Sunday, December 18, 2005

Parallelism in Post Apartheid South Africa

It is difficult to forget that in the immediate days following the September 11 attacks, Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair urged everyone to go shopping so as not to thrust the British economy into a recession. President Bush also followed suit months later in encouraging Americans to express their patriotism by among other things, worshipping, playing and shopping. The Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas posited in his 2002 publication, “The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping” that indeed “Shopping is arguably the last remaining public activity…not only is shopping melting into everything, but everything is melting into shopping.” This could be supported by the holiday spending indicating retail is seeing resurgence after years of modest profits and slow decline. Well if the culture of shopping heralded the dawn of a new millennium, half way through the first decade it is the culture of fear that has become the most universal and interrelated phenomena of our postmodern era.

While we may think that our society through current threats of terror best evidences the pervasive culture and politics of fear, a recent trip to South Africa revealed the levels to which fear as a condition also runs deep in the veins of a society. Perhaps in the upcoming Black History Month, it is poignant to reflect on the conditions that were present in South Africa a decade ago; the residue of which still remains among much of the country’s forty one million inhabitants. Since 1994, violent crimes in South Africa have risen exponentially to unprecedented levels leaving many to think their worst fears have been realized. Many dreaded in the wake of the apartheid regime that there would be a sudden unleashing by those who had been repressed for several decades. The ongoing threat of crime has had a crippling effect on the social fabric of the country. Largely because of these anxieties, the security industry is one of the few sectors which profited immensely out of the despair. In the past eight years more than 5000 security firms have emerged. The paradox here is that employment has risen out of a need for young black men to serve as security personnel. Well I'd like to know what you all think. Are there parallels of xenophobia and/or threats in your society that has changed your perception of public spaces?

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