STEVEN FRIEDMAN: Country is in a panic over what is nothing new
The reaction is extreme because people are forced to pay attention to events that don’t usually affect them
Every now and again, panic sets in when the people who shape the national debate notice what everyone else has been living with for years. The panic is with us — the country, we are told, is now beyond repair. The immediate cause is violence against immigrants (in theory, anyway — many of the victims have actually been South Africans) and women. But, as panic tends to do, this one has escalated and so we are also told that this is a country with huge inequalities, high levels of violence and some ugly prejudices.
All of this is true — but none of it is new. Anti-immigrant violence, researchers tell us, happens almost daily. Violence against women does happen daily. The only difference between last week’s anti-immigrant violence and most of the rest of the year is that it happened in places the mainstream debate notices — just as township protests are usually noticed only when they spill out onto freeways and so affect the lives of the insiders who shape the debate. The only d...