If ‘All Lives Mattered’ we wouldn’t need a movement

All Lives Matter. The people who bang this drum are invariably the same who will fight to the last breath, when you declare All Men Are Trash. The truth is All Lives Don’t Matter because if they did, we wouldn’t have to have a movement declaring that Black Lives Matter.

And, if Black Lives Do Matter – all of them, we wouldn’t have to have a subset Not All Black Lives Matter; as evidenced by South African virtue signallers jumping onto the George Floyd bandwagon, while ignoring our own victims of, in the words of our perennially shocked president, security forces “who let their enthusiasm get away with them”.

All Men Are Trash too because if they weren’t, we wouldn’t have this scourge of gender-based violence that seems to get worse every time you open a newspaper, particularly this week; the cruelty, the violence and the brazenness all conspiring to plumb new depths.

If Not All Men Are Trash, then surely those who aren’t would be doing something around the braai fires, in the pubs or now, in the time of COVID 19, on WhatsApp groups, like taking a stand against misogyny and reporting violence against women?

But they aren’t. Obviously.

It’s the same echo chamber who will be looking on in horror as the statues start getting pulled down. They’re the ones moaning about history being eradicated, while pissing on a plaque they were supposed to be defending, or wearing a Nazi helmet while protecting Winston Churchill’s statue – erected to commemorate his defeat of Hitler. Across the Atlantic, the same bunch are defending Confederacy symbols, a five-year experiment in racist conflict, that was the antithesis of everything the United States is supposed to stand for.

In this age of instant knowledge – and zero understanding – we are the living proof of George Santayana’s aphorism “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. As we look back on the statues that we want to tear down and throw into rivers or abandon in the veld – or keep on their plinths, we need to remember that history is written by those who won the war.

Sometimes the people cast in bronze were righteous, more often than not they weren’t – even by the standards of their own times. Sometimes the struggles we want to remember were just, sometimes we’ve just airbrushed the bad bits. The oppressed have a terrible track record of becoming oppressors themselves – ask Paul Kruger, front and centre amid the pigeons in Pretoria’s Church Square.

History itself is continually being revised and reframed, just look at the debates around Nelson Mandela. We need to be able to have honest debates to foster greater understanding instead of lapsing into sulky little passive aggressive tantrums, saying All Lives Matter, because really, you’re just saying Only Your Life Matters.

Ask Donald Trump. The most divisive president in recent US history turned 74 on Sunday, instant fodder for the pop up All Birthdays Matter movement, which rapidly morphed into June 14 Obama Appreciation Day.

But then again, why shouldn’t it, if All Lives Matter?

Originally published on 20 June 2020 in the Saturday Star