Sunday, 20 January 2013

South Africa's Mea Culpa

If this blog is about moving to Romania, it's equally about moving away from South Africa. I don't claim that the problems I refer to here are specific to South Africa, but if I had to name one of the main reasons for *wanting* to leave this country it's the closed-minded hatred which the majority of the white population seems to enjoy marinating in.

We get it, ok? White people feel that the politicians don't serve their interests, feel that they're being bum-rushed out of the formal economy and are sick and tired of living in fear of criminals and implied guilt for Apartheid. Nothing I've said here is new.

However, reading the comments beneath this news story just made me die a little bit more inside when it comes to South Africa. So much anger! So much smug condemnation with zero care or empathy. More than just a smattering of outright racism, from the very race group which is trying to break free from the moral shackles of a racist history.

It brought to mind the famous Shakespeare quote:
"Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Macbeth Quote (Act V, Scene V).
What makes average South Africans blame everything on the worst possible traits of the Government without any further investigation or circumspection? For the record, I am NOT going to claim that the ANC is the best government for the country, but I am also NOT going to condemn the government for everything from potholes to crime to hospital closures and the common cold.

Maybe it's the journalist in me. Maybe it's because I know that before any statement can be made in the public, it ought to be supported by evidence, unbiased investigation and fair comment from all sides involved. At least, that's the theory which even journalists themselves often don't satisfy, so what chance is there for average citizens living sheltered, fearful and anger-steeped lives?

My personal view is that average citizens will never know the exact motivations behind Goverment actions. In a democracy, more or less the last real chance anybody has to influence the Government is when they cast their vote. That's not to say that accountability begins and ends there - I just honestly think we'd all live happier lives if we follow the principles of the famous Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
The courage to change the things I can, 
And wisdom to know the difference.
 Oh South Africa, my country of birth. Where has our collective wisdom gone? The very people criticising the ANC for crimes such as corruption and greed are espousing baseless accusations and pure hatred as fact: which is the worse crime ultimately?

I get it, I do. We as a country hate being powerless. We hate feeling that we're not in control of our own lives. We hate feeling that we're accountable for something that happened before we were born, or which we don't feel we were directly responsible for.

I don't for a minute think that the commentators on that story represent the best of South Africa's intellectual elite, or even the average citizen. The average citizen is out there, getting on with life with not a thought for the closure of a hospital far away. Entitling this story 'South Africa's Mea Culpa' is a bit strong, then, but it is accurate in that it turns the spotlight of public ire back on itself.

Life is too short to be angry about things beyond our control. It is too short to be fearful of situations we cannot know about. It is definitely too short to join in that chorus of anger and frustration and dashed dreams.

This is a message which applies equally to South Africans and you, in whichever part of the world you live. One last relevant saying: "You're either a part of the solution, or you're a part of the problem." I know it's easier to just be angry, but anger ultimately rots our own hearts and does nothing to change whatever it is we're angry about.

Maybe if all those people commenting on that story felt so strongly about it, they could have donated money to the hospital, or started a charity to raise money. But they don't, because this is just one more problem in a country full of them, and it's just one more example of something they know nothing about but which they identify as bad. And surely, if it is bad then it must be the ANC's responsibility, as they are the source of all evil. And surely, if they vent their anger in a comment however small, somebody, somewhere will care enough to do something about it.

I have done something about it. I wrote this blog post. And I've closed that story. It's all I can do for now, and I'm man enough to recognise and admit that. Certainly, adding more anger to that specific soup isn't going to make it taste any better.

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