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Celebrating an individual is pivotal to the growing of a sense of national pride

Gold medallist Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa who set a world record in the Women's 200m Backstroke Final celebrates with her gold medal. Picture: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

At the moment, we are spoilt for choice in the tsunami of accolades reverberating across the world in the arena of athletics, rugby and, to a lesser degree, cricket, golf and tennis. Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa celebrates with her gold medal. Picture: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Published Aug 5, 2021

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Some people subscribe to the notion that the world functions on the big things done by big people. Hence the affirmation that high achievers stand on the shoulders of giants.

On the other hand, there is a case to be made for the small and ostensibly insignificant things done by small insignificant people who do not seek glory but keep the cosmic clock turning by their consistency and commitment.

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I subscribe to the latter group. The world neglects them because they do not make a lot of noise. At the moment, we are spoilt for choice in the tsunami of accolades reverberating across the world in the arena of athletics, rugby and, to a lesser degree, cricket, golf and tennis.

These are high-profile arenas of performance where the rewards are chokingly indecent. Athletes and sportsmen not only pocket massive cheques for a limited skill, they also rake in the shekels from the brand names that swamp them with rewards for promoting sales and stupendous profit-generation.

Let me hasten to acknowledge our athletes at the Olympic Games who are bringing home the glorious affirmation of medals. Their lives will change in many ways, notably in a fiscal sense.

The neglected but greater glory lies in the impetus to those who are condemned to poverty and ignominy because of circumstances outside their control. Because somewhere, in a tiny hamlet, a heart is beating to run a brilliant race 20 years from now based on today’s glory. Or saving lives through a staggering cure for a lingering disease.

The smaller people I am talking about are the hordes of workers who earn a pittance by grinding out a soul-destroying job daily. This could include domestic workers and professionals. Just think about it. No glamour. Just an essential facet that keeps the cosmic clock and the wheels of industry turning.

Theirs is not the cruelty of the high-profile arena, where they don’t say you have won the silver, but you have lost the gold. The high-profilers are relentless in acknowledging success. The small man never hears a word of praise for his loyalty.

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This does not make the small man a lesser being. We should look at broadening his windows of opportunity. We should seek to make national representation a national prerogative. We should refocus on physical education, art and music as pivotal areas where our untested heroes are languishing. We do not need to wait for an election which is loaded numerically in favour of a limp and reeling political party.

The celebration of the individual is pivotal to the growing of a sense of national pride.

Promote the ethic of profit-sharing. There are structures whereby workers can generate funds for their own retirement. In today’s climate, few are sure of a golden handshake at the end of their working life. Companies close without thinking about these realities.

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Insurgents who repel investors do not take the long view. They are heartless thugs who seek instant gratification without producing a modicum of social or moral benefit.

We see the unemployed lining the streets, waving the tools of their trade, asking only for wages for the day, so that they can feed a family. The company they worked for folded because of poor fiscal policy, miserable governance and a clueless educational practice.

Narrow-minded, superannuated educators call for maths and science in schools. How about widening the arena and pulling in more potential from the ranks of the hungry and homeless?

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If you really want to know more about my rant this week, do me a great favour. Read Elegy in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Grey. The poem, they say, was 20 years in the making. It is an insightful text that addresses the morass of inequity generated by the colonials. The poet asks some serious questions about the “short and simple annals of the poor”.

Read the poem. Please.

* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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