Rhetoric can be a powerful tool when used to mobilise people to accomplish extraordinary things. One can quote any one of the numerous examples from history, such as JF Kennedy’s famous 1961 inaugural address ‘Ask what you can do for your country’; Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ in 1963 and even our own Nelson Mandela’s ‘I am prepared to die’ delivered from the dock on trial in 1963. Unfortunately as history has shown far too often the art of influential rhetoric, or specifically political rhetoric is not only reserved for all that is just and good. There is a darker side to it, and one can look back to the obvious examples of Hitler delivering his thunderous speeches to the mass of Nazi Germans, sending them into a frenzy, and onwards to commit acts of inhumane cruelty. The list goes on for both sides of the fence.
Present day South Africa is not exempt from such lofty influences. Logically one would argue that the great leaders of the world - both past and present, good and evil - have had a certain ‘X Factor’ quality about them. Something that gets the ordinary man in the street to follow them without question.
Does South Africa have such individuals? I think not. Listening to the current crop of politicians certainly does not get the blood pumping.
While the chances of big booming speeches rallying the masses of this country remain slim, the political rhetoric coming forth from those in powers does little to calm the nerves.
There is an inherent belief held by the ruling party that the ‘struggle’ for freedom is still raging, that the ‘war’ to economic freedom is far from over, and an unwavering stubbornness of still referring to themselves as a ‘revolutionary’ movement. This is political rhetoric of the worst kind. If the leadership cannot admit that the ‘war’ is over, how can one expect the masses to think any different?
The persistence of the ANC cadres to use these words in speeches, unabashed by the potential consequences that could unfold, is a scary thought. There are a lot of desperate people in this country and by default that makes them extremely susceptible to being influenced by those that are charged with looking after them.
Should the Leadership stop speaking of ‘struggle’ and ‘war’ they might be able to gain a mindset that starts to get things right.