Water crisis: Do we need government?

2016-01-18 17:54

While our government was suffering from amnesia, a heroic housewife’s online remark in December inadvertently led to a crowdsourcing initiative that recruited many caring and generous citizens and organisations, to go out in force and solidarity, to help supply millions of litres of water to desperate communities.

It got me thinking. Do we need a government? Is South Africa not ready for an experiment where citizens get together to build a well-functioning and free society from the ground up? Political parties, we have learnt, will inevitably betray us. Is it really that difficult to dismantle this poorly performing government run by a group of greedy and bureaucratic elites and replace it with a more functional and productive model? I have no firm idea of what form this model would take but like the water initiative, perhaps it will be self-organising, where we get struggling people what they need, when they need it. As the Gift of the Givers have shown, the principles upon which this model will be based certainly does not need to draw on narrow conceptions such as “market competition”, but those noble human passions such as our innate altruism.

And as we get closer to the municipal elections, I would like to ask: Are we citizens not on average better equipped with our intelligence and dignity to rebuild our lives within our communities? This antidemocratic and oppressive government at the central and local level seems to be fit only for creating deficits in our culture, ethics and economic life. Do we really need these shabby, selfish, predatory, unjust and egoistic men of politics to represent us and to make decisions on our behalf?

Surely, if we had a truly democratic system where citizens were jointly and actively involved in the decision-making process, we would not have authorized horrendous decisions such as the Arms Deal, Marikana, e-Tolls and Nkandla.

Wait a minute, wait a minute, I apologise... forgive my momentary daydreaming about yet another revolutionary utopia. As I write this, my realistic self is poking fun at me again for being a delusional dreamer and, as usual, this part of me is right. I forget that ultimately we are mammals, primates at best, not angels, no matter how hard we seem to try.

These opposing animal forces in us always seems to have this impulse to make our lives more difficult than it needs to be. At our best, like the water supply initiative shows, we will have those glorious and ephemeral moments of being angels.

Unfortunately, we squandered the hope, the possibility of a Heavenly South Africa, when the worst side of our human nature led us to elect men like Zuma and Malema to represent us. Go ahead, use that dose of self-deception to believe otherwise.

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