Having been asked by my long time friend David Oliphant to write an article on the topic of social inclusion within contemporary South Africa, I found myself both excited and overwhelmed by the task of speaking to a topic that can so easily lead one to despair. But with the firm knowledge that the Euclid Society, of which he is the co-founder, has it’s basis in creating social change I was able to consider the benefits and advantages of writing about this topic.
Social inclusion is defined by the Collins Online Dictionary as follows:
“(sociology) the provision of certain rights to all individuals and groups in society, such as employment, adequate housing, health care, education and training, etc (http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/social-inclusion)”
By this definition alone it is in some ways clear that in contemporary South Africa we have the problem that not all the people in our society have access to the above mentioned, thus placing them under extenuating circumstances and leading them to live lives that are not at all what any of us would choose. Please don’t get me wrong, I do believe that to get anywhere in life one needs to put in a considerable amount of hard work before one is able to see and enjoy the fruits of one’s labour. No amount of help from others can help you succeed if you yourself do not possess the drive and passion to strive for your own level of excellence. However, as anyone who has succeeded would testify, there was at some point or another that one person on their journey that believed or offered support where nobody else dared to, and this particular interaction may have made that major difference. This is what the Euclid Society hopes to achieve in its attempt to foster and nurture greater social inclusion within the contemporary South African society.
When one considers that those who are at the biggest disadvantage in our society, are those who lie on the fringes of the mainstream, the fringes of what is perceived as the ideal, and particularly the fringes of what we (and by we, I mean those of us in society who have been able in our various ways to overcome whatever obstacles/challenges that life gave us and found our own home in the greater echelons of our society) have deemed as the mainstream society, we can more easily see just how challenging it can be to fight your way up that ladder if your family does not have the means by which to help elevate you. It is thus a duty that we may choose to undertake, to serve those who are not able to serve themselves, in order to bring about greater social cohesion.
I understand that the above statements may sound pompous, but I do feel that this might be paramount to fostering sustainable progression within our society. I do not in any way condone or speak for the handing out of freebies to anyone, but I do believe that when people work tirelessly to achieve great things that will benefit not only themselves, but the community as a whole, where possible, those with the means should extend a helping hand. What is equally important is that this is done for the greater good. Please bear in mind that I do not mean that those with the means should simply hand over commodities, no they too should be able to reap some benefit from it, whether that be the satisfaction of helping someone fulfill their dreams, or some form of monetary benefit (after all we do all need to be able to survive at the end of the day). I think that by working in ways such as these, we would be able to foster social inclusion within our society by welcoming those people in the lower echelons of our community into positions which they are willing to work towards.
Having grown up in a home of modest means, I know all too well what it means to be offered a kind hand at a time when it was crucial to the person I would one day become. I am utterly thankful for this opportunity, and through the Euclid Society, I too hope to be able to extend that hand of kindness and goodness to others in order that they too might find their own way to feeling more included in this society of ours, one which is extremely complex and one which is ever changing, but hopefully one that will allow for greater inclusion of all those willing to work towards the greater good of themselves, as well as the progression of the society which they find themselves in.