Backward ever, onward never

2010-02-02 12:04

IN PHUKET, I stayed on

one of Thailand’s holiday islands at a hotel that had been in the eye of the

­tsunami five years ago. You wouldn’t say so. Perfectly ­rebuilt, the entire

coastal strip is like a phoenix risen. An ­aquamarine beach necklaced by a sea

of neon.

The Yellow Banana disco, Starbucks and every conceivable eatery

jostle for space with the infamous tuk-tuks, little motor-bikes with canopies

that are the main form of transport.

A popular tourist T-shirt reads: “No, thanks, I don’t want a

f***ing tuk-tuk ride, massage, silk shirt ...”

To say Phuket is entrepreneurial is like saying Richard Branson’s a

good businessman – an ­understatement.

There are no ­tsunami plaques anywhere and not a soul I tried to

press for details of that awful day in December 2004 would look back.

“Finish now. No tsunami any more,” they’d say before rapidly

changing the subject.

In Vietnam, some years ­previously, I went on the war route, down

into the tunnels that the ­Vietcong used to outfox American soldiers, traipsing

through the museum with the guns piled high and the graphic photographs of the

ravages of Agent Orange.

But everyone I met appeared to have consigned the war to history

and to a tourist back-drop. Locals were far more keen to talk about running

multiple little businesses and doing deals than about the ravages of the war and

the awful ­Yankees.

Those two countries are physical and cultural worlds away from

ours, but I learnt the importance of moving on and into the future. We look back

far too much.

Back home and into the ­ravages of our matric results, I read

little about the democratic state being responsible for ­taking us backward.

The back-drop of blame is ­often a shrugged shoulder and a finger

pointed in the direction of apartheid education. While it raped generations,

­after 17 years surely the ­responsibility for present and future children and

youth is now ours?

With an edifice as big as apartheid to blame for not keeping

abreast with global best standards in education, entrepreneurship and public

healthcare there’s no imperative to do well, to beat the odds. And so, we must

start looking forward – cast the past into the past and forget our historical

obsessions.

It’s hard to do when you consider that our primary economic

­debates last year were about ­nationalisation and a planned economy. We’ve

­entered an age of high ideology just as the world ­up-ends all the certainty of

dogma.

In the US, President Barack Obama ended his first year with a

wealth tax on Wall Street, while China helped blunt the impact of recession by

virtually taking over the global economy.

Most of President Jacob ­Zuma’s policy planks – planning, a

national health insurance plan, banning labour ­brokers, there’ll be more from

the state of the nation address next week – are well-meaning but lack

pragmatism. The ANC is still singing from song-sheets ­written in the 70s and

80s when its policy plans were developed to counter a siege apartheid economy of

yesteryear.

One reason for this is ­because political factions in the unions

and the SA Communist Party want the turn they never had in 1994 to attempt grand

revolution. But as they play history-history, the world is passing us by.

We should be all eyes on 2014 when South Africa turns 20. Surely a

fine moment to stop being a post-apartheid state and to accept the

responsibilities of ­being a developing country with ample natural resources,

good people, an ­unworkable unemployment rate and children ill-equipped for a

modern world.

We should be nose to the grindstone lifting education standards,

keeping the social safety net in place, allowing people to work and business to

flourish.

When visitors ask about our past, we could point them to the

excellent Apartheid ­Museum at Gold Reef City or to Robben ­Island. “Finish now.

No apartheid any more.”

The young activists I so ­admired in the 80s, and who are in power

now, had a great ­slogan they’ve forgotten: Onward ever. Backward never.

  • Haffajee is

    editor-in-chief


Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.