Mandela Day is upon us again and, in much the same way as Christmas brings dreams of snow covered villages to people living in a country that is forced to endure the summer heat, the day celebrating Mandela’s birth brings to South Africa its own ludicrous fancies that are at total variance with the sad reality that its people actually face. Chief amongst these delusions is the nauseating manifestation of our own brand of exceptionalism. ‘Since our country has produced a Mandela, is there anything that we can’t do?’ our leaders like to boast, and many of us like to think. We are sure to see this attitude influence both domestic, and foreign policy in the future. However, there are three current affairs that are infected with this philosophy that are sure to make us the butt of the international community in short order.
The recent conflagration of hostilities between ‘Palestine’ and Israel will be the primary issue upon which South Africa will choose to flaunt its moral authority like the proverbial emperor’s clothes. The 1994 resolution will be held up as a model for ending the conflict in the middle east, the ANC will give credence to the screams of Israel acting like an ‘apartheid state’ (as who would know the characteristics of such a system any better than those people who had once suffered under one themselves?) They may even condemn Israel for its poor treatment of African immigrants. Meanwhile, the ANC government kills protesters in the streets, fails to protect African refugees, and uses its army to prop up corrupt African regimes. Of course, none of this matters, because we remain Mandela’s South Africa. The contrast between the dream and the reality is startling. What does South Africa have to contribute to international conflict resolution, while convinced that it is the ‘gold standard’ of all such endeavors? South African leaders have to wake up and realize that our country does not stand alone in the world, and is not blameless merely because it happened to ‘defeat’ apartheid.
Secondly we will see the South African government talk about liberating themselves from the influence of the west by getting fully behind BRICs initiatives in order to undermine the global hegemony of the IMF and World Bank. What could be more in the spirit of Mandela than liberating the citizens of the third world from economic oppression? Such lofty goals are indeed within our grasp, even at the cost of a quarter of our annual gross domestic product being signed away to foreign powers with motives that are at least as questionable as America’s. The decimation of our reserves and the impoverishment of our own South African citizens will just be the price required to sustain this idea that South Africa is a special case, totally exempt from the realities of domestic economic and fiscal responsibility.
Lastly, South African exceptionalism is going to complicate the ongoing issue of land redistribution in South Africa even further. The plans that have recently been laid out have been tried all around the world, and have met with abject failure just as bad as was predicted. Even staring the Zimbabwean example right in the face, South African leaders are pushing ahead with these reforms without even the slightest bit of research into alternatives. I would like to imagine the thoughts rolling around in their minds, if they even took the first step towards thinking, ‘Russia didn’t have a Freedom Charter! [They had a communist manifesto!] ‘North Korea didn’t have a Nelson Mandela! [But the ANC has compared him to Kim Il Sung!] ‘Pol Pot didn’t unite his nation and triumph over racial animosity before starting his reforms!’ [As if the ANC has?] ‘Of course these reforms will succeed where others have failed; we are South African!’ […] The rosy dream fails, once again to even approximate the reality, or complexity, of the situation. South African exceptionalism is worthless as a philosophy for steering the country through the issues it faces on a day to day basis.
I could go on citing examples, but I’m sure the reader is, by now, familiar with the strain of thought I am attempting to isolate in our leadership. That is, a willful disregard for all rational thought, and a complete embrace of the lie upon which all of their thoughts are based – the lie that the South African way is the only way. How are we to progress as a country with such thoughtless imbeciles directing our affairs? It’s time we as a nation reject the ideas that holidays like ‘Mandela Day’ attempt to instill in us. We must repeat again and again until we know by heart, ‘We are not special. We have a lot to learn from others. We have to awaken from our self-induced stupor.’