Op-eds

Naming and shaming

  • Howard Feldman 2018
I’m more than a little conflicted about this new and increasingly acceptable phenomenon that allows us to name and shame transgressors of the “lockdown laws” as determined by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. I know on the one hand, there can be nothing more satisfying than calling in a selfish runner who flagrantly dashes through the streets of Glenhazel as though the Comrades Marathon will still be happening. Which it isn’t.
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Apr 02, 2020

On the other hand, we aren’t Australian. And we never have been.

South Africans generally don’t snitch on each other. We tend to look out for each other, and to call “chips” as we did at school when authority was on its way. We flash our car lights at each other when we see the Johannesburg Metro Police Department flashing, and we don’t encourage each other to pay our e-tolls.

But this is different. COVID-19 is ravishing many parts of the world. I’m in contact with friends who live in New York, and it’s hard to describe the loss, the fear, and the anguish that they are living with, as many fall ill to this terrible disease. The loss of life across that city is tragic. And it’s made worse because it very clearly didn’t need to be as bad as it is.

What makes it more infuriating to see a runner or lockdown breaker, thin body and all, parading their fitness all over the show, is that many would like nothing more than to do the same. I’m no runner, but I have some insight into the struggle for those who are used to doing so to not be allowed to do so anymore. It’s a coping mechanism, a stress relief, a social endeavour, and a sanity preserver. There is no runner who wouldn’t gladly give up one of their children to be able to run at this time.

But they don’t. Because they understand that there are times when there are bigger things at play.

I’m proud of South Africans. I’m proud that the opposition parties have understood how important it is to stand behind the president. They are clear that even if at other times their role might be to challenge, this isn’t one of them. I’m proud of our army, the police, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, and the health department. I’m proud of the citizens of the country who in spite of massive sacrifices, are observing the lockdown.

I’m proud of our children’s teachers who have found ways to educate, and of our children for getting on board. I’m proud of our rabbis and communities who continue to teach, learn, and gather with Zoom, and who are conducting virtual minyanim (prayer quorums). I’m grateful for the incredible work that our charities and individuals are doing to help those who need it. And I’m proud of the companies and individuals who even if struggling, continue to pay their staff.

I’m just not proud of the runners that I see on the streets of the suburbs. I don’t believe that I will ever be able to “name and shame” them. And I don’t think we should aspire to. But, hell they don’t make me proud!

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