Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The South African Dream


South Africa is full of potential and possibility and hope. All we need to do is grasp it and realize it. Sitting on the sidelines will let others achieve their own corrupt desires unopposed - and make our nightmares come true.

It is so easy to be caught up in the negativity that says South Africa is a dangerous place, that it is a haven for crime and gangsterism and corrupt government officials and conniving self-interested politicians, a place where dreams suffocate and joining the rat race to greener pastures elsewhere is the solution.

It is so easy to overlook the obvious, that we are now 20 years post-Apartheid, we have weathered the worst of it, that despite the doomsayers and gloom merchants, people of all races, cultures and religions, genders and sexual orientations are living together side by side in relative harmony. People are working together, sharing office space and even sharing jokes and sorrows together in ways we never dreamed possible two decades ago.

This is my dream, the South African dream, an equal opportunity society, where we all can make our dreams come true.

.....Well, not quite yet.

There is still some way to go yet. There are still those prophets of doom, the naysayers and reactionaries who will not tolerate the existence of others different to themselves - nor grant them the same rights or chances to find their own happiness. They seek to step on the fingers of those struggling to climb the steep stairs of human rights to attain equality with them.

There are also those among the formerly disadvantaged who bear grudges and attitudes of entitlement and whose motto's are "the world owes me", who refuse to grant equality to others - and of course, those who need to feel superior to others, creating the new order of the currently disadvantaged, whether on the grounds of race, language, culture, gender or sexual orientation.

IF the world owes us ALL anything, it is EQUALITY - no more, no less. While that means no more "previously disadvantaged" it also means that there should be no "currently disadvantaged" to replace them.

There are those among us who don't care about politics, those who have no interest in voting, those who couldn't be bothered to get off their complaining asses and make an effort to vote for whatever changes they complain about or see lacking in the world around them. There are those among us who think it is quite clever and even intelligent to boast that they are "not interested in politics". If I were them, I would hang my ignorant, apathetic head in shame. How will changes ever come about if we sit idly by and withhold our voices from the one arena where we can make a difference? How long will these leeches sap and sabotage the efforts made by those who speak and act to bring change? How dare we sit and whine about inequality and injustice while we carelessly facilitate the continuation of those who maintain inequalities and injustices in their warm, cosy seat of power?

That is the beauty of democracy - the will of the people - and the apathetic do not exercise their will, they bury it.

Equality my friends, means no superior rights, no inferior treatment - no oppression of one by another. That is the South African dream I believe in. I can't believe so much was done, so much fought over in this country just to replace one oppressor with another. I won't believe it. And I won't accept it. I won't be oppressed by anyone, and I won't stand by in tacit silence while another is oppressed either.

It disturbs me that so many only stir to action when it is their specific human or civil rights that are affected, but shrug it off saying "Oh well, I'm fine - it's not my problem" when it affects only another. This is not correct - taking away or infringing on the rights of one group affects the rights of all of us.

Politicians have power to change things for good or bad. As the people who vote for them and support them, we are the ones who give them that power. If they infringe on human rights and liberties in our name, then we should be angered and outraged by this miscarriage of justice and take appropriate action by not supporting them anymore - and giving our power to somebody else come the next election.

That is the principle of democracy - not the mentality of a soccer team supporter - "my team is my team, no matter what". It is this bad judgment that has led us to this point in our history where fundamentalists are challenging the legitimacy of human rights, and where we have government fraught with corruption, wastefulness and mismanagement. In politics it should be: "my team is my team - if I agree with what they say and do in my name. If not, I'll find someone better who does."

I'm picky about who speaks for me and what I say. I'm careful about who I back and where I make my mark - but regardless of all that, you may be sure - come the next election day, I will make my mark somewhere.

You should too.

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