Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Some navel-gazing

I think my dad reckons I'm a total idealist. And my best friend thinks I'm a sad, jaded cynic. Honestly, I would say I'm a mix of both. I think a lot of South Africans are, actually.

This schism between my two personalities is never more evident than in the period leading up to elections. 2011 is local election year in SA and as the campaigning kicks in, the uglies come out.

I oscillate between a firm hope for the future of South Africa, awe and respect for diversity and a deep pride in my beloved country and, on the other hand, an intense frustration at a nation that seems to prefer to engage in petty squabbling rather than making any effort to move forward, my disappointment in systems, parties and people that continue to fail us, and fear that South Africa will never grow up and grow out of its stroppy 17-year old teenaged-democracy mindset.

I see the potential and I see the problems. I hope for better days and I worry about worse ones. I meet people of all cultures who are passionate about this country and ready to help "make it a better place" (in the famous words of MJ). And I meet people who are judgmental, fatalistic and scornful of SA and its politics and people.

The things is that I find myself looking at my country every day from both sides. I believe we can put the past behind us and overcome doubts and differences. I also believe that sometimes it feels impossible to do.

I understand that I can't begin to understand the hurts of our different peoples. I get that trying to lift yourself out of the only mindset you know is unlikely. I know that there are no easy solutions - no magic fixes for this mess.

I used to read comments on News24 articles and want to vomit. I don't read the comments anymore because I am just too saddened at the judgmental, small-minded, mean things that South Africans of all colours, creeds and ages can say to each other. Every day.

I read blog posts like the one I'm trying to write at this moment and I feel a sense of empathy and at the same time I feel irritated that we're still talking about this stuff. We've heard it all before. We're stuck on a hamster wheel*. Round and round. Seeming to make no progress.

What can we do? Vote for a different party? There's no perfect political party. They're all flawed, one way or another.

Move to Australia? I balk at the thought. I love this country. I want to live here. And how will saffers movng out of SA benefit the country? It's not a solution for me. It would be a cop-out**.

Get involved in politics? I think I would die of frustration. (It might work for others though. We need politicians. Just not short red-headed bad-tempered ones who may fly into a homicidal rage at any minute.)

What then can we do?

Hope, pray, love. Corny as it sounds and impossible as it seems, be the change we want to see in the world. Don't leave nasty comments on News24 articles. Try to see the best in everyone. Resist the urge to have constant pity parties. Vote. For whichever flawed party you choose to support. Stop complaining once in a while. Get to know someone who remembers the past. Get to know someone from a totally different culture who remembers the past. Keep trying.

Keep calm and carry on.

Remember that every country on God's green earth has its problems. Keep the faith.

K, I'm done. Needed to get it out my system. Haters, don't be hating. This is just my opinion / feeling. You're free to have your own.

*It does all come down to hamsters then, Po.

** Not judging anyone who has left SA. I don't know you or your motives. I know me and my motives. Me leaving would be me running away because things are complicated here sometimes.


nadia said...

Hear hear! Especially the part about not leaving nasty comments on News24...

It actually physically HURTS to read some of the things these bitter people have to say (who are btw probably actually quite nice when computer screens don't get their evil alter egos to come out and play)...

In Afrikaans we have a brilliant term for this kind of comment. It's called "gal braak" (literal translation: 'vomiting bile').

Graphic, but a perfect description.

How will constantly blurting out useless and negative things help anyone or anything?!

Hayley said...

Oh my...i think you can read my mind! Great, great post!
I agree with you on everything...I adore this country, I can see the incredible potential in it...but that does not make me blind to the problems.
I believe in its future, no matter how hard it is some days.

Leaving is just not an option for us...we are here for the long run....through thick and thin!

Damaria Senne said...

And just when I wonder if SA will ever outgrow its "stroppy 17-year old teenaged-democracy mindset," I read posts like yours and I am reminded that there are beautiful, hopeful people out there who are willing to put in the work to make the country better. And I'm very much encouraged to do my bit too. Thanks.

po said...

Weeee I love this post. I think about writing this kind of thing every single day, I'm a nerd like that. Except I could never say it so succinctly, and my words hold little weight seeing as I am not in the country anyway (I hope that will change soon, but who knows). My first introduction to the fact that not everyone thought the world was as rosy as me was the M and G thoughtleader comments, which in comparison to news 24 and times, are really really mild. but i was shocked.

I never knew how much hate people stored up in them. that was back in 2008 so i am acclimatised to the hate now. My only way of understanding SA is that it is in a phase in history, and it may not be a great phase to actually live through, but it is a necessary phase, maybe a phase we will never see the end of, but a phase without which a better phase will not come, so whether or not it is fun, it is very necessary. It's kind of inspired by a philosopher called Hegel who i studied years ago.

The only way to keep it a phase and not an eternity is exactly as you say, try to see other people rather than objects to offload your anger, frustration and prejudices onto.

Angel said...

Oh I so hear you!! I feel the same way, switching between pride and embarrassment on a regular basis.