“This is one of the worst catastrophes in the world. And oh, it’s…burning, oh, four or five hundred feet into the sky. It’s a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. The smoke and the flames now and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast. Oh, the humanity and all the passengers screaming around here. I told you. It’s — I can’t even talk to people whose friends were on there.”
As any radio journalism junkie who’s read the textbooks or more likely someone who churns through the cornucopia and disappears down the rabbit hole of history material on YouTube will tell you, that is the transcript of Herbert Morrison, reporting live for radio as an eyewitness to the crash of the Hindenburg Zeppelin airship in a landing field in New Jersey in 1937.
The first images from 9/11 made that early demonstration of the emotional power of live reporting come to mind as I stood watching television on the day two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, a plane flew straight into the Pentagon and another smashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
I had just started a new job, out of radio, managing a training programme backed by none other than Cyril Ramaphosa in the early years of his capitalist mogul phase. I was installed in an office on mahogany row (this was soon rectified) with, miraculously, its own television. I watched the images open mouthed. My husband, lured by the almighty dollar, had left only days before on an 18-month assignment in Islamic Indonesia. The world seemed on the brink of something awful.
In the twenty years since then it is the iconic image of the Falling Man that brings the tears and lump in the throat for most people, even non-Americans. But still, in my inner ear, I hear Herbert’s distraught, emotional commentary. Sometimes it’s BBC broadcaster Peter Jones’ magnificently compassionate and measured reporting on the Hillsborough soccer stadium disaster. Both remind me that feeling for your fellow man, compassion for the people caught up in political animosity, battered by cataclysmic event is important to hold on to as both a journalist and a member of the collective of human beings.
Today what triggers my emotions as I sit down to write, and makes the bile rise in my throat, are the Twitter-conveyed words of PhD and @TeenVogue writer Jenn M. Jackson which I read, while scrolling past that terrifying picture of a body falling through space.
“It’s twenty years since 9/11 and I’m still really disturbed by how many white pundits and correspondents talk about it. We have to be more honest about what 9/11 was and what it wasn’t. It was an attack on the heteropatriarchal capitalistic systems that America relies upon to wrangle other countries into passivity. It was an attack on the systems many white Americans fight to protect.”
It seems Ms Jackson (Abolitionist, Genderflux pronoun et al) was reacting to a television presenter who hazarded the opinion that 9/11 was the first time that Americans ever felt fear. According to Ms Jackson that’s incorrect. “While white Americans might not have felt true fear before 9/11 because they never felt what it meant to be accessible, vulnerable and on the receiving side of military violence at home…. white Americans experiences are not a stand-in for “America”, Ms Jackson said.
I can’t tell you much more. Before I could get it all down it seems she closed off her twitter in response to the reaction she evoked.
Lordy, there are some strange people about these days. This monomaniacal obsession with race, victimhood, blame and “heteropatriarchal capitalistic systems” is madness.
I suppose you have to admire Ms, sorry, Professor Jackson’s heroic lack of self-awareness and total disregard for past or current realities.
As Nassim Nicholas Taleb says in his book Skin in the Game: “In academia there is no real difference between academia and the real world; in the real world, there is.”
But oh, her utter lack of humanity.
I would also like to draw your attention to the frightening fact that Professor Jackson is a lecturer in political science at Syracuse University in the United States and is just one of the many academics, educators and – if you are a parent, be really very afraid at this – teachers of young minds who is pushing what Jordan B Peterson (the best-selling author who strangely is never mentioned in any mainstream media in South Africa as far as I can tell) calls “the current linguistic and identity politics fads” that fly in the face of reason, common sense and oh, let’s not forget, humanity.
We, not being as circumspect as Mr Peterson, call it Critical Race Theory or wokeness. And it’s not good for humanity as a whole, for progress, for our future as a nation in South Africa.
Back in my “experimental” government school at the top of the Gardens in Cape Town in the early Seventies, I remember days when the curriculum and timetable would go on hold and we’d be herded into one of the larger classrooms and told to squash up in the desk seats. The overly close encounters attempted by some of the boys were easily repulsed by the girls. We were all proto Gloria Steinems, high on women’s lib (and sometimes other substances) and no charges were ever laid.
These Canadian Film Board films were not entertaining films. Or films to help us get through matric. The grainy footage was of the Holocaust, of Auschwitz, of Dachau, of ghettoes, wars and destroyed cities, mushroom clouds, radiation burns, devastation and the cruelty of people to one another, mostly those who were “other.”
We were the pre-TV generation and were quiet while we watched. One day the Biology teacher daringly showed us a documentary about forced relocations.
Were we being indoctrinated? I don’t recall ever being told what to think about these films or even discuss them afterwards but I know it helped me understand what people could do to each other in the name of ideology.
In my co-ed private preparatory school (for the children of socialists, liberals, Karoo farmers, a Christian Scientist or two, and sundry residents of Somerset West) I had had several years of freedom to learn about anything and everything, was challenged to think for myself and come to my own conclusions, was encouraged to read widely and had my mind stretched by exposure to the history of the world and its people. How fortunate I was to have the privilege of not having to conform to ‘white is right’, volk and vaderland’; to escape an education strategically limited so as to make me fit to be only a useful worker.
Unfortunately today it would seem it is the ‘privileged’ young “learners” (what a very 1984 officialese word that is) who are losing the chance to think for themselves; who are being inducted into the new apartheid “white skin bad” cult, set on the social justice warrior path, or tortured by guilt over things they cannot control, often under the guidance of an overpaid Diversity (oh the irony of the title) coach or consultant.
The non-privileged, the children of the poor of South Africa, are still mostly getting nothing much at all of this or any other kind of education. But it’s tragic to think that those who, inspired by a rare wonderful teacher or encouraged by parents who prize education over flashy cars or Smeg appliances, may actually make it through one day to a privileged education. They may find themselves exhorted to think of themselves as victims of a malevolent world, or, if outside the majority demographic, forced to apologise simply for being.
If I were still forking out money and making sacrifices for my child’s education right now I’d certainly want to know just how much CRT is seeping into our schools and textbooks and dictating my child’s thinking rather than developing their thinking skills. I’d like to know that what it is being taught and how it is being taught will help them get along as best as possible, with empathy, rationality and tolerance, with the rest of humanity; that they are not churning out Professor Jacksons by the score.
Richard Wilkinson is busy investigating what he calls the new big scandal of “School Capture” and has garnered a swathe of new information on what is happening with regard to CRT application in our schools via an appeal on Twitter. If you’d like to let him know something on this you can DM him confidentially on Twitter @wilkinsoncape or email him on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit ‘Educate don’t indoctrinate’, the IRR’s website resource for parents, teachers and administrators who are concerned about the growing phenomenon of CRT in schools, at www.edonti.org – Ed
[Photo: The Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National Monument during the Luminaria Ceremony on Friday in Shanksville. The ceremony honors the 40 victims of Flight 93.]
The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the IRR or Daily Friend