One of the many by products of the end of Apartheid in South Africa was a period of violence and chaos known as the township wars. I won’t bore you with the details of what and who and exactly where but rest assured it was more savage and brutal than I care to mention.

The violence in the South Africa’s sprawling townships (Townships being shacklands much akin to Rio De Janeiro’s favela’s) was a result of political power struggle among two black political parties, the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party.

I don’t really want to talk about the violence itself as that particular, and very superficial, topic has been debated and talked about ad nauseaum. Rather I want to look at the mass perception of the people entwined in the conflict.

When the killing started the first thing that sprung to mind for everyone, and I include the bleeding heart international press, was “Aw shucks! There go those barbaric darkies again!”. Nobody bothered to look at why this was happening or who was behind it. Nope, instead we let our perception of Black Africans as savages completely block out what was happening. When we saw photos of a man being set on fire in the middle of the street in the brightest daylight it was simply shrugged off.

History now shows that the Township Wars were in large part orchestrated by the Apartheid government as a desperate attempt to cling to power. That’s a whole different story however and something you should look up in your own time if you needed any more convincing about how big a shower of bastards the National Party government was. The point is that the responsibility for the violence was laid at the door of the township dwellers. I’m by no means absolving them of all the blame but the situation was a powder keg that was all too happily lit up by the most eager of bomber.

When any type of violence is talked about in hindsight the perils of indifference is always mentioned. No one ever talks about why people are indifferent to violence or any kind of suffering for that matter. Our perception of the people perpetrating the violence and those who are having the violence perpetrated against them are key ingredients in mass apathy.

The Township wars are the perfect example. White South Africans and the International press were well aware of what was happening but hey, you know, black people do things like that. It’s not “Oh holy shit, they just killed another human being in the street like a dog” because that’s simply how Black South Africans were comprehended. It wasn’t the Apartheid governments desperate gambit to try and destabilize the ANC’s ascent to power; it was just Black people acting black.

There is a lesson to be learnt here; don’t let you or societies prejudices trump plain and simple common sense. The answer is never simple and it doesn’t become simpler by making blanket assumptions.

Look at me lecturing everybody. Yeah, I’m wise and shit yo.