We aren’t an integrated society

2012-07-20 07:18

A few weeks ago, many government and political big shots gathered in a tent in Soweto to talk about social cohesion.

The media, people from civil society and other interested parties were invited along to talk about how we ought to achieve better cohesion as a country.

You might ask what social cohesion is and why it was deemed so important that some of the country’s foremost minds devoted two days to discussing it.

Social cohesion is people getting along, and political scientists and sociologists are studying how to design a society so that it gets along nicely.

In 2003, a commission on the future of multi-ethnic Britain produced a paper, written by several academics, that pointed to five key areas of social cohesion.

These are material conditions (employment, income, housing, education and health), social order, networks between communities and individuals, integration and equality.

If you’re a keen follower of current affairs, you’ll know that South Africa is doing spectacularly badly in all five categories.

We have one of the most unequal societies in the world.

Service delivery for most people is rotten.

Our society is actually a collection of societal silos organised along racial and class lines, where privilege and wealth is confined to certain silos only.

Crime is really bad, and so is integration.

The theory therefore is that South Africa’s problems are actually manifestations of our poor social cohesion.

The thing about social cohesion is that it is not a top-down thing that government can write some policies for and therefore fix.

This approach would be like a doctor trying to cure malaria by cooling the patient’s fevered brow.

We simply need to be more urgent in combating unemployment, inequality and poverty.

Homogeneity is a big facet of social cohesion – and we are a very diverse society.

The Scandinavians are often considered the most cohesive society in the world – but it helps that they’re all so similar.

That shouldn’t stop us from trying to achieve the ideal of unity in diversity.

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