Monday, April 23, 2007

Guns and Lawlessness

Everywhere we turn the headlines scream ''bloodbath'', ''murder'', ''shooting'', or worse still ''axing''. The recent media obsession with the shooting of 32 defenceless students and faculty members at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA on the 16th of April, 2007, is a case in point. The print and electronic media, the internet and individuals all express the sheer horror felt at such a horrible and senseless massacre of humanbeings. But what lessons have we learnt from this and other such incidents? According to media reports, the state of Virginia last reviewed its gun laws in 1996, during the Clinton regime. In 2004, that legislation expired but the governor of the state of Virginia and President George W. Bush, didn't see the need to renew this very vital piece of legislation. This has again put US gun laws under the spotlight. But why are we surprised? This just underscores George Bush's 'maverick' style of governance and the one vision driving his government - the campaign to wipe out terrorism and by default all muslims.
It highlights the enormous power governments wield over their citizenry, manipulating people's lives, with the decisions they make and the policies and legislation that are put in place. Sometimes to the detriment of the general populace. What kinds of individuals are we producing in societies today? Do governments actually care about producing citizens with values and principles? It is quite interesting that the US is asking Iraqi citizens to give up their personal weapons when guns are easily accessible in America. Rather hypocritical wouldn't you say? Speculation is rife about what was on the mind of Cho Seung-Hui, was he insane? a terrorist? or just plain murderous? America, the bastion of freedom, gained at a high cost with lots of bloodshed and tears. What a hypocritical notion! I find it interesting that the US points fingers at South Africa, condemning apartheid, xenophobia and racism. What does Seung-Hui's manical ravings indicate? Is the US culturally or racially integrated?
There are a lot of lessons to be learnt here by all of us. There is need for cultural tolerance, for people to embrace cultural differences and make the effort to learn about these differences. And what about here in South Africa? Everyone reeled with shock at the horrific act of four grown men shooting a denfenceless baby. Where are these monsters coming from? Are they not living breathing people like you and I? On the 7 pm news last Sunday, etv reported the brutal attack on 12 and 13 year old learners from DRC by their classmates. They were stoned and beaten with broken bottles. What inspires such levels of hatred? Such intolerance amongst children? We need to think long and hard about the messages we send to our children. What are we teaching them about being humanbeings? Not black, white, red or green, just individuals. In the end that is all we are, people, with similar features, aspirations, dreams and challenges. This for me points to the importance of being receptive to other cultural influences, the value of teaching our children to be open-minded and tolerant. Cultural integration, that is the way to go in my view.
References: The Star, Tuesday April 17, 2007 Website:
Citizen Metro, Friday 13 April, 2007
The Mail & Guardian FridayApril 20 -25, 2007 Website:


Valentin said...

Dear Ijeoma, I completely agree with you that cultural integration is needed in order to bring about understanding, tolerance and peace among people.
In the case of South Africa, this is still a major problem, you are right. In fact, thirteen years of democracy have not brought about a deeper understanding among the various populations of South Africa.
The division among people along lines of race, ethnicity, class etc. is obvious everywhere-at the university, at the workplace, at the shopping mall and basically everywhere etc. The media, the schools, the governors, the parents should teach the young generation to be opened to different cultures and backgrounds, so South Africa could really look like the "RAINBOW NATION", as they often describe it. People should learn on individual basis as well to open to each other! However, it will take time!

Ijeoma Uche-Okeke said...

Thank you for your comment on Guns and Lawlessness. My degree in South African heritage studies and management, really exposed me to a better understanding of what I like to call the 'culture gap' in South Africa. It is a burning issue worldwide, some countries are just better at hiding it under 'diplomacy'.