The lie of unity
South Africans are never short of opinions about anything it seems. We do not cower before ignorance and resist that overwhelming urge to express even our strongest views on things we have little knowledge of. It may just be human nature. We are special in that way. However, our opinions rarely converge. It would in fact be remarkable if we were to consistently achieve such a near impossible feat.
We are a diverse nation. Put anything before us and we will find something about it that will divide us along the colour, tribal, cultural and even sexual line.
It is in the rarest of occasions that our opinions seem to converge. It happens during those moments of delusional patriotic fervour when we imagine ourselves to be a nation born of a political miracle.
We have long suffered from the delusion that at a moment in time we achieved reconciliation and unity. We have become so arrogant about it that we have, on several occasions, attempted to export the khumbaya exercise of seeking truth and reconciliation to other countries.
How has that really worked for us? We did not really annihilate each other and reduce our infrastructure to rubble. It wasn't for a lack of trying. We have had respected leaders saying that this country will be liberated with boxes of matches and other dangerous things like that. We burnt a few buildings here and there and braaied a few people suspected of being counter-revolutionaries. That is why when Uncle Gweezy, commonly known as Gwede, called judges "counter-revolutionary", it frightened some of us.
In the main, this revolutionary arson was limited. Buildings are still standing and the majority of people escaped the revolution uncooked. We can look back and hopefully vow never to repeat all those painful episodes again.
If we were to be entirely honest with ourselves about ourselves and voluntarily hold the mirror before us, we would immediately see that we have consumed ourselves in the lie of reconciliation and unity. When the rugby team wins the World Cup we are quick to gloat at that fleeting moment of unity. That which divides us is much greater and too deeply entrenched to be immediately addressed by some contrived events. We are a divided nation.
Equality is enshrined in the Constitution but we are a nation of unequals. Economic inequality is more pronounced today, in spite of recurring unimaginative policy attempts by the ruling party and some political posturing at eradicating poverty. It would be unfair to suggest that the comrades have not tried. More people today are on social grants than 19 years ago. Poverty persists regardless. We have done a remarkable job at putting a Band-Aid over a festering wound. Occasionally, pus would ooze from this wound and it would be dressed again with more Band-Aids. Service delivery protests are more frequent, food parcels are becoming more popular and frustration is rising.
These are the realities of our time. The divisions that define who we really are in spite of our pretences are historical in nature. If we disallow history to haunt our collective conscience as it should, and do nothing to correct its vile effects on the general conditions of the majority of the people, we will bear witness to a violent eruption of popular radicalism and gradual implosion of society.
Our passionate and disparate opinions are generally rooted on this historical context. We have never been united as a nation, politically, economically or otherwise. Ordinarily, our opinions on what is best for the country will not be agreeable for as long as this historic mistrust and resistance to economic transformation persist.
Perhaps when we finally agree on how to resolve the emotive land question, we will be on our way to finding peace with our past and ourselves. What is left unresolved will not resolve itself. When we do not even hold a common view on the origins of our problems, agreeing on a lasting solution becomes a mere fantasy. Radicals will soon occupy this vacuum of ideas and lead an often-unpleasant revolutionary change.
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