Surviving race in SA: outwit, outplay, outlast

2016-01-09 13:49

Race dynamics in South Africa remain severe, yet sensitive. Those who are currently comfortable, would prefer it if those who are uncomfortable would just keep quiet. However, the betrayal many South Africans feel will never go away unless they stop trying to fit into a system that was supposed to be tailored for them.

By using an analogy of my favourite show Survivor, I will proceed to explain my point of view.

At the beginning of the game all players are divided into competing and separated tribes. In South Africa’s case there would 4 tribes; Black, White, Indian and Coloured. However, from the start, the white tribe is given a large advantage. Due to this, their tribe prevails and the “other” tribes begin to exponentially lose team spirit as their tribes continued failing and their numbers dwindled.

The alienation between tribes makes it impossible to determine a true winner and the tribes are forced to merge. The tribes are allocated to the privileged white tribe land where the conditions were most favourable.

As a result of their advantageous wins, the white tribe had accumulated more food, resources and luxury items. However, the invasion of their white territory came as a blow. Unlike the “other” tribes, their winning streak has brought them closer together. Inner conflicts concerning voting off players or turning on one another was less likely.

On the other hand, the “other” tribes are now left with the decision making, as together they outnumber the white tribe. However, the “internal” tribal battles amongst the “other” tribes – a result of a loss in morale and dignity - motivate many of them to consider joining the elite white tribe.

The white tribe, aware of these disagreements, use it to their advantage. By luring the other tribe members with sustainability and resources, the ‘elected’ majority leadership choose to vote off and oppress their own tribe members. Bitterness against the unfairness of resources haunts a few of the “other” players but they are often silent out of fear of being the next to go.

The difference after the merge however, is players play in their individual capacity. Despite leadership, players are able to discreetly shift their allegiances.

Strategically, from a white tribe perspective, one would feel threatened by the majority and the unjust wins they accumulated. In order to maintain peace in the game and avoid a somewhat violent confrontation of the past wrongdoings, it would be strategic to use the resources as a bargaining tool to stay in the game. In addition, a white tribe member also has the opportunity to ‘flip’ to the majority “other” tribe but the fear of establishing a trustworthy allegiance on the opposite side makes this move uncommon.

On the alternate end, an “other” can flip to the white allegiance and be showered with resources. This will also allow them to survive longer than those who oppose the lack of redistribution and are the most likely to be voted off by. Nevertheless, it is also clear that within the white tribe, the “other” will also remain at the bottom of the tribe allegiance. Hence, one could also remain in the majority allegiance but dealing with the “internal” problems within the “other” tribes arouses pain and frustration and only generates anger toward the white tribe.

Therefore, we find ourselves left with a divided yet, peacefully negotiated camp.

What makes Survivor so appealing is to see the lengths individuals are willing to go to ensure their own survival. As the season approaches the end, the peace will slowly evolve to resentment as the betrayal becomes more evident.

South Africans, although only sub-consciously playing Survivor, are still in the phase of trying to keep the peace. The problem relevant to South Africa is the lack of integration at the initial merged stage. The extreme focus on survival and access to resources shadowed any real acceptance of the actual individuals within each tribe.

South Africans isolate themselves or sneakily conform to the race group they’re associating with in order to survive. South Africans can flip and switch but never really bring everyone comfortably together.

This post originally appeared on my blog last year

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