as they fled. Bear in mind the government death squads, such as the sinisterly named The Civil Co-operation Bureau, and the campaigns of violence and murder they undertook.

I don’t condone violence, but I understand how it might become a desperate person’s or people’s seeming best option against impossible odds, against violence and repression.

To look at the comments barked out across the globe on social media, you might be forgiven for wondering whether Mandela was a saint or a terrorist, as if those are the only definitions possible. Whereas he was a man, a man who struggled in difficult times to bring equality to his people when they faced terrible injustice.

It’s easy, and facile, to impose black and white distinctions of absolute good or absolute evil to situations and the people therein. It is meaningless to do so. Reality is painted in many more colours. Pure white and pure black are actually very rare, if present at all, in nature, the same is true not just of human flesh, but also of human nature:

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” —Rivonia trial, 1964

RIP Nelson Mandela.

Murder is not honourable

‘Honour’ killings are not honorable. They are shameful murders sanctioned by misogynist, archaic and inhumane beliefs.

Cairo mosques A Kurdish Turk has been accused of murduring his daughter in a so called ‘honour killing’.

Honour killing is a misnomer.

It is better named a shame killing. Or just murder.

There is no honour in killing your daughter because she was raped, or because she loves someone not acceptable to your plans.

There is nothing but shame. Ugly, stupid, shame.

There are many examples of horrific honour killings, one more below:

On October 27, Turkish press reported that 15-year-old Naile Erdas from the southeastern city of Van was killed by her family when she gave birth to a child conceived during a rape. The girl, who hid her pregnancy, reportedly begged doctors at a state hospital where she gave birth not to return her to her family, fearing that she would be killed in accordance with the local tradition demanding her family’s honor be cleansed. Doctors informed state authorities, but the prosecutor nevertheless handed the young woman over to her family, which, as Naile feared, killed her. At year’s end, Naile’s uncles and father were under arrest for making the decision to kill her, while her brother, the suspected killer, remained at large. Source: US Department of state 2006 report

It seems to me that shame and religion go hand in hand, much like the Muslim men who wander the streets of (for instance) Tanzania or Saudi Arabia, holding each other’s hands, but to whom it is forbidden to even shake hands with a woman.

In the Qu’uran, a women is plainly stated as being only half the value of a man.  In law as well as in mental aptitude.

In Judaism and hence Christianity, shame is brought upon poor innocent Adam through his spare rib partner, Eve, and her beguilement by a bad, wise, snake.

Woman are basically bad and they bring shame about for men.

In Islam women are asked (in stricter regimes some would say forced) to don the Hijab and to cover themselves and their ‘ornaments’.  In Wahhabist Islam (the form of Islam most prevalent, possibly due to the fact that it is the harsh form Saudi Arabia practices, promotes and exports using her vast material resources) Women must cover up, essentially because if they don’t, men can’t be held accountable for the shameful things they will do.

This topsy-turvy logic is evinced in the abhorrent way Sharia law is sometimes enacted:

In Somalia, 1000 spectators filled a stadium to watch a 13 year old girl be stoned to death for the crime of adultery, she was accused of this crime after reporting that she had been raped by three men.

Some people defend their mediaeval beliefs by saying that the old texts give them a moral structure to adhere to, but I think to anyone who cares about what is ethical, or humane,  these texts are predominantly unsacred products of their barbaric times – often used to excuse terrible acts and ideas.

Honour killing is just one such terrible act.

A shameful and unacceptable practice, dishonourable in the extreme.