South Africa: The Angry Nation

2016-10-28 10:44

Sho, but we are an angry bunch, aren't we?

The previously disadvantaged are angry about being currently disadvantaged, and their children are angry about being underprivileged. The not-really-underprivileged are angry about the situation of the actually-underprivileged, and angrier still at the actually-privileged for failing to do anything about it.  The actually-privileged are angry about everyone else being angry. Racists are angry with each other; and non-racists are angry about the racism. Our criminal president, who's bad with finance, watches on as our finance minister is labelled a criminal, while pulling South Africa out of the International Criminal Court, no less. Unrest is becoming our default position and blame is catching faster than the flames of a burning educational institution. And to make matters worse, the Springboks are up to sh*t.

What a mess. Are we at the verge of becoming an ungovernable state (#InsertYourGrievanceHereMustFall)? Or are we just being governed badly? Have we ever been governed well?

One of the ANC's main, and unenviable, directives when they first came into power was nation building.  You'll still find it in a lot of their rhetoric today. The fact that we're still building implies that we're unfinished. The structure is there, but the facade is still surrounded by scaffolding. We can't decide on our final form. We thought the rainbow nation was it, but that rainbow only shows when the sun is shining.

The San, who so kindly surveyed the land for us, weren't too fussed about nation building.  But then the Bantu-speaking people arrived from up north. They grew their own nations and tribes, some with the names and interwoven cultures we're blessed with today. And as has happened all over the world for time immemorial, they remained for long enough to view themselves as never having come from someplace else. South Africa's foundations were set.

Much later came the Europeans - the whites, bringing with them a contagious obsession with bordered territories. The Portuguese paid a few visits; the Dutch decided to stay a while. They brought slaves from South-East Asia; they welcomed French Huguenots; and they took claim to land. The British were fashionably late to the party but made up for lost time by trying to own everything of value. It's at about this time that the anger really takes hold.

Everyone fought - over land, mineral wealth, and control. Often it was white vs. black but just as often it was white vs. white and black vs. black. Shaka was so angry he either killed or chased away anyone who didn't want to be a part of his kingdom. The Boers were so angry that they walked a thousand miles to start their own nation(s). And eventually the British were angry enough to go to war, and greedy enough to win those wars. The support beams of a country defined by separatism were in place.

The roof was finished when stopped all that in-the-name-of -the-Crown malarkey and became a republic. Bravo – finally, we could leave all the anger behind and get on with being a real country – the shining light of the Dark Continent. Well, at least all our white people could, if they so chose. To be on the coloured side of apartheid was, at best, to be in a socio-political jail cell. Our peace was a horrible lie. When the The West was done with its wars, both hot and cold, they became angry on behalf of our coloured majority. In the end, Joanna gave Eddie Grant the hope he was looking for, and South Africa's roof of racism was blown right off. We replaced it with a roof of reconciliation.  The country was happy, for a moment at least.

Our re-modelled house, built by us and not just those who rule is, in a free and democratic process, was a great job. The house rules – our constitution – were an even better job. But it was also a rushed job; it had to be.  And the ugly cracks that were covered up then are showing now; the plumbing's leaking; and the faulty wiring is causing little fires everywhere. A generation of black people who were, in the simplest terms, grateful to have their freedom, is being replaced by a generation of black people who want, and deserve, so much more than that.

Freedom has not come with emancipation. Equal opportunity has not come with an equal share of the spoils - not even unequal opportunity (BEE) has brought that. The old fires of anger that were reduced to low-burning flames at the fall of apartheid are raging again. Right now, we see them burning at our universities. But if we take a step back and look at the story of our house, we can see that it's about so much more than free education.

The good news is that we still have our house. We haven't destroyed it yet, no matter what Dave from Accounting says. It's still beautiful, and there's still more than enough room for all of us. But we're faced with choice now, two choices, when you boil it down.

We can open ourselves up to unity, as we never truly have before, and fireproof our house. Or we can remain divided and watch it burn. We can come to a consensus, even if we don't all agree. Or we can remain so very focused on our differences. We can direct our anger at those that deserve to feel the brunt of it. Or we can tear ourselves apart while they profit off us. We can work towards a day when we're South Africans that empathise with each other. Or we can hold on tightly to our blackness, and our whiteness. We can stop blaming each other. Or we can throw stones at each other behind walls of melanin.

We can write a new story.

Or we can let the old one play out –

but none of us will like how that one ends.

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