These days the social media is like buses , money and tea. You cannot avoid it. I was chatting to some young twenty-somethings on the day of the Queen’s funeral on Monday:
“I wonder what the newspapers are going to publish tomorrow?”
One quickly interjected as if I had said London is the capital of Japan.
“ I don’t like newspapers!”
“So, how do you get news?”
“News just sucks!” he dismissed my query with a wave similar to when you see a fly hovering near your eyes. The other two (both females ) gaped at me. Like checking yesterday’s food.
Said the wide-eyed, smiley one: “ I check my phone. There is stuff all the time. I don’t know how you old guys read all these huge papers. Sunday Times? My dad reads that. Its so massive. Makes these crackling sounds!”
All three laughed. Crackling? Or shuffling?
The second young female was slightly more profound: “ I check Twitter. There is always some big news being discussed. And WhatsApp is so cool. I get videos all the time. You know when the American racist coppers killed that huge black man.”
“The one who said ‘I can’t breath?’”
“I think his name was George Floyd, yeah. The police officer kneeling and choking him to death was Derek Chauvin.” (Soon after the episode, his wife of ten years, Kellie Chauvin, divorced him. She also wanted to change her married name and remove the Chauvin tag. Luckily, they did not have any children. The man is now in prison for 21 years).
She trotted on: “So, the TV stations were talking about this vile, evil cop. And newspapers, but that was like next days. But we got the footage before even it was on. Black Lives Matters was busy. That’s how we get to know things. The phone, mate.”
So, that is how it is. Phones and social media.
On the day Her Majesty the Queen was buried, videos were rushing around like grasshoppers in season. One was of the American President not taking the bus with the rest of fellow foreign leaders. And this particular video showed African heads of state in a bus. I remember at least five videos sent to me via WhatsApp. It really upset Africans. One particular clip had the title “The Common (meaning Black Presidents) and The Wealth”. Another said “Racism of the highest order”.
This was not just social media. African News, for example, quoted someone called @Omoalayo elaborating: “This is not about the UK, the US won’t let their President ride on the bus...Interpol won’t, FBI won’t...they just won’t allow it.”
Meanwhile, the same online Africa News reported that there were other higher chiefs in private convoys. Not buses. Other royals. Leaders of G7 countries “ like France’s Emanuel Macron, Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Canada’s Justin Trudeau among others. This is also for security reasons” the despatch, ended, sarcastically.
Social media is generally citizen journalism.
One image sent to me privately showed a procession of Africans somewhere on the continent, carrying a placard of the Queen in a remote village.
I asked the chap who forwarded me where it originated from.
His reply was typical social media: “I really don’t know. They are Africans but don’t know where from.”
I froze the video and read some of the lettering. It was the Anglican Diocese of Yaounde, Cameroon. This tells you a lot of how someone is viewed. To some, the Queen remains a heroine. To others a rep of colonialism and slavery. Such views were again espoused via social media last week.
One example is the famous Jamaican poet and broadcaster, who always walks barefoot, Mutabaruka. I first met Muta in Germany in 1986. It was snowing and he was barefoot. I interviewed him in hot, rainy Brazil in 1994, and he still had no shoes. He is the true naturalist. A real Rastafarian who never smokes ganja or eat meat.
Mutabaruka was asked by some TV station regarding the Queen. He said she “represented the colonial empire”, full stop. He said the only royal he respected was the later Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.
So. Goes the social media. Another clip was from the South African comedian Trevor Noah, who point-blank joked: “You can never expect for someone to show respect to someone who never show respect to them ...You know like all over in India you go all over the world our languages were squashed, our cultures were discarded...and Africa...”
Meanwhile, the best clip was President Samia Suluhu Hassan arriving at the sermon to bury the Queen.
As majestic as ever.