Sunday, November 22, 2009

Film: "WRONG SIDE OF THE BUS" about apartheid in South Africa.

Professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Sidney Bloch returns to South Africa with his teenage son, full of personal guilt for not having done more to resist the racist apartheid regime. He emigrated immediately after completing his medical studies in Cape Town and lived with a guilty feeling of not having done more to resist apartheid and help even his few fellow coloured students in his year.

I saw the film at its world premiere at ACMI and want to cmpliment everyone involved for it.The film is beautifully shot and well edited. I also wanted to comment afterwards when the discussion and question time was organised but I did not get the chance to do so.

Having participated in one of the first international conventions in Johannesburg after Nelson Mandela was freed, but before the ANC was elected in 1991, I commented to one of our hosts at the time that I could not live in such an affluent environment while being surrounded by such massive poverty,- black or white! Her response was: "who are you to talk -is Australia better towards your natives? Are your Aborigines well off in the Centre while you live in comfort in the coastal cities? You live in a democracy. You can do something about it. We lived until recently under a virtual dictatorship,- you will see that we will change. Will you?"

I think that this film is a personal account of one man's conscience at work. I don't believe it can be extrapolated to a general educational viewpoint about being a 'bystander' versus an activist, which is its intention! All systems which are antidemocratic, be it communism, nazism, racism/apartheid, even theocracies, involve rule by force to make the population submit. The individual needs far more courage to desist and resist than we who live in democracies.

We need to protect each others' individual and minorities' human rights,- because we can do so without fear of reprisals,- at least in theory!So what excuse do we as Australians have for the terrible conditions still existing today in the aboriginal communities up North? The film Samson & Delilah portrays it most vividly (& was shown on SBS also tonight).

South Africans can look after themselves now,- I don't think the film really explores the connection to Australia at all and may not be the educational tool which it was intended to be.

As for comparing Sth. African apartheid with any other country,- as some would with Israel, which is so far removed from the truth as to be pure antisemitic and Arab propaganda,- it is only akin to the American segregation of a past era. Nor can it be compared with the Nazi Holocaust of us Jews,- the deliberate program of obliteration of a whole people!

I shall be returning for the next International Council of Jewish Women's Convention in Cape Town, next May, 2010. I am looking forward to see the changes which were portrayed in the film, but as one of the individuals in the film categorically stated,- racism is in all of us! Personally I don't see it as only racism,- I see it as humans tending to 'like the alike'!There is what may be called "snobbishness", e.g. in the level of personal wealth,or there is the "intellectual snobbishness" in the educational field,- every group will have the "in crowd" and those who will be outside it. Dr. Bloch rejected the Afrikaaners outright as being racists & pro-Nazis, until he met his old coleague who accused the Jewish groups at the University of "sticking to themselves",- a common accusation made towards us Jews!

The reality is that we all tend to "stick together" and label others in groups! It is human nature and nurture,- plus experiences!We tend to treat others the way they treat us,- or we avoid those whom we don't understand. Violence begets violence,- at present, violence throughout the world, be it criminal due to 3rd-world poverty,or anti-democratic or terrorist due to religious fanaticism,or sectarian rivalries, etc. this I am afraid is the greatest threat to democracy and the 'rule of law' in our Western world, (including Israel of course, as it is part of the Western democratic system). This is when governments enact more and more draconian laws which impinge on all our personal freedoms,- until we may wake up one day and find ourselves under a totalitarian regime! Then it may be too late to cry 'help'!

We Jews are usually the first to sense the dangers.
N.B. Dr.Bloch fled to Israel first.
There he met his wife to be, an Australian, so he ended up here!

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