For justice’s sake, we must speak

I have always maintained that there is nothing as powerful as the ability to speak up.

To keep silent when something is terribly wrong is to be complicit in the perpetuation of that wrong.

And while many people often think that speaking up changes nothing, I for one have learned that the greatest thing about speaking up is that it changes you, if nothing else.

It changes you because it teaches you courage, it teaches you to walk outside the castle of your fear and venture onto the other side of the shores of public opinion.

There is nothing that riles me more than injustice in its myriad manifestations and regardless of who it is directed at – I simply cannot stomach it.

Which explains why I have failed to shake off this slimy feeling of revulsion and a sense of a violation I can only equate to having someone smear excrement all over my face.

Honestly, I really cannot stand it.

I was very profoundly affected by the NewsDay story titled Tinopona Katsande reveals infertility that was written by one Silence Charumbira and sourced from her Facebook profile where she revealed that she was suffering from a health condition that has rendered her infertile.

The revelation was very deeply personal and I have no doubt that she made that revelation after much reflection and at great personal cost because the more prominent a person is in society – the more scrutiny they become subjected to.

I don’t take issue with the fact that the story was sourced from Facebook, I believe that when something is in the public domain – online or offline – it should be fair game for journalists.

What upset me is the manner in which the story was written without an attempt at objectivity, balance or even a pretense at being fair in the portrayal of Katsande. no harm! no harm!

What upset me even more is the apparent lack of remorse, repentance or empathy on the part of those who defended this story.

Fortunately, through her article titled An Open Letter To Zimbabwe’s Media one of my dear friends have called them out on this so I won’t have to harp on about it.

The portrayal of women in Zimbabwean media has always been of grave concern to me and I have argued that wherever women are subjects in a story they are either victims or they are social/sexual deviants; Charumbira’s article sadly proves me right.

In Charumbira’s article, Katsande is framed as a victim by being introduced to the reader as the “battered television and radio personality” and in the very next paragraph, the issue of her “controversial sex-tape” is made mention of thus framing her as a deviant and opening her up to judgment even before the facts of the story at hand have been presented.

Admittedly, the rest of the article gives a faithful rendition of Katsande’s post but this does little to mitigate the harm done by the initial introduction of Katsande to Charumbira’s audience – here is a battered woman, who (lest you forget) made a sex tape and is now confirmed to be barren – the stigmatizing narrative is thus gleefully (almost maliciously) served up to an audience that laps it up and reacts with the judgmental, holier-than-thou, self-righteous and indignant vitriol that the framing of the story elicits.

To defend such a story (especially when you have read the comments and are aware of the unintended consequences it has visited on an individual whose stated intent was to raise awareness on a very serious health issue) you would have to be incredibly obtuse, breathtakingly misogynistic and completely impervious to common sense.

Journalism is powerful.

To be able to write of other people and expose the intimate, personal, private and sometimes shameful details about their lives is to possess incredible power – it is to play God.

May we never get so drunk with that heady sense of power that we become journalists whose purpose is to inflict harm, demean the dignity of others and wreck lives for no other reason than that we have the power to do so.

That is unjust and to some of us who believe in social justice that is unacceptable.

So for justice’s sake, we will speak up because no one’s social status insulates them from pain or victimization.

For justice’s sake – let us refuse to be the ones who allowed a grievous wrong to go unchallenged.

…thank you for the silence

Thank you for allowing the silence, for not taking offence at my decision to crawl under a rock and choose obscurity.

Thank you for understanding even though your emails got no reply and your text messages got no response and your online chats encountered nothing more than a blank screen.
It’s just the words are not there. They are no where to be found. And I am afraid to substitute them with tears – because if I start crying I don’t know how I would stop.

To grieve for a thing that died a slow and maddening death is hard to do… because it is hurt piled upon hurt and mostly regret stuffed into more regrets.

Thank you for allowing the silence; for knowing something’s wrong and waiting for me to say it out loud.

Thank you for not pushing it, for not pelting me with questions about ‘what’s the matter’ because you know I know where to find you when I am ready to talk.

Thank you for letting me keep it all inside because if I let it out it becomes real, overwhelming and out of my control.

Thank you for picking up your phone at the very first ring, even though your own calls went unanswered and the voicemail messages you left were ignored.

Thank you for waiting until I was ready to say the words out loud. To say it to myself and admit it to you too.

To say, “It mattered and I lost it. It mattered and now its gone. And the loss is more horrible because it died long before I could bring myself to accept that it was no more.”

And now I grieve over the carcass of what once was, and mourn over the skeleton of what could have been and words fail me.

So I let the silence fill this space – there are no words, I cannot find them.

So thank you for allowing the silence.

…intolerance: a mirror of self

Sometimes when a person is confused and they don’t know what they want – I usually say, “Well, if you don’t have an idea what you want, at least tell me what you don’t want.”

...the Vatican sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil whilst pedophiles prey on the young flock... who will protect them?

The same goes for those facing some kind of inner struggle, identity crisis or such dilemma – I often tell them if they don’t know who they are, at least they ought to know who they don’t want to be.

The things we negate often are a reflection of what we instinctively embrace as our values, extol as virtues and they are indicative of our deeply held convictions.

I believe a scrutiny of our cultural beliefs, of the things we were socialized to reject will always be reflective of what we consider to be normal, acceptable and appropriate.

So our intolerances are a reflection of self – a reflection of who we are essentially.

Bigotry often derives from our revulsion towards that which is inconsistent with our belief system; it is like a knee-jerk reaction to that which contradicts our worldview or our interpretation of the world.

Anything that does not align with our own prejudiced perception is like a smudge marring the lens we use to view our world and we seek to obliterate it so that we may continue to enjoy the same view we are accustomed to – the status quo upheld.

The homophobia that currently informs the discourse on homosexuality in Zimbabwe is a case in point, reflecting the deeply ingrained cultural and social beliefs of what manhood entails – for what repulses many is not lesbianism but rather gays.

For a man to sleep with another man is almost inconceivable to most people and to those who can conceive of it – it is like an abomination.

And as a collective people pride themselves in holding on to these prejudices, tacitly condoning hate speech and other abusive reactions that have been central to the backlash created by the debate on homosexuality.

Of late, the media has been awash with reports of pedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church – narratives of how young boys have fallen prey to unscrupulous members of the clergy who fail to curb their ‘appetites’ and resort to feeding off the proverbial flock.

The allegations also point to a systematic cover-up by sections of the church’s leadership to shield the perpetrators, silence the victims and protect the all-important image of the church.

The Pontiff, having been so vocal on the issue of condom use, reinforcing the church’s unyielding anti-contraceptive position has been rather subdued on the subject only recently making a show of weeping with the victims of abuse – a gesture many feel is contrived.

It worries me that these attitudes are prevalent even in our own societies, that perpetrators of child abuse or molesters will find a sympathetic audience in our society – and probably will be regarded as being a lesser ‘evil’ to homosexuals.

The culture of silence is one that is deeply ingrained in families and society insists on sacrificing the individual (especially a child) in order to protect the status, image and standing of the collective (especially the family and clan).

There are many who would abhor homosexuality more than they do child molestation and abuse – it is the nonchalance towards these victims that serves as an indictment to our conscience as a society – we are worse than the monsters we seek to protect through our silence.

For our silence is acquiescence, it trivializes the pain and trauma of the abused, diminishes them and diminishes us as a society.

Whilst it may be argued (as it often is) that it serves “the greater good” to sweep such cases under the carpet and retain confidence in the sanctity of religious institutions and the authority of male figures in families, our culture of silence makes hypocrites of us – for we constantly defend the status quo, refusing to interrogate our long held convictions.

If our intolerances essentially reflect who we are – then the same goes for the things we do tolerate, the things we turn a blind eye to and those heinous deeds we excuse under the guise of protecting the ‘image’ of institutions and persons of authority.

To identify what you believe – it may be necessary to know what you do not believe. I do not believe that there is any institution (religious or otherwise) worth preserving at the cost of the wellbeing, security and preservation of the rights and dignity of children the world over.