Are we living up to our national anthem?

2012-10-23 13:22

In just 17 lines, our national anthem delivers a charming and constructive message that most politicians aspire to communicate in their lengthy speeches. It delves deep to the core of what I believe to be our national values. These are values that we are certainly meant to live up to if we are to overcome many of the daily challenges we face as a country.

I don’t think it was by mere lyricism and optimism that those who arranged these values into what we hail as our national song, put them together to entertain something that is out of touch with the South African reality. That our anthem touches on group cohesion, war/battle, poverty/suffering and freedom speaks directly to the bitter realities we are confronted with every day.

Nothing is ever perfect and stable inasmuch as seasons come and go, be they good or bad. But in the case of our country, there’s so much going wrong and the signs of things ever turning for the better are almost invisible. There’s so much unpleasantness that inevitably compels one to pose questions about ourselves: To what extent do we value and understand our national anthem? Are we really living up to the ideals contained in our national anthem?

I find it difficult to provide an affirmative answer to these questions given the rough currents the country is sailing on. We live in times when Black Economic Empowerment has demoralised and desensitised people who once fiercely fought and championed noble causes.

These are the people on whose hands the hopes and dreams of a better life for all have been entrusted. Their exclusive lifestyles are seen regularly in the media and whether they can in turn see the South Africa that will never appear on Top Billing is a debate worthy of a special blog post.

Some of them have been tamed by privilege to a point where it doesn’t take them a moment of introspection before staking millions of rands on an animal auction bid.

Some of them have millions of state rands allocated for their house upgrades and renovations. Some of them are politically connected and questionably rich that it matters not to throw talk-of-the-town weddings while well-intended state funds mysteriously disappear, fuelling service delivery protests in the process.

Perhaps when one swims in the pool of wealth, (s)he automatically loses the ability to aurally sense the screaming voices of ordinary people. Perhaps this gross apathy is what led Moeletsi Mbeki to coin a term of reference to a class of elites who live on their own exclusive islands, away from the unstable sea around them. These are the Architects of Poverty, the people who sing our anthem, with their open palms against their chests, deploring the Lord to end wars and poverty/suffering (O fedise dintwa le matshwenyego).

Some are caught up in political battles that, in some unfortunate occasions, are turned into a blood sport. Too many lives have been lost to politics in Kwazulu-Natal and elsewhere, let alone the civilian-to-civilian murder cases decorating police crime stats documents everyday. And yet, the anthem is all along making the plea: O fedise dintwa le matshwenyego (Stop wars and poverty/suffering).

Some fail to internalize the profound meaning contained within the lyrics, bringing upon themselves a wave of embarrassment on national TV. In the same breath, some may just be as tainted as Ard Matthews, whom they publicly crucified, by thinking that knowing the national anthem ends with memorising its lyrics.

May the Lord they plead to in their patriotic voices bless them. May She also bless those who thought for a moment, that our national anthem is a chat-topping hit that can be remixed to augment its relevance. May She bless the Ras Dumisani’s of this world.

And when our versatile anthem switches to English and says: Sounds the call to come together; and united we shall stand – it definitely speaks to social cohesion. This is an ideal which some of us have seen brutalised at many stadia without fail. We’ve heard, in disbelief, how the anthem picks up volume when it gets to a different linguistic verse. Equally disappointing, we’ve seen others mumble their way through certain parts of the anthem. This begs no other explanation other than to say intolerance and ignorance have come between us, preventing us from accommodating each other and leading many of us to stand together in superficial unity. This is a serious mockery to our anthem, which, ironically, was woven and reconciled into one thing from different cultural expressions that were previously at loggerheads.

The mockery doesn’t end there, some have argued. It becomes apparent when breadwinners in different sectors of the labour market declare war against our skewed economic regime, for it favours those with a fairer skin and those at the echelons of our political establishment, they say. Economic freedom has become their battle cry. After all, it is from the very anthem they look up to that they’ve obtained their marching orders: Let us live and strive for freedom, in South Africa our land.

Until we get to a point where everyone is content with our (fragile) economic dispensation, the looming peril will eventually prevail. That’s when the proverbial crags/cliffs of our beautiful land, mentioned towards the end of the anthem, will no longer give us answers of hope. (Waar die kranse antwoord gee)

May it never be too late to notice that our anthem is actually a charter; rich with ideals that we should otherwise view as a recipe for a country we all can enjoy living in. Utopian as it may seem, this is a country that will strive towards the eradication of poverty/suffering and political/social/racial/tribal/sexual injustices.

This song should speak to our collective conscience. It should never enjoy the same status as those “tracks” that we nominate at the SAMAs and Metro Awards every year. Our anthem is not Mandoza’s Nkalakatha. Neither should we reduce it to a mere formality that we undertake when Bafana Bafana, Springboks, Proteas and every national sports team competes at a global level.

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