OPINION: A disturbance in the force

Norman McFarlane

The enormously popular Star Wars saga is predicated on the existence of “the Force”, an enigmatic yet powerful energy field which binds together all beings in the universe.

Those who are Force-sensitive – such as the Jedi Knights – feel disturbances or disruptions in the Force, often over intergalactic distances, when cataclysmic events occur.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, one of the last surviving Jedi Knights, feels a disturbance in the Force, in the first of the Star Wars movies Episode IV: A New Hope, when he senses the destruction of the planet Alderaan at the hands of Darth Vader, when he demonstrates for the first time, the fearsome power of his Death Star.

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened,” a troubled Obi-Wan says to his young apprentice, Luke Skywalker.

Luke, who carries the genetic marker of his Jedi ancestry – midi-chlorians in his bloodstream – and is destined to become a great and powerful Jedi Knight, has not yet tapped into the Force, so he does not sense what Obi-Wan does.

One does not need to be a Jedi Knight to have sensed the multiple cataclysmic disturbances in the Force that have assailed our society in the past few weeks, events of such magnitude, that were intergalactic travel possible, we’d have sensed these disturbances wherever we might have been in the universe, as each occurred.

The brutal rape and murder of 19 year-old university student, Uyinene Mrwetyana, allegedly at the hands of an employee at the Clareinch post office, shocked us into confronting the reality of life for women in South Africa: a woman is murdered every three hours according to the latest crime statistics, we have one of the highest rape rates in the world, and according to recent World Health Organisation data, we rank fourth out of 183 countries in the femicide stakes, the killing of a woman or girl because of her gender.

We have richly earned, and richly deserve, the #FemicideNation that adorns more than one national television station’s news reporting on the groundswell of outrage that has erupted since Uyinene’s brutal murder.

In a striking parallel with the #FeesMustFall movement, women throughout the country took to the streets in protest about how our society has waged an unrelenting and brutal war against them, purely because of their gender, and the #AmInext campaign was born.

The march on Parliament resulted in retaliation by the police that was alarmingly reminiscent of the apartheid era: the protesters were dispersed by water cannon.

It beggars belief that the spirit inherent in the 1956 Women’s March on the Union Buildings – “you strike the woman, you strike the rock” – so often lauded by the ANC, was so hypocritically and callously swept aside when the women of our country once more went to the seat of power, seeking succour.

Government’s initial silence was followed by a tepid response in which President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged that the problem of gender-based violence “is not a woman’s problem, it’s men’s problem”.

Suddenly, gender-based violence, crudely dubbed #GBVFemicide, is a national priority, but nobody seems to have asked the right question.

Why did it take a disturbance in the Force of the magnitude of Uyinene’s rape and murder to elevate to the level of national consciousness, what has been happening for centuries?

Why can’t we get it, that having a Women’s Day, a Women’s Month, 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, and an International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, rather than being a means of addressing gender-based violence, is a stark manifestation of the cancer, the massive imbalance, which pervades our society?

Think about it: we have no Men’s Day, no Men’s Month, no 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (for men), or an International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Men.

Because we do not need them.

Because men do not get beaten up, raped or killed by women.

When, if ever, will we get it?