Ciro De Siena on dithering debaters

I’m quite worried. You see, there’s a very controversial media bill which may enact prepublication censorship on every public medium in this country, going to parliament for approval next week and what do we know about it? Nothing.

The Tripartite Alliance has been described as “a couple on the brink of divorce” – given the tensions between Mbeki, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and Cosatu. The happy three are not so happy, because of some issue or another.

That nutter running North Korea seems to have tested a nuclear bomb, and Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, called George Dubya ‘the devil’ in front of a clapping UN, accusing him of keeping the world hungry. And what do I know about all of these things? Nothing.

All this raised quite a discussion at the lunch table this afternoon, basically with us trying to  nderstand why we don’t really understand. So in an inevitable student fashion we tried to blame everyone and everything around us our lecturers, the government and all the big newspapers for being a bunch of capitalist swines (which isn’t exactly untrue).

Now while it may help me to pick up a paper and really try digest what the hell is going on, in my defence I have, sort of, and it hasn’t really helped. I’m not an economist, I’m not a political scientist, and most of what is said and written goes at least three feet over my head. So where does the responsibility lie? Who should be educating the laymen on issues which may seriously affect where we put our Xs in 2009?

I truly feel academics need to go some way in helping out. I don’t want to point fingers, but why hasn’t the School of Journalism, as the leading institution of its kind on the continent, come out and said, “Hey, we’ve done some research into this whole media bill, and this is what it means. Let’s start a petition, or demand some public hearings in Grahamstown.” After all, this is a bill that the guy who started the Mail & Guardian, Anton Harber, is calling a big mistake.

On another note, why did Harvard University, and not UCT or Wits or Rhodes stand up and say, “Hey, Thabo, these economic policies of yours are a load of bollocks, and we know they don’t work.” As far as I can tell, this seems to be the cause of all the abovementioned tension within the party, but hey, for all I know someone may have kicked Thabo’s dog.

It’s frustrating, really. I’m an educated individual by world standards, I’m at a top academic institution, I do a fair bit of reading and I’m still battling to understand all that’s going on our country and with the world. If I can’t get it, then how on earth is the man on the street meant to?

I’m going to open a debate here. I’m going to say that there is not enough direct  engagement with the community, let alone students on vitally important matters. And I think that academics, as a whole, need to get on it. Maybe I missed a meeting, and maybe I just missed all of the attempts that have been made.

But then for crying out loud, say so.


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