Social Media Insults
Fingers on keyboards of computers, laptops and cell phone dialing pads have now overtaken the devastation of the “uncontrolled” tongue which it is quicker than the brain. Texting is even more vicious when fueled by emotion and fanned by malicious information.
The old truths — that the pen is mightier than the sword or that the written word is patient — must be questioned in the age of astonishingly wide access to information and technological development. Even the best and most gifted in technology cannot keep up with development that is continuously invented and improved upon elsewhere in backyard rooms by a generation of whiz kids.
They control the technology, but not the message.
What is said and how it is said holds no-one accountable. Therefore, the cost of fake news and incitement is unmeasurable and when discovered, usually too late to repair. It is always an ambush.
However, it is clear that the consumers and users of information technology are not as gifted as the inventors, although some of the consumers create the impression that they alone possess a qualified opinion deserving of the platforms that is available and becomes more available.
Just as the inventor of the Okapi knife cannot be blamed for the murders and assaults involving this cheap and low quality blade, so can access and use of communication on social media platforms not be blamed for the vicious character assassination and tasteless images of all kinds that are published under the name of freedom of speech.
To hold freedom of speech of citizens to the same standard as the freedom to insult namelessly undermines the freedom of the press that Namibia is much admired for and that is maintained by successive governments even under utmost provocation at times.
Similarly, the AK-47 is not responsible for the millions that are killed by child soldiers, mercenaries and private military contractors in the name of freedom, which – when achieved – becomes the ruthless tyrannies that warlords intended it to be.
People killed under the banner of religion have no protection and social media has blunted the world to the plight of suffering to a point where the victims of despots, killers and fanatics, despair and feel forgotten by the world. Their abandonment occurs in spite of the unmatched reach of electronic media and billions of eyes witnessing rape, ethnic cleansing, famine and shows millions of humanity fleeing somewhere because they have nowhere to remain.
Insults are not part of freedom of speech that is protected under the constitution and a citizen that insult any other cannot have more freedom of speech than fellow Namibians the insult is directed at.
What is worse is that civil society leaders — mostly self-appointed and donor funded suffering from an identity crisis between politics and activism — want Namibians to suddenly believe that elected leaders of political parties, members of parliament, regional-, government-, municipal- and town councils, successful young entrepreneurs and even journalists or artists must have a “thicker skin”. They apparently should accept and expect insults because they should have known and deserve to be more under scrutiny and insulted.
The contrary is true.
Namibia will benefit from caring, accountable, compassionate, responsive and consultative leadership and not from representatives who should only have a “thick skin” as qualification. It is because of “thick skinned” individuals that corruption and bad administration cannot be eradicated.
It can now even be argued that leaders, officials, political appointees, CEO’s of parastatals and directors of ministries who, because of constant insults, have indeed developed a “thick skin” and lost their compassion, accountability and contact with their constituencies, because of a tyranny of texting.
The Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Mr Stanley Simaata, does not need defending as no one can do it better and with more dignity than he himself. To portray any Namibian who asks for consideration towards fellow Namibians as a threat to freedom of speech, is to insult the common sense and values of the reasonable majority. Additionally, unelected civil society organisations insult Namibians even further by pretending that they speak on behalf of all Namibians as if they cannot distinguish between right and wrong and because of their own importance stripped common decent hardworking fellow Namibians from their values.
Very soon Namibians with any value and compassion might also expect to be insulted, because they are respectful.
Namibians cannot embark on a journey where disrespect has amnesty under free speech. Fundamental freedoms do not determine the soul of society. The soul of society is recognising and acknowledging the right to dignity for all.
The culture of insulting anything and anybody censures the decent and responsible and intimidate them through fear for the insults from predators preying on the carcasses assassinated characters.
The tyranny of texting is worse than the tyranny of the tongue and bad consequences are far reaching when wives, mothers, children, parents, grandparents and friends are the collateral damage of an vicious social ambush intended only to hurt and to shame.
It simply does not make sense that citizens expect from civil servants and institutions to treat them with utmost politeness, courtesy and empathy, but deny the same desire from the servants of the people and now civil society — far from being civil – accuse those who don’t like to be insulted that they have not “thick enough skins”.
Thick skins breed arrogance and unaccountable leaders who – if they have no feelings – will not have any feeling for the less privilege. The hopelessness and powerlessness that Namibian communities now experience is the result of the “thick skinned” who does not feel the pain of being ignored.
Namibians now also know that those who can ignore insults will find it easy to ignore the cries for help.
That is not a Namibia worth living in, much less dying for.