The future belongs to those who realise the inevitability of a cosmopolitan world, says Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya.
Durban - I cannot pretend that I have seen the future, but I am confident I have had a glimpse of it. It belongs to those who realise the inevitability of a cosmopolitan world and start preparing for it now.
By cosmopolitan, I do not just mean people of different races. I include everyone who would be treated as “different” from the mainstream.
This includes living with people of different races, who speak a different language, hold unfamiliar religious beliefs or are agnostic, are of a different sexual orientation from the majority and those who eat “funny” food.
The hints are all there, in South Africa and abroad.
We have witnessed student protests saying they feel alienated at their universities; our government has recently used the ability to speak more than one language as an important qualifier for a teaching bursary.
The Department of Basic Education has announced that as part of the selection criteria for the Funza Lushaka bursary programme, offered to a quarter of the national student teacher intake at universities, prospective recipients who want to study foundation phase (grades 1-3) teaching would already need to be trained in an indigenous African language.
Frankly, in a country like South Africa, we should not be discussing why a basic and functional understanding of at least one of the nine indigenous languages (Afrikaans linguistically belongs to the west Germanic group of languages) should be standard.
It is never too late to learn.
On the subject of accepting the inevitability of changing landscape, Ireland has become the first country which has subjected the rights of the gay and lesbian community to marry to a popular vote and the people voted overwhelmingly for this.
The Catholic Church, which has been influential in the political and social life in that country, has described the result of the plebiscite as demanding that the church take a “reality check”.
A reality check is indeed needed even among those who live “a million miles” from Ireland.
It is needed by those who still dream of neighbourhoods where only those who look like them or hold the same passports as them live.
A reality check is needed by those who still believe certain sports are the exclusive preserve of certain people or that only they are naturally gifted at the sport.
Those who oppose friendships and love relations between people of different backgrounds need this reality check.
To be fair … those who resist this inevitable change are acting in a predictable fashion. Humans are notoriously uncomfortable with change and tend to imagine themselves as the lodestar other humans must follow.
Ironically, it is by looking to the past that we will realise the inevitability of a cosmopolitan future.
Much of what we take for granted today was unthinkable at some point in the past.
Take for example the union of South Africa. Few know it was a project that had many stops and starts – primarily because of the distrust between the English and the then Dutch speakers who controlled the four republics.
It was only after the South African War ended in 1902 that the parties eventually started seeing the need for a union. They finally agreed to form the Union of South Africa in 1910.
The tragedy of the war could have been prevented.
George Grey, the governor of the Cape Colony between 1854 and 1861, had broached the subject, arguing that being divided, white-controlled states “weakened them against the natives”. Nobody listened.
Instead many could not fathom the English and the Dutch, let alone the “barbaric natives” living side by side.
So those today scoffing at an idea of a united Africa where humans, skills and goods move seamlessly had better prepare themselves or their grandchildren for this reality.
They had best start learning the language and the custom of those they today call foreigners.
Needless to say, there will always be those who are unable to accept this inevitability. This group is doomed to everlasting and self-induced angst as a result of their closed minds.
Their rantings on social media and as internet trolls is nothing more than the noise of the deluded.
They will be locked in a battle to the death with fellow ignoramuses, debating from a position of ignorance and prejudice why they are better and the “others” worse.
This clash of ignorance, to use Edward Said’s famous term, will leave losers and more losers.
Nothing can be learnt from a debate between the mutually ignorant.
Fortunately, ignorance is not a chronic condition.
There is an adage in various languages spoken in west Africa which roughly translated means “a boy who does not travel thinks his mother is the best cook”.
This means that not only do a closed-minded people deny themselves the pleasures of new discoveries, but they also labour under the falsehood of their own grandiosity.
Maybe it is time you tried that exotic restaurant you have walked past, wondering what their food tastes like, and maybe it is time you said hello to the same-sex couple in your neighbourhood or asked that dark-skinned woman her name.
Who knows? It could be a window to a new wonderful world you never knew existed.
* Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is editor of The Mercury. Follow him on Twitter @fikelelom