Dear Writers of Open Letters,
I trust this finds you well.
What a 2014 you had, hey? Barely a day went by in South Africa without someone, somewhere, writing an open letter about something to… well… to everyone.
We had open letters to white South Africans, open letters to black South Africans, open letters to Julius Malema, Jacob Zuma, Helen Zille (and every political party and organisation in the country, often), open letters to Oscar Pistorius, to Muslims, to Woolworths and Pick n Pay. Khaya Dlanga wrote open letters to everyone, Richard Branson didn’t write an open letter to the EFF and Thuli Madonsela wrote an open letter to herself.
There was even an open letter from an injured tourist to South Africa.
All of it.
Such was 2014, and we shall remember it thus.
But this is 2015, and digital guru (he’s good with his hands) Mike Sharman has spoken:
PSA: Remember folks, 2015 is not the year of the open letter. That was 2014.
— Mike Sharman (@mikesharman) January 12, 2015
If Mike’s right, “folks”, then not only is 2014 dead and gone, but with it, the alleged curse of the open letter. But let us note that Mike made his announcement as a PSA in a tweet. And (as Mike knows full well) a PSA in a tweet is basically just a short open letter.
Sure, nous sommes Charlie so he’s welcome to his (incorrect) opinion, but he’s trolling us as he makes it. And that smarts a bit.
My message to you, open letter writers of South Africa, is to keep on writing. How else would we know that you have a very important viewpoint on any given subject if you weren’t to scribble it down on a bit of keyboard and send it to news24 so that everyone else can read it too? Yes, gone is 2014, and it may indeed turn out to have been the heyday of open letter writing, but this is an art form that must not die. Because gone also are the days when it was good enough to send a private email or – god forbid – an actual letter in an envelope straight to the individual or organisation concerned. And look where getting rid of that got us: now, apparently everyone needs to read your dirty laundry and your grubby opinions. You seek support and validation for your views and actions and someone out there will give it to you, just as long as they know you’re angry about the same thing that they’re also angry about.
In this world of myriad communications, a personal letter can easily be overlooked. Indeed, cynics will tell you a personal letter expressing upset, anguish or annoyance will be overlooked. But it’s very, very hard for an open letter which has been shared on Facebook by Auntie Edith and her Bridge Club and by the lady that left SA for Perth and/or Canada in 1994 to be overlooked.
No, open letters are routinely ignored, not overlooked. So don’t expect any response from the party you’re actually writing to. That’s not going to happen. The response will come as a groundswell from blog followers, from the grunting hoards of news24 commenters (if you’ve stooped that low) or, if you’ve been particularly radical, in the form another open letter from someone who has equally radical opinions which radically disagree with your radical opinions.
Talking of radical opinions, open letter writers and fans of the same, Mike Sharman has just told you (and everyone else) that you are unwelcome to continue your beloved hobby into 2015.
I think you know what to do…