If there is one person whose music can get a body to sway, it is DJ Jazzy D. But nothing moved me as much as his passionate plea on the evening of Friday, December 13, for people to support his “Feed a family on Christmas day” drive. His tearful, honest exposition of the anguish of going hungry on Christmas day was heart-wrenching and deeply thought-provoking. How do we live comfortably, knowing that others are starving?
Clause 10 of South Africa’s Bill of Rights states that, “Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.” Furthermore, clause 27(1.b) asserts that, “Everyone has the right to have access to - sufficient food and water”. It is ideal that the state creates conditions for the Bill of Rights to be realized by facilitating, amongst others, a climate conducive for all to develop and apply our natural abilities for self sustenance. Where the capacity of the state however, is lacking, citizens must step in. Caring about others and sharing our resources does not imply imperviousness to the structural inhibitors of economic justice; nor are they acts of disempowering, condescending pity. Caring and sharing should be natural qualities to be espoused by all of humanity.
South Africa is battling to escape its economic slump. Regardless of the domestic and international reasons for the state of our economy; we cannot ignore the reality that at least one out of every four people in our country are without work, and more than 50 percent live below the poverty line. Though on the decline, millions still go hungry everyday.
The distress caused by this reality becomes particularly apparent during the festive season. The crass materialism and excessive opulence demonstrated by those who have, through the purchasing of expensive gifts, clothes, food and alcohol, makes the inability of many to access a basic meal, more stark. Our role during this time is not to blindly self-indulge, nor to purely lament the inadequacy of government and the system. If we are not in a position to create work, or cooperatives, or other means of sustainable livelihoods in communities; the least that we can do is to share. The spontaneous moral sense to demonstrate acts of human solidarity fortifies the belief in the universal and intrinsic worth and dignity of every person.
Fortunately DJ Jazzy D is not alone in his drive for a compassionate and generous South African citizenry. There are a number of celebrities who have taken the lead in demonstrating human solidarity during this festive season. There are also many ordinary citizens who have taken unsolicited, unadvertised initiative to provide Christmas lunches for the homeless and aged; food parcels for economically challenged households; and gifts for kids who are unlikely to receive any. These tangible expressions of ubuntu strengthen the social fabric of communities.
Of course, our broader efforts should be directed at creating a more just and equitable society through challenging the systemic causes of poverty. Furthermore, we believe in the full capacity of every human being and the importance of that capacity being optimally activated towards contributing meaningfully to the development of our country. But those are long-term projects. The dire consequences of our structural, socio-economic inadequacies require immediate attention. Let us all demonstrate our humanity through solidarity and ensure that this festive season is not about providing for ourselves and our families only; but that it is also about caring for and sharing with our neighbors.
* Reneva Fourie is a policy analyst specialising in governance, development and security.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.