New cast needed for the ‘revolution’

Dutch author Rutger Bergman whose book Humankind: A Hopeful History contains so much wisdom.

Dutch author Rutger Bergman whose book Humankind: A Hopeful History contains so much wisdom.

Published Aug 15, 2020


By Lindsay Slogrove

Durban - This revolution stuff is much more difficult than it seems.

Frankly, right now, it would be a lot easier to fall into the thin veneer of civilisation theory, get out on the streets and throw some rocks.

It has been two weeks since reading the heart-and-mind uplifting Humankind: A Hopeful History, by Rutger Bergman, but the book is still near at hand because it contains so much wisdom.

You can dip in anywhere and there it is: reason to believe that humans want to do the right thing, not savage beasts who can only be kept from barbarism by a “ruling” body, and will do so if left to their own devices without being driven by others with less than honourable intentions.

But in a world of cynicism there’s a constant struggle between hope, and anger, despair and mistrust. It’s way easier to shrug at yet another bunch of the bad guys making off with their loot while the good guys go hungry, homeless and sick.

What this revolution needs is enough young people to cotton on to ideas like Bergman’s, and tip the scale against the corrupted power- and control-hungry plague of plutocrats and demagogues.

There seem to be green shoots of revolution sprouting around the world. We had a twitter revolution with #voetsekANC; people in a blast-destroyed Beirut are demanding new governance after years of crippling corruption; the US is in a bitter fight to unseat the lying mad man in the White House; angry protesters have railed against Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Belarus “president” Alexander Lukashenko, Black Lives Matter went global.

Where does Humankind fit in with all this?

The question to ask is who and what replaces these orders. Do we all swop one lyin’, cheatin’, greedy and corrupt bunch for another?

Can we use the crisis caused by Covid-19 to plant the seedlings of a new world order?

The pandemic has created an environment in which communities are realising there is little or no institutional support coming for them. They are starting to find their own solutions and fight their own battles.

Bergman describes a town in Venezuela that had three mayoral candidates. Two were backed by political powerhouses or big money or both. The third was given almost no chance, but he won.

One of the first things he tackled was the town budget. Everyone was invited, and they all had their say. The people chose where the money would be spent. Slums were cleaned up, services and living conditions improved and vanity projects were dumped.

People got involved because it affected their lives and their town and it was their money. Anyone suspected of dodgy goings-on was quickly set right.

Bergman gives many examples of where and how this community input works, including in business, health care and education. Of how most people want to live up to expectations and if treated like thinking adults (or children at play), will do so.

South Africans keep allowing those who do wrong to escape consequences, setting expectations so low that few rise to be their best.

Our revolution needs an entirely new cast, made up of people who inspire and listen.

It will be difficult, but better than being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

* Slogrove is the news editor.

The Independent on Saturday

Related Topics: