No freedom without a name

2013-07-23 10:00

Brainstorming together and using our minds to escape the shackles of negativity is vital to put the message across

Dear readers, it is a great honour for me to write for you, in this newspaper, but I need your help. I need a name for this column.

Please suggest one. The success of a column lies in the feedback of the readers as much as the ability of the writer.

One of the best columns in the world was written in 1897 by Francis Pharcellus.

My grandfather was only eight years old then. It was about the existence of Santa Claus.

Virginia O’Hanlon, who was the same age as my grandfather, wrote to her local paper and said some of her little friends were saying there was no Santa Claus. Her dad, on the other hand, said if she saw it in the newspaper then it was true. So she wanted to know if indeed that was the case.

Pharcellus gave a bold reply: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

“Highest beauty and joy” are what I want this column to be about, because our country is beautiful and although we have our problems, people still greet strangers and say “sorry” even if it is not their fault, something that does not happen in Europe.

I don’t want the column to be trapped in what the Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie, describes as the “danger of the single story”.

South African news is largely about how bad we are as a people. It’s about rape, crime and murder, as if normal life does not exist. It is about corruption, as if there is no progress.

Pharcellus said young Virginia’s little friends didn’t believe in Santa Claus because they lived in what he called “the sceptical age”. We live in what I call the “age of negativity”.

We choose not to see the positive. I always say that organisations such as Corruption Watch should counterbalance their view with what I call “Progress Watch”.

This is because you cannot tell the children of a nation that they are evil and corrupt, and then expect them to excel and be the best in the world.

Black parents do that a lot already.

How many times have you heard parents say to their children: “Hhayi ungaphaphi.” There is no exact translation for that.

I have seen the impact of that at work and in business in general. Young black employees are generally quieter and scared to try new things, whereas their white counterparts are bolder.

This column is much more than the freedom of expression and other basics of democracy. It must be about the freedom to dream and to do.

I remember a notice in an office that read: “Miracles we do immediately. The impossible, well, give us a few minutes.” That is the spirit we need to dream a new country, which many good people think impossible because they are tied down to realism.

I hope the readers of this column are the miracle makers. I work with words, but I am the first to admit that this time they fail me.

So I invite you to brainstorm with me and use our minds to escape the shackles of negativity. Please send your suggestions by email, snail mail, Twitter, Facebook or however you choose. After all, this column is about the freedom to dream and do.

»?Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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