Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Poor Start: Getting South Africans involved in South Africa

Gracchus: He will bring them death, and they will love him for it.

I'm not sure if it is true to say that the burning man 'isn't good for print' from the newspaper perspective. Today Beeld, The Star and The Times all have pictures of the same burning man, from different angles, and two of these papers even share the same headline text. There's also this question: should the photographer/s have been standing around shooting pictures or doing something to assist? And how does it help to have three newspapers recycle the same story? Isn't it helpful if between them one can agree to run the incident, one can provide insight and background to what is happening in general and the third can offer other assessments, trends etc.

It is a fair question to wonder what the photographer's were doing if they were able to produce such good close-ups. The fact that the man had been severely beaten does strengthen their case somewhat, but on the other hand, shows to what extent the man was entirely dependent on outsiders (standing right beside him) to save him. Let's face it, people around him did try to help.
But in the case of a victim burning it takes a period of time to die, lets say 1 minute. And given the police had time to get hold of a fire extinguisher, he must have burned at least long enough for someone to run to get hold of one and run back, and still be photographed before, during and after the act. That's a fair amount of time.

From the pictures it is hard to see a single person who is directly, physically attempting to assist this poor man, although there were reports that blankets that were set alight were removed, and one policeman can be seen removing one. What would I have done? It's easy to speculate. If I had been there, I think I would have been more tempted to snuff out the flames, by having the man lie down. This could have been communicated verbally, or perhaps by physical intervention. Also, one's own clothing could have been used to starve the flames of oxygen. It's difficult to guess because who knows to what extent those blankets were incendiary. But in the same way that we the reader gape in horror, perhaps those around the victim could have gotten involved.

Alas the man is dead, so let's not point fingers of blame, but accept fully just how dire things are and activate ourselves appropriately. One response that I'd say makes sense is that we the middle class (who have the internet and computers) try to be more generous to the poor wherever we encounter them, even just to acknowledge in some small part the extent of their sufferings and to assist them in mitigating their hardships.

1 comment:

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