Chris Moerdyk

Thanksgiving - South African style

2012-12-03 08:31

Chris Moerdyk

Little over a week ago I was in the United States on one of their most important public holidays and it opened my eyes wide to the fact that here in South Africa we really are doing things wrong.

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second last Thursday of November every year and it is the one day in the year where Americans of all colours, races and creeds unite in celebration.

What I found out from the locals was that Thanksgiving was special because it had no religious, cultural or commercial connotations. It was a day on which all Americans could celebrate something the vast majority of them had in common.

All of which made me wonder about our public holidays. Heritage Day in particular.

While it is important to nurture one's ancestry and culture, it occurred to me that what actually happens is that this country celebrates its differences and those differences always seem to boil down to race.

The vibe in the United States during the build-up to Thanksgiving this year was very similar to that in South Africa in the weeks before the 2010 Soccer World Cup opened here. A time during which all South Africans seemed to be united in celebration.

It would be great, in my opinion, to have a public holiday that could capture that same sense of unity.

South Africa's obsession with our differences goes beyond Heritage day. It happens just about every day.

Marketers and advertisers continue to be absolutely anal about race in spite of it having become irrelevant ages ago.

And only a few days ago the mass media were reporting that new research showed that the majority of South African internet users were black. Frankly, I absolutely fail to see the relevance.

I can understand the importance of knowing who is using the internet in terms of geographic location, age and income but it is beyond me what possible importance can be attached to whether an internet user is black or white. Of course, there will be those who will come up with all sorts of socio-scientific justifications, but I, for one, will not be buying into them. When it comes down to brass tacks, when you really think about it, in South Africa 2012, skin colour should not have any practical, moral or commercial significance at all.

As South Africans we all have aspirations whether we are rich or poor. And aspiration is colourless.

According to our constitution, all South Africans are equal.  It's time we started celebrating that.     

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