Optimism and despair take turns in modern South Africa
In the affairs of men one is not long allowed to be blithely happy. Complacency is the prerogative of fat cat politicians and ratty criminals, gambling away the hopes and dreams of millions with smug self satisfaction. We mere citizens scrape our courage together and try to believe our magnificent country and its gifted people can outlast greed and corruption, that it is big enough and has enough resources to survive bad management, boring rhetoric, lack of vision and a demographic that is outrunning the infrastructure. Power always corrupts faster than one anticipates.
The Bad – Racism and curtailment of freedom of expression
People died for the tenets of a non-racial society where freedom of speech, association, religion and gender is a constitutional right. Yet …
• Discrimination is rife. The community in which I reside is predominantly coloured, and the general perception is that once more the coloured people have been marginalised. In this tiny rural village, work is seasonal and scarce. For us, it is a disturbing sight to see black people bussed in to do the periodically available municipal jobs we used to be contracted to do.
• But should we dare to express our discontentment, we are called racist. We do not in essence mind the hard working black people weeding our pavements, but we are desperate for and available to work ourselves.
• Xenophobia is taking racism to a whole new level. Somalis and Zimbabweans tread wearily all the time.
The Good – Creativity and re-inventing ourselves
It is so that it is often in the very place where things don’t work that creative solution finding takes place. The systems are succeeding and failing the people in equal measures. When people expect somebody else to solve their problems (although the ‘elses’ should do what they promised/get paid for if they are the government / social services/ municipalities), the victim mentality persists. People can build houses for themselves – dwellings that are individual, beautiful, insulated and bigger than those breezeblock kennels – at lower cost than the contractors get paid by government. Self- belief and real empowerment will allow this by slow degrees, if only the law will permit it. If only the powers that be would encourage it. That would wonderfully humanizing.
We saw people taking potatoes, maize and onions over border to Zimbabwe at Christmas time. Taking basics to Zimbabwe, that fertile land? How did that come to pass? We have space in South Africa. We have soil and water, cattle manure and a long agrarian history. We can grow food for our families. Surely we do not need to be afraid. We spend much time and anguish on buying/ being unable to buy consumer goods, and consumer indexes claim economic success of failure. But I see lots of small initiatives, real people (not consumers units) finding a way for themselves. That is deeply empowering.
The Ugly – short sighted exploitation of human and nature
“Where there is no vision the people perish.”
Wide open spaces, wind, sun, coastlines, mountains, plenty of people wanting to work, mineral resources, a range of crops, masses of initiative, goodwill, intelligence and national pride. Between the material wealth and the social glue, surely we can pull through. Mother earth is patient with us, but beyond a certain stage pollution cannot be reversed. Lack of long term vision by our leaders sets the tone for immediate gratification. How is it possible that we cannot protect our Rhino? How is it possible that businesses and government are allowed to destroy the eco system? Do we not have children, for whom we want to preserve this magnificent land? Do we not want our children’s children to have a country to thrive in, to treat ALL OTHERS, including people of a different colour or creed or extraction, with respect? Unless we all want that passionately, our children’s children will not ever be treated with respect.
Did we expect a pot of gold? – Easy answers and false promises
To fulfil the promise of the Rainbow Nation, we need to realise that the rainbow is a bit bigger than our own ethnic group, our own generation, our own immediate past that we continue to allow to shape our future, our own ambitions, our own religion, even our own species and definitely our own stubborn, destructive adherence to a world view that lacks vision.
But, we have to stay awake! We have to guard those ideals and be our higher selves at all times. We have to be the change we want to see in the country, not wait for others to set it right while we play the martyr. This is authentic empowerment. At the end of the Rainbow there will not be a pot of gold (enough of false promises!) … but there might be a Rainbow Nation to walk tall in the world.
The fact that everybody needs decent Insurance cover, is NO illusion!
This article was published on www.first-for-women.co.za/ and is reposted with permission.