This week I am writing without constraint because I am afraid that my growing cynicism might undermine the respect I have for my own integrity. Things are so pear-shaped in our country at this time that I shall not hold back to accommodate sensitivities.
I have references which I slide in tangentially because they do not directly address my issues. John Donne, the metaphysical poet, reminds us that “… no man is an island …” This is not a quote from a poem by that name. The extract comes from a longer piece called Devotions upon emergent occasions: Meditation XVII.
The second quotation comes from an excellent novel called The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer: “… the one immutable law of nature is to continue existing. Witness: weeds, cockroaches, ants and pigeons. All of Nature’s creatures work to a single, unified purpose: to stay alive. It’s the one indisputable theory of everything” (p4).
Life is the one cause of death for us all. What bothers me is the mess we have made of the gift of life; the rate of degradation is way beyond rock bottom.
We have ceased to think about some of the greatest abominations that have been perpetrated by man upon man. Top of the list must be slavery. Nowadays it is just curricular material, but no efforts are made to really keep alive this most abominable injustice.
This is closely followed by apartheid or racism. We were consigned to cruel and insensitive racial categories by the erstwhile Nationalist government.
This abomination is right up there with the killing of the Jews during WWII and the genocide in Africa after the rapacious and insatiable visitors and marauders called colonists were kicked out. One could add the Catholic conquistadores who decimated a whole first nation who did not wear Western clothes but ate off pure gold plates.
No wonder Salman Rushdie could say to the British: “Five thousand years before you came out of your caves, we Indians were already wearing silk.” He was not being rude. It was the truth. The rapacious decimation of nations and resources was always touted as “voyages of discovery” where blonde, blue-eyed assassins were supposed to spread civilisation.
So, we are roughly at the level where there is still so much wrong, and spin-doctoring is a national and international tool used shamelessly to legitimate the cruelties perpetrated by man against man every day.
In our country, many good people are silent because thugs compromise their safety. In most countries these days you are required to have a visa to cross borders.
In South Africa, you don’t need such silly formalities. You waltz in and get welcomed as erstwhile comrades during a miserable 48 years of ethnic barbarity. Then you set up shop and either get rich legally or you start a foreign cartel selling illegal cigarettes or counterfeit designer wear.
Where in the world can illiterate taxi drivers hold a whole society to ransom because they have a problem obeying laws designed for safety and efficiency? And then everything grinds to a halt, with empty shop shelves and, worst of all, empty eyes of hungry children for whom there is no food.
There are those looking away because of “it doesn’t affect me attitudes”. Society is crumbling under inefficiency. We are preparing international players with a 30% matric pass.
We have ex-freedom fighters using the news to air old griefs and impediments (Boesak’s over-long refusal to an invitation refers). And, worst of all, people are considering another government of national unity under the banner of the defunct UDF, with Ramaphosa himself attending the celebration and wishing them well.
Man, this is a circus. Can we all press “pause” and take stock? If things are wrong, and just men and women do not speak out or up, they become guilty of collusion. Let’s climb out of our comfort zones and not resort to this massive whinge I have just perpetrated. There is enough talent. The resources are there. The brains and experience can be invited, hired or bought. But for God’s sake, do something.
* Alex Tabisher.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.