I must have watched THE POWER OF ONE about fifteen years ago. And the only scene that I have ever remembered, and recalled many times since, is where a prison guard makes Morgan Freeman’s character eat shit off the guard’s shoe.
Perhaps that scene was easier to comprehend because it was in a movie. But even then, considering how long it has stuck in my head, my mind has been uneased by the idea and the act. The extent to which that guard wanted to “prove” that black prisoner was not human, nor worth anything...
Grovel and eat shit.
No one would even feed shit to an animal. Or urine to an unknowing human.
The bizarre video – which has made me feel ill after reading about it in newspapers – that students at the University of the Free State made last year & is all over the news this week has rehashed this scene and is screwing up my mind in me being able to comprehend such acts against other humans - now in reality and not in a movie.
A long session with a psychologist might be able to answer countless questions going through my head:
- I assume such humiliation is about power?
- What leads a person to desire to humiliate a person to such a degree?
- Nature versus nurture? Parents versus a community versus out-of-the-ordinary personalities?
- Where did they get these ideas? Were such acts once used on them?
- How common are such incidents? Not even racially, but when part of initiation of a “club” – be it a koshuis at school or varsity, for sports clubs?
- Is it because they know that urine and faeces are "dirty" that they "get off" by feeding it to others (I once was tricked into taking a sip of beer at a festival by some strange "sweet" guy - that as soon as it touched my lips I spat it out & immediately realised what was going on - he found it hysterically funny - why on earth??? And I prefer not to think about it)
- Is it a gendered thing? Do men need such humiliation in order to bond? Do women have our form of humiliating others?
I went to a university that fought annually to maintain its initiation heritage. We all fought for it. But many of us arguing for the tradition did not actually know what the guys’ initiations really involved. Were some of the 'rites' to this extent?
Guys were overurged to keep silent on it. That they had all been through a secret process together, and keeping it quiet was to ensure the bond between them all for decades & decades to come. All I often got from guys was, “I’d never do it again, but I wouldn’t have given the experience up”. And few of us tried to probe into their “rites of passage” as we respected this secrecy.
Also, I think (and this is more for people who had the harsher initiation of years past) some guys were humiliated to the point that they never wanted to bring up the incidents again. Rather bury it. Surely that can’t be right, just to enter into a place of learning/ living/ to play a sport in a team?
Granted, by the time I was at that university, initiation had been dramatically watered down. But the acts in this video – were they “normal” for the boys playing them out of the four university employees? Some of the “scenes” I have heard of before & are more ridiculous than anything… that is if this “mock initiation” been about actual final acceptance and not based upon the need to humiliate these four people so to prove that these boys thought racial integration is to be detested.
I got called random “derogatory” names during my lame res initiation. And was not allowed to look my “leaders” in the eye when talking to them. We were dressed in silly outfits to make us look like little kids. We sat around a lot in silence. And got woken up by the most hideous song made. But that was it from my side. Random. Lame. We were easily able to subconsciously talk ourselves out of any "humilation".
I know some guys had to have drinking competitions during their initiation. And American university hazing definitely involves drinking competitions – sometimes to fatal extents.
A few guy friends have said some of these initiation “rites” go beyond homosexual acts. Which is always ironic – considering that many of these “leading” men see being gay as being “less of a man” & are supposed to be “making men of these boys”.
Is bonding necessary and only possible through extreme humiliation?
What am I even getting at here?
I am somehow trying to understand what the hell is going on in that video. Make any form of minute sense in it. So my mind can even superficially accept the four boys’ actions & so the nausea can subside.
- Yes, they found it a joke;
- No, they do not seem to have had an ounce of respect for those four black people;
- Was it as dramatic as the country believes, that they see all black people as sub-human? Or do they reserve the “subhuman category to elderly uneducated poor black people? Which then needs to be addressed accordingly;
- Were they themselves made to eat food with urine in it back during their res initiation & so do not see it as disgusting as many others of us across the country do?;
- Are they saying back in their homes, “It has all been blown out of proportion”?;
- Are their parents quietly congratulating them or are shocked out of their Rainbow Nation shoes?
And where to from here? Do we only say “That’s disgusting and wrong!”. Imprison those people who are still living in the Apartheid mentality, and not address why the boys think & can happily act like that.
Do we healthily address or imprison and ignore the exposure of people nationwide holding this mentality in South Africa's 2008?