The Six O’Clock News: Examining the Bigger Picture of the Oscar Pistorius Trial (Mostly Unscientifically) So that You Don’t Have To!

I haven’t been sure what to talk about today because the week’s big news, Ukraine, is changing so fast that a blog would be redundant in about twenty minutes. In a lot of ways so would the Oscar Pistorius trial but Ruby and I were talking earlier about aspects of it, so let’s have a go. Not at the ‘this could be a crime drama’ element – though it could which is unnerving – nor the ‘he shot her deliberately! Ah no he didn’t’ element (let’s let the courts decide).

The thing that I haven’t seen anyone talking about, unless it’s just on blogs like this  (which I don’t read because this is exhausting enough, is that bad?), is that the basic story of ‘person shoots other person apparently by accident and turns out to have a propensity for firearms’ is really similar to the stories that come out of the USA seemingly every week. This CBS bulletin explains that a man was charged with aggravated manslaughter of his three-year-old this week after she accidentally shot herself. A five-year-old’s death from a gunshot wound is believed to be accidental according to ABC. WPXI reports that a three-year-old has been hospitalised after accidentally shooting himself. All of those stories are from this week.

In terms of analysis, I reckon those stories raise two questions. One: why, if people own guns, are they loaded in places that small children can reach? If you feel that you need to own a firearm for sport, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t keep it in a purpose-built gun cupboard, preferably not loaded until you go out to shoot some deer or whatever. Children are generally smarter than adults in terms of the meaning of life but the best of them are usually kept out of anything that’s bigger than they are and difficult to open. Two: if you feel that you need a firearm for self-protection, as I believe is the general reason why South Africans own them and Americans won’t ever stop owning them, why can you not take half a minute to check that your gun is on your person and not anywhere a small child could reach? Let’s face it, your aim and judgement about when to pull the trigger is probably better than your toddler’s even if you are paranoid.

By the way, according to this fun map, America and the Yemen have the highest number of guns per hundred people and Colombia has the highest percentage of homicides by firearm. Yay. So, as good politics students, we’re going to discuss what these statistics imply. Here is a handy and completely unscientific list:

  1. A large number of people feel that it is in their best interest to own a firearm.
  2. Presumably this is because of their area’s crime rate and general safety atmosphere. Car jackings are so common in South Africa that one insurance company won’t cover a certain type of VW Golf because they’re too easy to jack. Taking steps toward self preservation is a-okay, right?
  3. Like the knife crime situation in the UK, owning a gun is probably more likely to get you hurt than to hurt other people who want to hurt you, which adds to the shitty aura of gun ownership.
  4. Nobody wins except gun manufacturers.

Oscar Pistorius claims he shot his girlfriend after mistaking her for a burglar and given South Africa’s notorious crime rate, he could well be genuine. Nobody’s questioning that the families of those toddlers had the guns for legitimate reasons (I’d dispute shooting game as ‘legitimate’ but if that’s your culture then I’ll judge you from afar because now’s not the time to explain about the circle of life). But people are being hurt and killed because at some point a person has decided that possessing a gun is a good idea… which begs the forty million dollar question: should we be taking these cases as a sign that there’s a picture bigger than ownership and intent and start focussing on the reasons why societies have made the ownership necessary? Because no one owns a handgun in little English villages where everyone throws garden parties with signs on the front door saying ‘It’s open and so’s the back :)’.

Just saying.

If that hasn’t completely depressed you please leave a message with your opinions so we can all feel like we contribute to the very society we’ve just realised is full of shit!


The Ten O’Clock News: Another Tribute

I really don’t know where to start with this post. I garbled a bit about Mandela in June when everyone was all “he’s going to die soon! We had better write something really intense beforehand so that we don’t look like we’re following the crowd when he has died!”

And now he has and I don’t think another blog post is going to add much to the cacophony of essays that’s flooded the press since last Thursday. There have been articles on his dress sense, South Africa’s current issues, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s reaction to the news, the schizophrenic sign language guy, columns about the time so-and-so’s cousin’s friend’s neighbour’s cousin met Mandela… I don’t know if I have anything to add (which after last week might be a good thing, because although I might be able to handle a lawsuit from a tabloid I don’t think I could cope if South Africa took one out against me for misconstruing myself. It’s been a long week).

Maybe this post should be written in a year’s time, or in a decade. There’s been quite a lot of ‘legend’-like words floating around newsrooms – but my feeling kind of is that up until a week ago, Mandela was a (very interesting, incredibly important and extremely awe-inspiring) person and it is only with time that we’ll really know the extent of his legacy? Because Africa is still a huge mess in terms of inequality  – not that the rest of the world’s got that much of a lead, now that I think about it. Maybe the best tribute is to follow his example and try to be better people. I mean, even imagining living under apartheid is difficult for me because as a white girl from the UK, I’m way up there in the ‘society likes you’ list. I saw a blog post once where the writer said to imagine you were playing a computer game called Life and you get to start with different advantages or disadvantages, like selecting the ‘male’ option or the ‘well-educated’ one, and your selections impact the difficulty of each level. I don’t even remember what it was called but the metaphor’s stuck with me and I’m trying to imagine selecting ‘black under apartheid’ and it’s hard. So maybe we should all do that and quit complaining that not enough coverage was given to the weather.

It’s weather, people. It’s always there. We can see it if we look out the window. Thankfully apartheid is not. Except equality is also not.

There’s a poem in that somewhere, but I really think I ought to go to bed while I can still type.