I am in the sixth year of writing this column for the Cape Argus. I am also in the 83rd year of my life. It would be accurate to say that it can’t be long before John Donne’s dour question will have to be answered by me: “Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”
Given this grim reality, you will have to accept that I hardly have the time nor the inclination to waste on speculation, accusation, attrition or recompense. There are some truths that I have learnt in my time, the greatest of which is that one must never compromise one’s integrity.
No matter what, you do not leave a chink though which the unscrupulous can come to put a price on it.
Your integrity allows you to have religion, knowledge and personal conviction. Nothing else does.
You alone have to observe the status of your integrity despite the vagaries of politics or the vicissitudes of life. If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything.
There are many ways in which I could expand on what I am saying, as many as there are individuals on this planet. No two people are alike. As unlikely as it seems, no two sets of fingerprints are similar. In the same way, each person is an individual, unique and singular, special and worthy of respect and recognition.
The ANC is dead. All we have to consider is the cost of the funeral.
But my take on integrity will open some small aperture through which an individual will do the self-examination that translates into integrity.
Integrity is moral courage. It makes you intensely aware of the consequences of honesty, transparency and good intent and all its equal, ugly opposites. You can fool most of the people most of the time, but you can’t fool all people all the time.
More importantly, you cannot fool yourself at any time. Acts of integrity are performed by individuals, privately, sincerely and with a will to improve personal and national morality.
The vast stretches of seashore consist of grains of sand. Each grain does what is expected of it. We end up with a beach that acts like a beach.
Each of us must undertake the repair work that is required to put our country back on track.
I am not asking for a different voter’s outcome, or changing street names, or redefining horse-trading, shenanigans and plain skulduggery.
Wrong remains wrong in any language. Religion is not membership of a faith-bias. It is the acknowledgement of a power greater than ourselves.
Labels do not matter. Each of us is born without any say in the matter, and each of us will die.
But we can collectively, without compromising any convictions, watch a frail and tender blade of grass push its way through reinforced concrete.
What power! What cosmic thrust! What miracles beyond our understanding and the limitations of our knowledge can we not harvest from within our own potential to, like the metaphysical poet, George Herbert, strike the board and cry: “No more!”
It starts with the individual. It is painful, difficult, embarrassing, demeaning, indeed the whole complex range of human emotion, action and reaction, to say: “This what I am doing wrong. Let me fix that.”
Then, find a like-minded individual who also suffers the pangs of self-imposed moral immolation. Cleansing in the fire of honesty. Salved and comforted by the satisfaction of knowing that the days of lying and self-deceit are over. As overwhelmingly liberating as the moment of clarity that saves the alcoholic from his demon of self-deception and sublimation.
There are no more places to hide, or hide the fruits of your thieving and conniving. All the fortresses of duplicity have crumbled: education, governance, banks, churches, in fact, even the family structure with its trusted bulwarks is under severe strain.
Let us as individuals, stop the rot. May that one courageous voice become two, then three, then 300 – and, please, God, 300 million who face truths and repair their fractured integrity.
* 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.