Many people are talking about leaving South Africa for greener pastures. Who can really blame them? With a government seemingly doing its best to ruin the country after the brilliant success of the Soccer World Cup a few short months ago, who isn't left with a sense of shock and uncertainty? With a multi-pronged attack on democracy and the underpinnings of the Constitution coming from various government departments, the future for South Africans seems bleak indeed. But never so bleak as when there is a realistic chance of standing up to the hijackers of democracy - and those who should be taking a stand are doing so in the emigrations queue at the airport.
There are days when I feel the same way - for example, when I see apathy all around me. Two weeks ago I was at a petition signing against the "Protection of Information" Bill and Media Tribunal. So many people just shrugged and said "it won't help" or they "don't do politics". Of course it won't help - if people think as they do. They have given up, surrendered without a fight. They're impotent, defeated. Others are so STUPID they don't even know what "freedom of the press" even means. And yes, of course - they went to school. What they did there though, is anybody's guess. It is so frustrating.
Being involved with an Opposition party, I hear things. I hear how positive they are about the coming municipal elections in 2011 and general elections in 2014. They really believe they can win. They really believe we can get this country back on track. And I'm going to do more than just sit back and give them a chance to prove it, I'm going to help them make it happen.
I do have a passport handy, for in case the proverbial excrement were actually to hit the rotary bladed contrivance - and I daresay I would have to be pretty stupid not to. But really, why should I leave? I haven't been personally affected by serious crime, in fact I don't even know anyone in my immediate surroundings who has. I know one or two people who have been burgled a few times, one or two who have been hijacked in other cities. Here I have a job, a car, a house that's paid up, a life, networking, contacts, friends, family, a community, a future. Anywhere else, I have nothing. I will have to start over from the very bottom. Of course, I am a realist and practical and I will do it if I have to - but why, if it makes more sense to keep what I already have, fight for it, and build on it?
Oh, there may be crime in other countries too the lemmings say (some friends of mine from Germany told me amusing tales of car-jackings and burglaries there last weekend), but nowhere else in the world are babies left abandoned on railway lines or raped as a "cure" for AIDS. Uhuh. Like that has ever happened to them.
You can leave your car unlocked for weeks in New Zealand, and your house too, they say. Of course, that doesn't mean there is a 100% guarantee that nobody will take you up on your offer, or your brute stupidity. Sorry, but I think only an idiot doesn't lock their car or house when nobody's home, no matter where you live - and I dare you to prove me wrong. Just because you live in a first world country, doesn't mean there are no criminals. It just means they are smarter, and they might not actually kill you for your mobile phone or the change in your pocket.
What I see here is reasons to stay and sort out the mess we're living in, make it right - not to live life as a victim, a refugee, to give up my life here, my home, friends, family - and run away and always feel like an outsider in somebody else's country. I was born here, nobody can ever claim I don't belong here. Nobody can call me a 'bloody immigrant" or a "leech", or even a "racist" simply for being a White South African not wanting to live in my own country under a multiracial government.
Back in the day, when I was at high school, we used to hear about people leaving because of the economic downturn, and sanctions that Apartheid brought upon us all - and in those days we used to hear comments about "the chicken run" and my favorite was a poster with a light switch and a sign reading "Will the last person to leave South Africa please turn out the light". Nowadays, with the government's fingers stuck in the till up to the elbows and the blatant incompetence of our power regulator, commonly called "Eishkom" - it seems a picture of a candle would be more appropriate. And it seems that even if we fail and end up leaving ourselves one day, there will still be people here in South Africa - those the lemmings are trying to get away from, and those who have nowhere else to go.
I've been hearing good things about Cape Town and the Western Cape lately. Unsurprisingly, the province is under new management since the last elections. The streets are clean, crime is down and the Metro is being managed competently and efficiently. The ruling party of course, doesn't like this, and so they are scheming ways to sabotage this development, even if it means changing the Constitution to dispose of South Africa's provinces and municipal elections altogether.
If all the people who just packed up and scooted overseas over the past 16 years had stayed and acted like responsible citizens and voted instead, the whole country would have been more like the Western Cape by now. Same goes for the useless "barnacles" that stay here and still don't bother to vote - a bunch of "suurstofdiewe" (oxygen thieves) if I've ever seen any.
Whenever things get tough for them, should people just pack up and leave? Are rape or robbery victims and families of murdered people the only people leaving the country? How many of them have really been personally affected by crime? How many of them are leaving just because they have allowed fear and paranoia to get the better of them? How many of them are leaving simply because they are too lazy to stay? It is simply too much effort for them to lift a finger to try and make things better here.
Wherever I go, there I am. Wherever I may go to, I will still carry my baggage with me, fight to establish myself, start fresh, protect my rights, build a life for myself and those I love. It might as well be here.
Sure, the POI and Media Tribunal are only the tip of the iceberg of new laws that will sink our democracy like the Titanic - succumbing gradually by the head, like an old woman passing in her sleep. But the POI and Media Tribunal Bills, the Internet Censorship aka "porn" Bill, NGO Control Bill and Employment Services Bill haven't been passed into law yet. If we're lucky and enough people fight them hard enough, they may never realize.
Not everyone is built in a way that can stand and fight. Maybe it's because I am that I overlook that sometimes. But just think for a moment - ONE person's vote can make a difference in an election. One person can make a difference in raising awareness and motivating people around them to vote or to take a stand.
People are mostly lemmings - one runs, they all run - but let one person take a stand, scared or not...
Be that person.