The shame of being CA568413…

The power of the internet and social meda (twitter & facebook) became apparent to me again on the weekend when I came across a story that makes me cringe and weep. I was following it all day on Sunday – and this morning I’m glad to have found the story from @hurricanatom firsthand.

Read below and tell me if you can understand what makes someone do this? Maybe they were drunk? That’s definitely no excuse – so I would love to know if there’s more to it than just a laugh…

thanks to hurricanatom and @vampyrejourno for bringing this to everyone’s attention.

11 September, 2010
People Suck: CA 568 413

Reposted from the inimitable Tash’s fartbook notes:

An astonishing thing happened at the traffic lights that either lead you to the V&A or onto the Eastern Boulevard this afternoon. Sally and I pulled up behind a white bakkie, registration plate CA 568 413, filled with young guys. They were mostly bare-chested, wearing board shorts – they looked like they’d just been at the beach. The youngest was probably about 13. They spotted a Big Issue vendor – a middle-aged woman. They called her over. She looked reluctant, clearly not anticipating a sale. They persisted. She walked over, and they threw about two full bottles of water all over her, howling with laughter. She looked stunned; she walked off, wiped her face with her official vendor bib, and then walked back past them, stopping briefly to say something to the driver. Sally and I lost the plot entirely; I wrote down their number plate; she took a photo of them with her phone. Then, both enraged, we roared after them. We caught up, rolled our windows down, screamed at them. One sneered, yelled “Jou ma se poes!” They threw water at us. Sally, with a little rush of blood to the head, pulled in front of them and slowed down (I know, I know – you may all lecture us now about being stupid, but we were so, so angry). They eventually turned off. Another car passed us, also filled with young people. They were laughing at us. We caught up to them, too, and shouted, “Did you see what happened? Did you think that was funny?” One guy in the back snorted at us, glared at us as though we were insane, and they all laughed. Yes, we’re the funny people. We’re the funny people, the idiots who didn’t laugh at the middle-aged black woman being drenched with water – water which, by the way, probably left her magazines sopping wet. The magazines she sells to make a living. But hey, who cares? She just some dumb bitch who stands at the traffic lights; she doesn’t have a car like ours; she doesn’t get to be sitting at about 5:30pm on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, lazing in the sun after a nice day out with her mates. She has to weave in and out of traffic at one of the busiest intersections in the city, trying to sell magazines to people who generally don’t want to buy them.

So what will I do about this? I will offer a more intelligent, eloquent version of this column to my newspaper for its op-ed page. I will contact the Big Issue, and I will ask them more about this vendor – perhaps she’ll be willing to talk to me, tell me a bit about herself. What’s her name? Where’s she from? Does she have kids? How many magazines does she sell each month? How much money does that add up to?

As for the crew who sat in CA 568 413 – well, what can I do about them? I will ask the editor whether it would be legal to publish their registration number. I suspect not. If it is, I will gladly do so. I will ask them whether they really thought that was a fun thing to do; a sign of their masculinity (of course Sally and I told them they had really small penises, which was what prompted them to throw the water at us – the ladies doth protest too much, methinks!); a way to impress their friends. How sad that people feel so powerless, and feel they can only truly be powerful if they humiliate another human being. And the people who sat in traffic around them and laughed, too? I suppose there’s not much I can do about them. They, after all, are a lot like me sometimes – I look the other way sometimes, too uncomfortable to intervene in a situation that demands it. I have laughed at bad, offensive jokes. I have listened to my neighbours screaming at each other, certain that their relationship turns violent sometimes, and I’ve done nothing. I’m as guilty, in a way.

And what can you all do? You could read this and comment. You could read it and share it on your wall. You could tweet about it. You could buy a copy of the Big Issue. You could do nothing at all. I just wanted to say all of this. It doesn’t make me feel better. My hands are shaking, and my stomach is in knots, and I’m so angry I’m about to cry. But hey, at least now I’ve written this down. Thanks for reading it.

The Big Issue vendor’s name is Florence Godongwana – apparently she was interviewed on eTV last night (i didn’t get a chance to see it though) – and I hear she will be laying a charge of crimen injuria this morning.

She needs all our support!

(and with thanks to where I found the above text)

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