Thursday, June 10, 2010

History: South Africa 21 Years Ago

BELLEVUE, WASHINGTON - Today, I had the opportunity to watch a brief video program that I had helped produce as a student twenty-one years ago on contemporary South Africa. While the basis for the video was unmistakably the Alan Patton novel "Cry, the Beloved Country," it also clearly used current news reports in 1989 as a source. It was almost unfathomable to believe the contrast with reports coming out of South Africa today as the World Cup begins.

Today, it seems hard to believe that in 1989, apartheid was still the law of the land in South Africa. While some of the "SOS News" video included incidents closer to the 1940's setting of the book, including a bus strike and Black South Africans walking four hours to work, a "point-counterpoint" segment (a very clear parody of KIRO-TV's feature of the 1980's, and I have to proudly say that I portrayed the late Walt Crowley, bowtie, mannerisms, and all, while Ryan Phillips did a very good John Carlson) dealt with then-current issues on how apartheid would either be continued or dismantled.

It would not be until a year later that the African National Congress would be legalized and Nelson Mandela would be released from prison. It would not be until 1994 that democratic elections would be held, won by the African National Congress. It would not be until 1995 that the now-legendary Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be created. And, of course, it would not be until 2010 that the world would converge on South Africa for soccer's World Cup.

None of that was reflected in this video project for the obvious reason that it hadn't happened yet. Seeing how different things were through this amateur production really drove home just how quickly change can happen in this world. Even in my own lifetime, I have produced a program on a world situation that is now completely history, history that people who are adults today never experienced at all. Will the situation in the Middle East today seem equally quaint in 21 years?

No comments: