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Robert Andrew
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Memory and Imagination

19 December 2013, 07:52

Most South Africans have come through two weeks of emotional turbulence with the death, memorial service, funeral and laying to rest of Madiba. Many of us are highly energised to ensure that, individually and collectively, his message for working towards a peaceful, equitable and harmonious society is continued and that ultimately we achieve a South Africa that is free of poverty, crime and corruption and in which all citizens share in the wealth of the land and in the efforts of its people.

Our memory of Madiba and the liberation struggle will give us the platform on which to move forward but memory alone may not be sufficient. Perhaps, in moving forward, we might want to share in the sentiment of Shimon Peres, the former Prime Minister of Israel, who during the complex confabulations of the Israel and Palestine disputes said: “personally, I have very little patience for history. I believe that to imagine is more important than to remember”. Imagining what each one of us wants South Africa to be, sharing our imaginations and collaboratively helping to work to achieve our visions, could be a very powerful process.

Imagination is one of the many attributes that we should encourage people to develop and use if we want to make change possible and a reality. Many people regard imagination as childish and devoid of real value, rather like dreams. The irony is that it is possibly the most powerful tool we humans have and is not limited by gender, culture, education or intelligence. The problem most of us have is that we have not been empowered to imagine creatively and positively and see ourselves through eyes of lack, seeing only what we don’t have. With a well-tuned ability to imagine creatively, what we can imagine, we can become. It may be the secret of our existence, at this special time in our history, to bring about the changes that all reasonable and patriotic South Africans want to see.

The best we can do for now is to understand that all South Africans must operate from a place of peace, a place of co-operation and moral and ethical understanding. We must realize that we are all interconnected, that we can solve our problems here easily, given the fact that we do have a number of possible solutions. The only way we will be able to implement and utilize these solutions is through a shift in consciousness. Madiba has given us the impetus to wake up and to try and see the significance of his message.

As humans, we all have an innate sense of justice that is the psychological stimulus for all noble virtues like morality, courage, self-sacrifice and honour. It provides us with emotional support for setting values and for determining what we believe to be right or just. In imagining a better South Africa, we need to use  this sense to evaluate and assign worth to our own communities in the first instance but must also be capable of assigning worth to other people and other communities.

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