Intellectuals have run out of ideas

2008-07-21 00:00

Those who have been following South Africa’s political developments will agree that there is validity in asking the question of whether South Africa’s political intelligentsia has gone bankrupt. When one reads a number of opinion pieces which appear in newspapers, purportedly written by analysts, one cannot help but feel what Alan Paton must have felt when he wrote, rather plaintively: “Cry, the beloved country.”

In any nation, the space occupied by the intelligentsia, mainly academia intellectuals, analysts and political scholars, is always revered. Intellectuals are meant to contribute to the ideological and thoughtful processes of a nation’s futuristic outlook.

When we read opinion pieces, or we listen to commentary from analysts, we need to have a sense that the nation is looking at itself in a mirror. What, unfortunately, we seem to be getting more and more from the elite club of our intelligentsia is recycled political views that were peddled before Polokwane and are now wrapped in different packages and dished out to society as the panacea for South Africa’s challenges.

Instead of viewing South Africa and the world from a different angle, what is being aggressively marketed to the nation is a Zumaphobia.

There is a frenzy that is perpetuated by the members of the elite club of our intelligentsia, that the nation should focus all its energy on ridiculing the president of the ANC and the new leadership of the ANC, as the beginning and the end of our current political discourse. The members of the elite club are either being economical with their analysis, hence they recycle the same issues, or they are at a cul-de-sac in terms of feeling the pulse of the nation.

The latter situation would therefore demand that we all ask the question of whether our intelligentsia have become politically bankrupt in terms of that outlook of our nation’s future, their ability to put forward balanced and not over-exaggerated options and to avoid the temptation of being in the fast lane for the fun of it.

We need to hear more from the members of the elite club on how we should strategically be positioning ourselves domestically and globally, given South Africa’s influence, to ensure that the channels opened by the Thabo Mbeki presidency are nurtured well beyond his tenure of office. We also need to hear more on how we can consolidate the gains of the democratic South Africa.

The journey we have traversed in the past 14 years has seen us making major achievements in improving the plight of the poor through the social safety net while, on the other hand, we have been on a slippery slope in terms of job creation and the widening gap in terms of incomes between the less privileged and the affluent members of our society. Some of the influential leaders of the Group of Eight (G8), or G13 as it may soon be known, will vacate the big stage very soon. Can the members of the elite club paint for us a scenario of what the world could expect beyond some of the current crop of G13 leaders?

We cannot afford the doom and gloom that is continuously dished out by our intelligentsia in every available media space as the gospel truth.

Why would South Africa’s intelligentsia not be inspired by the political transition that is currently taking place in our country?

If we are to inspire the country beyond the Zumaphobia or the pre-Polokwane stances, then all South Africans of goodwill must say, let us stand up to be counted. We are therefore making a call to each and every citizen, but more importantly to the members of the elite club, to put South Africa’s interests first and to remember that South Africa’s standing in the global community is dependent on us as South Africans putting forward a realistic vision of collective growth and collective prosperity.

As an important global player, South Africa’s contribution in global affairs will to a larger extent be determined by our confidence in ourselves and the greater vision we want to share with the world.

Anything less than this would be the regression of our nation. And none of us want to be remembered by posterity to have been found wanting at the time when we should have seized the window of opportunity. Let the nation now wake up from its slumber before it is too late.

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