South Africans and Dr Who: Social Amnesia

South Africans dry your crocodile tears.  In the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death we can see a degree of social amnesia operating.  Everyone’s coming out of the woodwork saying what a great man Mandela was, but you kept him in prison for twenty-seven years!  It was Coventry’s The Specials who had the hit single Free Nelson Mandela, and Nelson’s 70th birthday concert was another British initiative, held at Wembley in 1988 (cue Land of Hope & Glory in background).  It’s said that this event hastened his release from prison. 

The Apartheid system was operating up until 1994 and was obviously supported by someone.   Many of its supporters are still alive today, so where are they now?   Is it not a bit like no Germans admitting being in the Hitler Youth, or Americans going along with their own Apartheid of the southern states?

Social amnesia and its flip side, distorted memory, plays a part in many people’s lives.  I may think I remember hiding behind the sofa in the 1960s when Dr Who came on, but in reality I probably didn’t.  I’ve heard others say they used to hid behind the sofa when the programme came on, and thanks to television documentaries perpetuating the myth, the phenomenon has passed into popular culture and become an accepted fact. That said, Jon Pertwee was a scary character, either pursued by cybermen or not.  Just as every Mancunian in a band claim to have attended the first Sex Pistols gig at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall in 1976, half the population of Liverpool get misty-eyed saying they used to be held up on their dad’s shoulders on Anfield’s Cop when they were small.  None of us are immune from it: growing up in Greater London, I was, of course, in the Blind Beggar the day Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell.  Even though I was only nine.  My dad had read that George had called Ronnie a “fat pouf” on Twitter and that it was going to go off that day.  Then again, I might be mistaken…  

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