We, the People

2012-09-17 10:30

The reliance on  political-leadership and the hope that political-will can save us from our demise should be shunned. Instead, much of our focus should go into reconfiguring our political space and ensuring that we create a body-politic that serves the interests of the people.

Our Politics

Much can be learnt from William Shakespeare’s, Julius Caesar. Lessons on the illusion of leadership, misplaced willpower and deception are all too relevant in South African society now more than ever.

In his exchange with Brutus, Cassius a nobleman says:

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Cassius here is attempting to persuade Brutus that it is in the best interests of the public that Julius Caesar must be stopped from becoming the ruler of Rome. Cassius reminds Brutus that Caesar is just a man, not a god, and that all men are equal to Caesar.

Simply put, Cassius asserts that our fate as a people should always be dependent on ourselves, the people, and not in ‘our stars’.

One could play around with the various interpretations of our stars in modern day South Africa. Perhaps the stars in our context are the political-elites.

They spur the rhetoric of change and development in all ways possible. We on the other hand, foolishly buy into these promises with little or no restraint.

Various events in South African society over the past couple of months have repeatedly proven that the (occasional) expectation of ‘leadership’ to act remains a dream deferred.

These events more importantly, illustrate our weak and misplaced volition as ordinary citizens to change the conditions we find ourselves in.

The popular insistence that ‘the leaders must act and be held is accountable’ is a good one in any democratic setup. Unfortunately, it is not enough. ‘The leaders’ are incapable of delivering a more human prospect to our body-politic. Reliance on their political-will has proven to be a futile exercise.

We instead, should insist on making the politics of the people our priority.

From the unmediated chaos of the undelivered textbooks in Limpopo; to the mining massacre that reveals the rot of our nation - we learn that- we, the people do not own nor control our politics anymore.

Ours has become a state of manipulation and deception. We have undermined the innate power that exists within us to make our politics our priority.

This is an opportune time. It is within our reach to decide that our body-politic must take a different turn.

Our political-economy is deranged. Interest-groups (economical and political) dictate self-seeking desires to a rudderless polity. The vulnerable in our communities have become a base of abuse for the political-elite; interested in the machinations of power.

State institutions are dysfunctional bureaucracies that fail the needy. The relations between labour, business and the state are on shaky grounds, as corporate-greed and inequality trumps over the humane prospects of consensus and fairness.

A new narrative is imaginable.

One in which our body-politic is not that of big personalities or inane infighting we see in political parties.

We can build a new narrative in which, our politics build our communities ground-up. We realize the wealth and potential that exists within our communities and we harness this.

We do the simple things in preparation for the big.

We form community-action groups that focus on managing our local schools, clinics and libraries efficiently. We organize ourselves continually, educate ourselves on the policy matters that influence us, and take strategic decisions that will enhance our developmental agenda.

We, the people understand that our politics require more from us. Our failure to act warrants a deep-sense of complicity.

We immerse ourselves in finding more ways in which our own communities can be self-reliant and productive. We build a solid base of citizens that are aware that the everyday struggles of the poor and vulnerable. How we deal with these harsh realities marks our commitment to making our politics work for us.

We, the people do not wait for the ‘leaders’, for we know that can do very little for us. We know that our politics differ from theirs’ and our actions prove this.

Cassius was right; the fault often lies with us. We, the people have become underlings; and not our own stars as we ought to be.

Sibusiso Tshabalala is a 3rd year law student at the University of the Free State. He is one of Google’s International Top 10 Young Minds for 2012 and was listed as one of South Africa’s Top 200 Young South Africans by the Mail and Guardian in 2012.

Follow him on Twitter: @sbutshabs

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