Mandela Day, Money and its problems

2015-07-22 04:58

Greetings in good spirits, still fresh from observing one of our country’s most celebrated days.  This is one particular day where empathy and tender-heartedness literally take over from the Cape’s posh suburbs to the most informal of settlements in the country. This happens to be a day where even the richest, who are usually swamped, cease to focus on their pressing schedules and instead interact with the less privileged, to donate and make a physical difference in their communities.

The 18th of July is also special as it’s probably one of the few days throughout the year where even political parties get off their ideological horses and instead rally in unity with no banner, rhetoric and colour for the sake of our collective progress. They rally in unity behind the banner of Ubuntu, seeking to see a difference in our communities. On Saturday, even the normally family-wrecking and scandal-spreading tabloids and media in general media took a different approach and for a change stopped to  invest their energy into malice but instead ushered us into this great Madiba euphoria. It was a reconciliation, a different one, that of classes.

It almost felt like Christmas where even heathens are guilt-tripped into going to church to observe and celebrate the sacrifice of the son for their restoration. People woke up early and for a change the rich were glossed in paint that the usual makeups and the likes. Black refuse bags were all over and refuse trucks heaped to capacity. Our people were grass-cutting, wall-painting and gifts were donated, ranging from blankets to food.  The spirit of our great Nelson Mandela was really trending in our hearts. Social media was abuzz with what South Africa is known for by the rest of the world and that is Ubuntu. Indeed this encapsulated the vision that our own Madiba had for this land.

This being said though, I struggled to come to terms with a lot of things. Looking at most instagram posts, most twitpics and a number of tv segments that were running on this day, I struggled to grasp the real essence from all. Instead i saw what appears to be a fundamental error in the interpretation of this particular day and what I think it stands for perhaps.

The excessive use of money appears to be a problem. it somehow creates an impression that people have to invest some sort of financial muscle in any of the activities. It gives an idea that to make a difference one needs to give money to the poor thus perpetuating the cycle of giving money and more gifts instead of empowering. People either give blankets to the poor, food or some sort of resource that they fund to get. The use of physical resources used to define the day somehow distorts the meaning. It’s true that money and empowerment go hand in hand but so is dependence.

Mandela day is about care, compassion, empathy but at the same time about development and empowerment and money is not always a factor in the achievement of these. Can’t we have talk shows and career guidance sessions for young people? Can’t you go to a shelter and not just drop off gifts but also talk hope to young minds? Does the use of money to assist really serve purpose or just entrench this bottomless pit of dependency? Do the instagram posts of blankets really serve purpose or just another ostentatious act?

Does money stand in a way of Ubuntu, real human relations and contact? And if so then how do we curb this? How do we use words, genuine empathy and care without the (excessive) use of money?

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” - Chinese proverb

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