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South Sudan Turns Three: Gaza, Obama and South Africa

With carnage in Gaza, party politics in the US and injustice in South Africa, where does South Sudan stand today?

I was asked if I could write an opinion piece about South Sudan’s independence day, as I have in previous years. But when asked, I realized I had nothing to say (yes, outspoken me).

For two years, and the decades-long struggle, I have been optimistic, albeit cautiously at times. Over the past five months, I’ve stopped writing about what I think of South Sudan. I’m disillusioned because the very people at the negotiating table who had all the power they needed before — but somehow could not place the public first — are the same people who can stop the madness, suffering, starvation and conflict. However, rather than bringing peace, they are busy carving out roles for themselves to lead the country into the future. No doubt any “new deal” will see a return to the status quo of anti-reintegration, power sharing and amnesty. Meanwhile, they have already proven they are unfit to play the leader, while there is little or no interest in justice or accountability for those who died.

And it’s not just South Sudan. I switch on the news to see that Palestine and Israel are in yet another dangerous cycle of retaliation. More of the eye for an eye violence that we’ve grown up watching — always in shock of the horror and how quickly it escalates. The people of Gaza are now being collectively punished for decisions made by “their leaders,” while mothers once again bury their children after picking them up from the rubble. And yet some fail to see the humanity in the Palestinians’ suffering, while others fail to see the humanity of Israeli mothers, who also bury their children because they must bear the consequences for the privilege of living under the protection of their leaders and occupation. The suffering of the latter may make the headlines, but both sides suffer. Yet somehow by rationalizing that one side is “less human” makes it acceptable to unleash suffering.

Then I move on to my inbox, full of the same fear and scare tactics — admittedly in a different form — trying to make sure I too get caught up in the vitriol that has become two-party politics in the United States. I have become more than just a little disillusioned with the process: both parties finger pointing, blaming the other, rewriting and reclaiming history, while dangling our hard-won civil rights, reproductive rights and civil liberties in front of us to use as bargaining chips to settle political scores. We are the generation that has supposedly inherited a “post-racial” United States of America. Yet people who would otherwise have valid and legitimate grievances of how Barack Obama is running the country, instead choose to criticize him based on his skin color.

I live in post-apartheid South Africa, yet the police, mining companies and union bosses worked together to ensure miners’ dignities were denied. And when the miners were gunned down, somehow they were responsible for their own deaths because no one was held accountable.

We live in a world where we have access to more information than any other generation before us, thanks to the Internet. Yet some of us still choose to remain ignorant.

This is the same South Africa that saw its incumbent leaders flee to other African countries to seek refuge and support in fighting injustice at home. Yet these very African countries must now comply with “new pass laws” with South African authorities. Failing to produce the required papers, or even questioning the legality of the process, will have you harassed, bullied or thrown in jail.

We now live in a world where it is more dangerous for women in conflict zones than a soldier fighting a war. And where daughters are still fighting for justice against violence and for equal rights that their great-grandmothers had fought for.

Stand Up

Our generation didn’t start these fires, but are we ever going to try fight them? We live in a world where we have access to more information than any other generation before us, thanks to the Internet. Yet some of us still choose to remain ignorant and use information to prove our points rather than to try and see the flaws in our own logic. And for the very few who dare to see past their own privilege and try to help the plight of others, we are quick to ridicule them or are cynical about their armchair sympathy, verbal support and hashtag activism. Instead, we should laud the good intentions and the humanity of caring, or even provide an honest critique on how someone can redirect this energy to be more helpful.

Many of us quote passages on love, tolerance, freedom and rights written by those who came from a generation before us. Yet we never wonder why there’s a lack of enlightening, innovative or new contributions from our own generation.

So I find myself with nothing to write about South Sudan’s independence or the problems there, because sadly that country is not alone when it comes to suffering. I have nothing to write because I am trying to figure out how not to be so overwhelmed by it all. And I am trying to fathom how I can get my head out of the sand for long enough to discover how to balance the opportunities and wasted chances, the positives and negatives and, yes, how to help make it right.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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