It is the 2nd January 2014. I have 4 more days before work starts, but I sit here aware that you don’t go on leave from being a citizen of the country.
I am deeply struck by the question “What does our country need most now, and how may I play a part in it?” This last month has seen us mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela, and celebrating his magnificent life. We have been inundated by documentaries, radio talk shows and Anant Singh’s movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom providing new revelations to some of us on the great man’s sacrifice. Fresh conversations are bubbling about the values our nation should espouse and how to continue to strive for the ideals that Nelson Mandela stood for.
In Adam Kahane’s book Power and Love, he states that (and I paraphrase) in order for a group to display collective intelligence, participants need a container where there is access to information and composition of diversity. This is where the magic of sustainable social change happens. How do we create this strong container we so desperately need? Our country already has a wealth of diversity; we now need to work on access to information (education & no secrecy bill) and resources (shared). We first need to realize that we all need each other.
Who do I vote for that will strive to intentionally create this strong container? Which party or collective of citizens will be consultative, act on corruption and will tirelessly deliver on topics that matter to our people: education, food security, integrated public transport, poverty alleviation, etc.
This year marks 20 years of our democracy. I am proud to have friends from all walks of life – across nations, cultures, races and the socio-economic spectrum. I am however of the generation that caught the end of apartheid, so my joy of progress has an undertone of sadness, and even bitterness. Partially due to the messaging still held by the generation that precedes me; they often do not understand my openness to diverse friendships and romantic relationships. Part of my bitterness is also due to the awareness of my inadequacies around my white friends who have not only inherited financially and materially, but also a sense of adventure, sportsmanship and possibility. I find that many of my black friends are so caught up in attaining financial security that we are not prioritizing a purpose-driven life. A life that speaks to your calling seems a luxury.
I long for a society where my prejudice is obsolete and I can bask in the beauty of our diversity and shared humanity without further contemplation. Where access to resources is not the limiting factor to achieving your full potential. Where we trust that our elected leaders will serve the well being of our entire nation, not be caught up in self-interest. I long for the day that we as South Africans are proudly African and not yearn to be anything else, but lovingly embrace our brothers and sisters across the continent as equals. And finally, the day that Africa is an equal social and economic player in the world; no longer inferior but not necessarily superior. We’re all simply humans living and sharing justly and appreciatively.
4 thoughts on “As 2014 dawns on South Africa – my naïve dreams for my country”
Reblogged this on ynot and commented:
When I tell people that I’m going to South Africa for the semester I get so many questions that I cannot answer since I have yet to spend the semester there. Get it? My interest in South Africa goes back to my middle school years. As I was becoming politically aware by watching the news, I saw coverage of South Africa on the news. In 1994 when all of South Africans were allowed to vote for the first time I watched in amazement as people stood inline for hours, some who had walked for days. That year in the United States we had a “Revolution” too, the Republican Revolution, which put the Republican party in the majority for the first time since Reconstruction (when it was a very different Republican party). However, there were no long lines of voters. No one walked for days to vote in that election. In the United States, there is a lower turnout at the polls if it is raining. Yes, that’s right. If someone might get wet they cannot bother to vote. The turnout for this “revolutionary” election? 27% Hardly sounds like a revolution to me. But enact legislation they did and turned the direction of the politics in the US further to the right, on the political spectrum.
Why do I make these comments in relation to this blog post? Because of the differences between the US and South Africa. So much is always made of some tenuous similarities based on our histories of racial segregation and oppression. However, when I read this blog post I read hope, which is something that we lack on a large scale. Not just hope but the desire to turn hope into action.
When we travel we learn about other people, places, and culture. I think that if we allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable we can learn even more about ourselves.
South Africa should have made far more economic progress since 1994. In particular, the high income inequality should have reduced, not increased. Far too many can’t, or can’t easily reach their full potential.
It could be that a disproportionate number of your white friends are wealthy and have that “sense of …possibility.” Many in South Africa would agree with you. While I have very few friends, I have many acquaintances and colleagues. I certainly don’t get the sense that with younger colleagues (around your age or younger), whites have advantages over blacks. Late last year I travelled across SA interviewing students for post grad bursaries. Some blacks from rural villages outperformed some whites from the big cities, in the interviews. Some of the whites lacked confidence, took 6 years to complete the 4 year undergrad programme,….
Many blacks are certainly seizing opportunities that were not there in the past. I heard of a taxi driver who became a lawyer, of a train driver who became a lawyer. A woman who was a till cashier and a shelf packer at a supermarket in a small rural town, starts full time Computer Science Masters degree studies next year. I have arranged for her to get a top female to mentor her (not part of my job, but this outstanding young woman could go further, faster with a good mentor).
My father lost a fortune with forced group areas removals. Calculated in 2013 Rands and factoring in compound interest, it’s probably over R 10 million. My elder sister is still bitter over that. I was never bitter over it. Bitterness does not help with anything. I was denied opportunities when I was young. Maybe I could have been a MD or CEO during my thirties had I not been Coloured, as I was an outstanding engineer when young. I’m not bitter about that either.
In SA there are white millionaires and even a few billionaires who are drug addicts, or who are rehabilitated drug addicts. Privilege is not a permanent state of being. Neither is poverty.
Thank you for this lovely piece. A lovely tribute to Mandela, our democracy and our future. May we post it on our FB page?
Thank you. You’re welcome to use it.