Dear TV-Watchers

Dear Fans of Reality Shows

A reality show such as Master Chef, Survivor or The Apprentice is as removed from real life as Spongebob Squarepants. After watching fans of Master Chef shit all over Exclusive Books over a cookery book displayed in a window, I can’t help feeling even more disappointed in the human race than usual. Here is a list of things that truly deserve your attention:

–         South Sudan has the least infrastructure of any country in the world and could use some help getting started.

–         4 million chickens are shredded and boiled to death every week in South Africa: think about the shit that you put in your mouth.

–         There are kids freezing to death every night

–         There is a petrol strike on and there’s no gas to be found

–         Rape is endemic and no one is being held accountable for it

–         The United States might have no economy to speak of in a few months

–         Sarah Palin is running for the 2012 candidacy, a woman who thinks hunting is a human right, virulently anti-abortion and thinks Afghanistan is a US neighbour

–         We have the lowest literacy rates in Africa, putting us below countries in the middle of revolutions, wars and genocides

And this is the utterly asinine shit people tend to concern themselves with:

–         the ‘joy’ of royal weddings

–         Master Chef Australia and the winner thereof

–         Jennifer Lopez’s buttocks

–         The Idols dropouts

–         Charlie Sheen

–         The Hangover 2

Please look at this picture of a starving child.

A well nourished Sudanese man steals maize from a starving child during a food distribution at the Medecins Sans Frontieres feeding centre in Ajiep, southern Sudan. from Tom Stoddart's iWitness Gallery

No, don’t scroll down. Look at that child. Crawling in the dirt. Hungry. And not “I haven’t eaten since this morning” hungry. Not “Its so cold today” inside an air-conditioned office cold. Not “oh my god I have to get up and actually go to work” tired. Try imagine what its like to watch someone walk away with your food and there’s no fridge to go scratch around in. This child’s suffering is pornographic in its extremes, but I want you to look at this and then think about all the retarded shit that us first-world people complain about. “I don’t have enough bandwidth. I don’t want to break a R50 note buying cappuccino. I have to wear an extra layer today. I’ve been invited to this party but I don’t’ feel like going, its too far to drive.”
All the energy that people spent on phoning in to 702 to complain about something that hadn’t even happened (the winner of Master Chef will only have their book released next week) could have been spent on protesting the government’s dire approach to media freedom. But no: the real travesty is that the winner of Master Chef’s book might have been on display. Fuck the starving kids, the political troubles, the troubling nature of Rupert Murdoch: a cookbook was displayed and someone needed to be punished.

I know there’s escapism and I would never begrudge people that. But the problem is that nearly everyone is hiding their faces in the bosom of television and tabloids, allowing the bad shit to go unchecked. If the government knew that their every movement was being tracked by the people, then they would pull their socks up. But instead you watch too much TV and read too much Heat magazine. Its so much easier to keep up with the river of shit that is Gray’s Anatomy or Gossip Girl than taking an active interest in the welfare of the country.

So yes, those who get upset that Vodacom was down for a day, or that the ending of some pointless reality show got leaked, I hope you will get upset when I call you an uninterested, fuckwitted drain on society. Because if you get upset then it means you are embarrassed, and maybe that will be some kind of incentive to turn the television off and maybe do 67 minutes of charity more often than every July. Knit a blanket for a kid. Drop some pet food off at the SPCA. There are trolleys at the Pick and Pay to put in food for shelters. Write a letter to the ANCYL telling them to stop wiping their arses with money and actually do what they promised for the poor. Sign every internet petition that comes your way, because those petitions are changing the world. Go volunteer to teach something to someone. Eat one less meal with meat in it. Buy fair trade coffee. Boycott Nestle. Go to an orphanage and read to the kids there.

But for fuck’s sake, don’t phone a radio station to complain about a cookbook.

Colorado and Crazy People

First off: see this case about a 12 year old trying to kill his family –

I think cases of this kind unfortunately kick up far too much dust around too many issues for the core of the situation to be clear. There will be the usual cliché ‘nature vs nurture’ arguments, and the gun control lobby will be out in full force. The gun-lovers will bray that ‘people kill people’. Every tuppenny shrink with an opinion will arise to blame something. The details in this case are scant enough to ensure everyone has a full run of opinionated fun times. I count myself amongst them. The parents will be blamed. The guns will be called into question. (But as Dylan Moran says, ‘guns have limited household applications’). The homeschooling will be pointed at. Colorado will somehow also be to blame, the education system, the tap water, the siblings, anything besides pointing at the fact that sometimes, people are born psychotic. Shows like Dexter and books like the Hannibal Lector series have engendered the idea that people can be psychotic and useful, but anyone with common sense still wouldn’t leave their children with these people. I enjoy these shows myself, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because it makes psychotics redeemable? That no one is ever really, truly evil? I don’t really feel like going on a fact-finding mission of all the shitty things people have done to each other for evidence of why the above is so very wrong. For now, I reference Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen, Sudan, Rwanda, Abu Ghraib, and The Lucifer Effect by Phillip Zimbardo.

Maybe the hardest reality is that sometimes, kids are evil and fucked up. I may have to revise this when there are more facts on the case, but for a 12 year old to stab and shoot parents and siblings does not point to any normalancy. Some people will say “oh but the circumstances!” and these are often also the same people that think House is a moving and profound series. I thought it was cool when I was depressed and I felt no one understood my tormented genius pain. Now I realise that it actually is a terribly repetitive show that relies on someone fucked-up for entertainment value and cheap thrills. People do not do drugs because they are so incredibly cool and sexy: they do drugs because they do not have the backbone to deal with reality. But, then again, we do live in a society that avidly follows the rise and fall of druggies, so perhaps I should go back to the mothership and communicate with my leaders.

In any case, if a 12 year old has the capacity to source and repeatedly use a gun, he also has the capacity to not use it. Freudians will say “oh, but his ID this and Ego that” but, really, how many twelve year olds actually get hold of guns and live out their temper tantrums on that kind of level? Twelve year olds can earn money through chores and are capable of saving and spending it (and understand economics, on a minor level), they are having sex, some of them are drinking, some of them work as child soldiers. That they are capable of these things (with or without coercion) means that they can be held responsible for what they do. The twelve year olds I have met show insight that I do not expect of their age, and only because they’re a few months short of being teenagers. The mistake here is that we assume children are stupid. They are not even remotely so, and there is a recordof children committing acts of violence. (The link is only handy for case studies, but I wouldn’t really take advice from it on how/why child murderers arise.) I remember reading several cases last year of children raping and kidnapping, even ganging up to kill smaller children, both in South Africa and around the world. There was the parricide case in Durban 2009 in Pinetown that is ongoing, for example.

I don’t want to believe all children are fucked up and evil: that’s not my point. My point is that we make the mistake of assuming all children are innocent, and then are surprised when there are Columbine shootings and abductions and parricide. What people may pass off as cutesy temper tantrums might actually warn of impending disaster. Perhaps if kids were paid more attention, maybe they wouldn’t get to this point. I don’t know how we should all be raising kids. All I can offer is that we are always, always aware that their capacity for good can be matched by evil. And even I hate using the word ‘evil’ because Hitler is evil, Pol Pot is evil, and to use it in the context of children seems so wrong. But as the movie Magnolia noted, it is only fools that mistake all children for angels.

I expect I’ll get hate mail for this post. But I will not apologise for being honest. Kids can be amazing, and a lot of them do a great deal more their communities and friends than many adults. They are the chance every generation gets to do something right, the templates for change and growth. Because of this, they need to be respected as human beings, and not  treated like accessories or burdens. Respecting them will hopefully cut out, to some extent, this kind of fucked-up behaviour, and perhaps that’s something worth mentioning and striving for.