Time to change the narrative

2017-01-24 06:01

HAVING followed media coverage over the past 22 years, it is time that we as society, the media, business and government change the narrative of this country.

Our biggest issue is nine percent of the population controls 90% of the wealth, which leaves 91% of the population controlling 10% of the wealth.

These 91% are the people whose voices should be at the fore. Yet an impression taken from the media since 1994 would leave you feeling that the most whining and complaining comes from the wealthiest nine percent. Furthermore, this appears to be viewed as the collective consciousness and narrative of the nation.

To add perspective, if a tourist visited South Africa and read every newspaper article, opinion and letter published since 1994, what impression would he or she take to be our biggest issue?

I’m confident it would not be unequal wealth distribution, but rather crime, corruption, an ANC government, maladministration, state capture, BEE (the irony), quotas and HIV/Aids.

This would be due to the South African narrative created since 1994 through representation of the wealthiest nine percent via the media.

I can easily imagine media coverage emphasising: “Victory as Jacob Zuma resigns”.

Conversely, I can hardly imagine media coverage that emphasises: “Victory as new economic reform policies passed.”

Considering the latter would be a victory for the majority, why is it hard to imagine coverage presented like this? Have we endured 22 years of a captured media?

Do we lack powerhouse editors, publishers and journalists with an accurate point of reference of who all constitutes South Africa and where that weight lies? Or do our media just play to the money?

The fact that our tourist would have an incorrect impression of our biggest issue should cause every publisher, editor, columnist and investigative journalist to reflect deeply on what makes headlines and why.

I recently read a 2017 South African dream list of a prominent publisher and wealth redistribution did not feature.

How much longer must this elephant wander around a seemingly unconscious room as an inconvenient truth?

The people’s unequal share in our economy and the reforms needed to address this are the headline issues of our time. Most other social ills and issues stem from this.

Middle-class people generally don’t hijack each other and knowledgeable people hold governments accountable to higher standards.

The sooner we support addressing this issue, the better for all.

The challenge is that society has to care and individuals have to think past themselves for it to work.

You have to see your neighbour as yourself, as primarily we are all human first with secondary racial classifications being ignorant at best and indoctrination at worst. It is time to renew our minds and purge our hearts.

As a unique people we need to find unique solutions to deal with our situation.

The Nuremberg trials were not a benchmark to our Truth and Reconciliation Commission and we found our own ways of dealing with our past injustices.

Likewise, we must not be tempted to look at international standards for norms on wealth disparity, which would lead us into accepting the “injustice” of our glaring economic inequality.

Some of our greatest assets are the spirit and resilience of our people, and we must not be found undermining that.

We need a new narrative, with our main issue and its reforms being embraced socially.

Our media must be responsible to ensure that this is reported on significantly and positively.

Here’s to believing that when our tourist visits again in five years’ time, this will be clear.

• Born and bred in Pietermaritzburg, Andrew George works in the aviation department of a multinational company as the regional financial controller for Africa.

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