Iqbal Survé: Covid-19 was the shock we needed to kickstart the search for balance
In 1994, South Africa stepped out of the darkness of segregation and suppression and into an age of light, hope and potential. The euphoria and optimism for a bright new future was enshrined in the nation’s new leader, one Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who became the country’s first democratically elected president.
This was the identity we created together as a nation and one we presented to the world. On the face of it, as a people, we had overcome our darkest past to unite and move forward to a place where we were all, equal regardless of race, colour or gender. South Africa was globally acknowledged as a leader of human rights, as a progressive society and even as setting a course for the rest of the world to follow, along a path of optimism where anything could be accomplished.
We also began forging a new pan-African identity - with Africans working together for the benefit of Africa and Africans. Such promise.
The golden start became somewhat tarnished though, the more we moved into our democracy. Not to diminish where we came from, or what we have accomplished to date or not, we, like most of the rest of the world, lost our way. We fell out of kilter with the new balance we had found.
We have found ourselves in an eventuality where we have all made the wrong decisions, or the wrong decisions have been made by a few and have had the ripple effect of affecting everyone else’s decisions. Infinite dominoes of wrong decisions until our equilibrium falls off its axis.
We all progress at different levels, times and rates. This automatically puts us into conflict with one another and the world around us. Each decision one person makes creates an infinite number of decisions for everyone else to make. It is not for me to say whether this is random or by design of a greater order, but the point is that until we understand that the choices we make and the decisions we take have consequences far beyond our own personal sphere of influence, we cannot ever hope to find balance - or can we?
As the world is filled with infinite decisions and outcomes, so it is with possibilities and potential. Positive and negative, up and down, light and dark, good times and bad, all speak to the dualism of complementary inter- connectedness and interdependence on the natural world, which the Chinese refer to as yin and yang.
We think of it as balance. Stability. Homeostasis. When things around us and in us, work in harmony with each other and others.
We, as South Africans, lost sight of that balance a while back, but here we are in the middle of this history-changing event on the knife edge of decision whether to continue in chaos or right the ship and seek our balance. Sometimes, what we need is a nudge to put us back in the right direction and occasionally, we need something a little stronger to make us all sit up and take notice. Covid-19 is that shock - not just for us as Africans, but for the world in general.
I have lost count of the times I have said, this is the singularly biggest opportunity we have been given as humanity to heal the fractures in society and create world peace. At the risk of being repetitive, I am not going to give up on pursuing that dream or encouraging others to join me.
I don’t have all the answers - no one does. But, because the natural world is all about balance and order, and we have been singularly dis- ordered for the longest time, it’s about right that it swings in the opposite direction. Because, just as surely as the negative can grow and feed on itself, so too can the positive we put out there, especially as the universe itself is expanding, which means there are just as many opportunities to turn good decisions into great ones that have a lasting positive effect (until the next nudge comes along to put us back into balance).
But before we get ahead of ourselves, cast your mind back to remember the last time you truly felt joy, whole and at one with yourself and the world around you. Remember how good that felt?
Now, apply this emotion to a business and just think of the possibilities for good it could create down the line.
In economics we speak of the “multiplier effect”, which according to Investopedia is, “the proportional amount of increase in final income that results from an injection of spending”.
I guess the philosophical question I am then asking is: If we increase our spending of our emotional desire for balance, would that proportionately increase our income of peace and equality and form the just, inclusive, more equal society we all want? The one we all felt good about in 1994.
* Dr Survé is a physician, philanthropist and entrepreneur. He is the chairperson of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings and executive chairperson of Independent Media.