What will it take for us to change the world, or even just our country? Will we die waiting to do something ‘big’ and never getting around to doing anything at all? This is perhaps the biggest question we have to answer as South Africans: what are you going to do?
We all know what is wrong with the country. We write about it on Facebook, we tweet about it and we blog about it. It’s in the newspapers and on news channels on TV. It’s on radio talk shows and even on billboards. So I am not going to be talking about it here. What I want to talk about is what we are doing about it.
There is a reason the word rhetoric has gained prominence in this country recently. That is because that is what the struggle has become. Words being spoken in public or private with absolutely no intention of acting on them. While it is important to talk about these things, to fully understand the problems and where they may stem from, what the root causes are, the crucial step to take to effect change is in the doing. Again this is something I don’t need to tell you. We all know this from our work, home and even when we are playing. So why is no one doing anything to ‘fix’ things?
I have a couple of hypothesis on the issue. One is that although morally we may not agree with certain things, the benefits in the current paradigm outweigh what we perceive to be the benefits of change. So we may vocalise our unhappiness about the situation but we are too comfortable to act on it. The second is that we see the problem as being so large that we are paralyzed by the sheer size of it. We want to change things but the problem is everywhere you look and you don’t where to start. It’s like eating an elephant, where do you start? You have the knife and fork ready, you have the appetite but you are ultimately defeated by the size of it.
Eating an elephant one bite at a time
The second hypothesis is perhaps the easier to tackle first. We have put so many labels on ourselves and our surroundings that we have constricted ourselves to these labels. The first part of this hypothesis is to suppose that there are not different problems that affect different segments of our society and our world. Is it possible that there may be one root cause to all our problems and therefore one solution? This is the second part of the hypothesis, that there is one solution.
Einstein discovered the theory of relativity but he died trying to work out the Theory of Everything. This was meant to be a single equation or formula that explained everything scientifically. If it existed we would be able to manipulate its variables and change things. Imagine that! He died searching for this all-encompassing theory and he even became isolated from his peers. They were all chasing quantum mechanics and thought he was wasting his time. As it turns out quantum mechanics and relativity theory are essential and have been combined to continue the search for the theory of everything.
I haven’t found the theory of everything; I am not even looking for it. But I do think that like Einstein we need to search for that one thing, that one formula that can change the world for a better place. So instead of looking at our problems on the macro scale perhaps we need to look at them on a micro scale. Even the most evil of us have a need to do good for the ones we love. I believe that need is where this singular solution can be found. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. It is that simple. Altruistic, unrealistic, naïve it may be but this does not preclude it from being an answer, if not the answer.
The couch revolutionists
We are too comfortable to really want any change in this country. This is my second hypothesis. The poorest people in the country do not have the access to information that some of the more fortunate of us have. This means that they rely on whatever form of media they can get their hands on to tell them what is happening in the country. So as long as basic services improve and they see this improvement they will see no need to be discontent. This may even be true if they do have access to news media and they know what is happening in this country. Their thinking might be, “Yes there is corruption and we can see it but we are getting houses built for us and we have electricity for the first time in our lives. We are not privileged enough to be in a position to complain about corruption.” This is a realistic view of the situation; the priorities that people are forced to set.
The rest of us do not have this excuse, so why don’t we act? I think it’s because many of us realise the benefits we have now as a result of the present government. And we are not as yet able to see how or if these will continue were we to stand up to this government. So we write on twitter and Facebook and we complain to our friends and family and yes we even boo at stadiums during funeral services. Why? Because we can. It is our freedom of speech. Because it takes zero effort to post on twitter. And then we quote Mandela as saying, “If the ANC does to you what the Apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the Apartheid government.” This is great; the only difference is that the revolution was not won on twitter. People made the ultimate sacrifice fighting apartheid. What are you willing to sacrifice to fight against your perceived injustice? Or will you sit around waiting for Batman?