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The conundrum of political duality

Malcolm X once said, "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything." In the world of teeming opposites which are the basis of the natural law governing the creation of life itself, one cannot pursue a purposeful existence while electing a perpetual position of neutrality.

The universal law of duality dictates to humans to take a side, whether consciously or otherwise. Humans are endowed with mental faculties to distinguish between right and wrong and informed by their own moral beliefs they will choose a side.

Guided by one's own moral conscience and the universal laws of morality, one has to believe in something in the pursuit of a purposeful life. But conflict would naturally arise among humans in their pursuit of particular aims that are premised on irreconcilable ideologies.

The Cold War, which broke at the end of World War II and continued until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, pitted capitalist and communist ideologues against each other in furtherance of particular political aims. Guided by their own moral conscience, capitalists believed in their own ideology as the best science for human advancement and general prosperity, while proponents of communism stood at the polar opposite end and advocated everything that offended capitalist ideals.

The Cold War has ended but global conflict continues unabated. The natural inclination of humans is to oppose that which does not reconcile with their own beliefs, however narrow and misguided at times. The pursuit of social justice, equality and prosperity of mankind should ideally not be derailed by an unhealthy marriage to viciously opposing ideologies.

Prevailing political systems are primarily rooted on antagonistic class relationships, where the majority are relegated to the bottom rung of the economic ladder of prosperity, while the few accumulate obscene wealth. Social justice cannot be attained in an economic environment that is sustained by exploitation of the majority for the benefit of the few. The choice between what is right and wrong under such conditions is informed by self-interest and not the basic principle of social justice and equality.

The important question is, "What do we collectively stand for?" An ideological response to this question would not advance and improve the fortunes of humanity. If indeed we are all committed to social justice, equality and prosperity of mankind, the ideological marriage to capitalism, socialism, fascism or communism becomes irrelevant. The response becomes entirely rooted on what are the appropriate and pragmatic measures to address specific socio-economic challenges confronting society at varying stations of life.

A developing economy with huge income and racial disparities as South Africa would require policy measures that specifically respond to its unique conditions. A one-size-fits-all approach to policy is unimaginative and always counter-productive. The temptation for policy makers to draw fruitless lessons from economies with similar conditions but varying political, economic and racial nuances should be resisted.

South Africa has a unique history of colonialism and apartheid. The transformation agenda to address historical injustices require specific and often radical policy measures to achieve societal harmony and shared prosperity. Reconciliation cannot be achieved when society does not stand for common ideals and collectively acknowledge historical injustices. Whether you are a capitalist, communist, socialist or fascist, that should generally be irrelevant to the common pursuit of what is right and just.

We should not obsess over what will not propel us to a transformed, harmonious and prosperous society. The fierce urgency to defeat those who stand on the opposing side of what is right and just is now. We cannot keep negotiating to effect necessary change. It must be done. These are revolutionary times.

Follow Sentletse Diakanyo on Twitter: @Sentletse