Am I racist for believing that in SA, we share a future?

2014-10-24 14:13

Race relations in South Africa are at a cross road. The cross-road we are finding ourselves in today, requires that we audit our compatibility as a society, so that we are able to guide this country forward. Such an audit cannot be left to a social justice system that is fuelled by populist rants and its currently undoing some of the gains we have had as a society. I pray and hope that we are able to see the wisdom of voluntary participation in the development of this country and to all make patriotism about joint participation in the future.

We have to start as a people to redefine what it means to be South African. A new patriotism in South Africa post-apartheid is not a new ground to debate Liberal, Socialist, and Conservative ideologies but it is time to consider what our responsibilities are in driving our country forward.

When this generation considers the miracle that was deemed reconciliation in 1994, they either celebrated or grudgingly lament how it ended. Some believe forgiveness came too soon before restorative justice was realised by the previously disfranchised millions over decades. Thus reconciliation, if I were to borrow from a Shakespearean classic, “Reconciliation should be made of sterner stuff.”

If reconciliation is a process of making consistent or compatible, where is the audit that helps achieve consistency?

There is no history in South Africa before and after 1994, where we stood as a nation to recognise our joint responsibility to achieve our compatibility as a nation. The same master-servant relationships still exist and the same mismatch of resources in schools per learner exists along the same historic lines. These occurrences, unfortunately, continue to thicken the divide between the races.

Today race relationships are not built on equal people with equal contribution and equal benefit. This is becoming a new illusive dream, with each racial group still loyal to the well-being of its own. The common sense of National Pride within South Africa, is lost to the doldrums of an imaginary rainbow nation, that very few are working on building.

The euphoria of great moments that pulled us together like the 1995 Rugby World Cup, are undone by minor and trivial comparisons of Soccer to Rugby as though both games don’t track their roots to England. In-fact you would believe one is a white sport and the other black, and thus both are a measure each races’ Pride and social standing.

Learning from our Peers

…“OUR NATION, MALAYSIA, being dedicated to achieving a greater unity of all her peoples; to maintaining a democratic way of life; to creating a just society in which the wealth of the nation shall be equitably shared; to ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions; to building a progressive society which shall be oriented to modern science and technology. We, her peoples, pledge our united efforts to attain these ends guided by these principles…”

The pledge above is called Rukunegara, it was launched by Yang di Pertuan Agong on Independence Day celebrations in Malaysia on 31 August 1970. Malaysia became independent from Britain in 1957, and the backdrop of the colonial presence and the influx of a Chinese migrant population provided the stimulus for a conversation of what constitutes “Malay-ness” (Shamsul 1997).

Malaysia at the time had three main ethnic groupings which constituted society. These are the Malays, Chinese and Indians. The Malays had political power and the Chinese had most of the wealth and education. Rural Malays were uneducated and in deep poverty. These large ethnic-based inequalities resulted in a strong risk to the countries long-term stability and growth. This unstable socio-political context manifested itself in ethnic based violence in 1969.

New national Psychology

In the political welfare of a country national psychology is shaped by the philosophy adopted to establish patriotism. Closely related is the idea of the national character which refers to the values, norms and customs which people of a nation typically hold, their typical emotional responses, and what they regard as virtue and vice. A common rally in the current South African story is the negative view we all have on corruption.  You almost have to prove that you are not corrupt in South Africa at every turn, especially if you are a government employee.

Before we can gear ourselves to building a thriving economy we need to have shared sense of responsibility.  The ideal is to create a generation or two of South Africans that epitomise a national culture, much like the common sentimentalism all South African’s feel when we think about the life of Nelson Mandela.   We need to build a large national sentiment that South Africa is a great country that deserves more.

It is not enough that we use rivalry between national sports teams to symbolise national identity or to express patriotism. We now need to become united South Africans outside the sports domain and we need to fully tabulate our national psychology on the following issues:

  • Inequality between citizens
  • Our common future across racial and ethnic lines
  • Our commitment to growing the economy until we are all on equal footing
  • Our work ethic as a people
  • Our commitment to building South Africa not only as a rainbow nation but a coloured spectrum that can produce new colours as it adapts to externalities.

This shared future sentiment will unite people as members of a nation, and the belief is that they really have common national characteristics. The Brand South Africa Advert in the 1990’s boldly declared and its disappointing that the mantra was revised,

“South Africa is a country Alive with possibilities.”

The History behind the Freedom Charter maybe a contentious one to some but there is no disputing the power it had in addressing the concept of a shared future and our call to becoming a great nation. The following word are as inspiring today they were then:

We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know:

that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people;

that our people have been robbed of their birth right to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality;

that our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities;

that only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birth right without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief;

And therefore, we, the people of South Africa, black and white together equals, countrymen and brothers adopt this Freedom Charter;

(Rephrased Goal for the Charter, took a poetic license in the paragraph below)

And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes set achieve economic freedom for all.


Be Inspired South Africa

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