The ties that bind

Funny how things stick with you. I recall studying sociology as a journalism student in Durban in the 80s and the famous quote from Canadian philosopher and teacher Marshall McLuhan embedded itself in my memory: “the medium is the message”.

McLuhan was ahead of his time in thinking about and theorising the impact of interconnectedness by means of media. Way back in the 50s and 60s he was convinced that new technologies had a gravitational impact on cognition and thus an effect on social organisation... which in turn affects perceptual habits which has a knock-on effect on social interactions. (I’m crudely paraphrasing what Wikipedia stated...)

McLuhan coined the term “global village” before the internet was even developed and had no way of knowing just how massive a gravitational impact the WorldWide Web would have when Facebook and Twitter became THE media...

“In the early 1960s, McLuhan wrote that the visual, individualistic print culture would soon be brought to an end by what he called "electronic interdependence": when electronic media replaces visual culture with aural/oral culture. In this new age, humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a "tribal base." McLuhan's coinage for this new social organization is the global village.”- Wikipedia

The current global pandemic has highlighted the interconnectedness by means of viral spread – but also by how quickly the message can be disseminated.

The South African wine industry’s struggles with bureaucracy and officialdom have been well documented and communicated – almost instantaneously. But it’s also been interesting seeing how interwoven and linked we all are ... to positive effect.

Wine producers, marketers, writers, retailers, grape growers are all struggling. Yet in this tetchy troubled time, sentiment has become positive, if not downright kind. South Africa being the only country worldwide not to have a route to market, local and international, has become a rallying cry.

International critics such as Robert Joseph and Tim Atkin are just two of many voices who have taken to technology to encourage interest in South African wines and what our fraternity is up against. Zoom discussions involving participants from Wimbledon to Stockholm to Stellenbosch and elsewhere have been held. The message was positive: “we believe in South African wine”, “keep up your local efforts to lobby government to lift restrictions”, “we will buy SA wine once it’s available again”.

And while the cynics might state that actions don’t necessarily follow the positive words and sentiment, I’m of the opinion that South Africa has become a fixture on the international wine scene and will not be overlooked again.

One initiative on Twitter which followed the Joseph/Atkin Zoom discussion was for winelovers to show solidarity and support by drinking South African wine. For a few hours, wine Twitter was full of images from Ireland to Ohio and Japan posting pictures of local labels, with Chenin Blanc front and centre.

How ironic that at a time when we are further apart and more distant from one another than ever before, we are closer and more inextricably linked because of the bonds we share, Technology definitely has a role to play in facilitating the dissemination of the message but ultimately it’s a shared belief and love of wine which binds those ties ever stronger. Along with kindness, optimistic sentiment and hope.



- by Fiona Macdonald