Youth inspire reimagining the country
I almost never write about politics. It’s just too dispiriting; best left to sturdier folk to tackle the details of dizzying cycles of history and humanity relentlessly repeating itself, year after year, century after century.
Having said that, I’ve just read about the achievements of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 young South Africans, and my pessimism seems to have taken a temporary holiday. Whether in technology, medicine, social engagement, academe, the creative arts, their shared vision should be a wake-up call to everyone in this country.
The originality of these remarkable individuals stems from a unique combination of accomplishments and imagination. There are many others like them throughout the country, working away in obscure and difficult circumstances.
Those lives uplifted and inspired me so much that I revisited a wearying, long-forbidden indulgence: reimagining this country. Up there on my private Cloud Nine, I succumbed to my own old, repeating dream.
What if freedom wasn’t merely a rudderless word, but meant release from a cycle of trauma, poverty and helplessness, and commitment instead to self-help and to help your neighbour?
What if family wasn’t the ANC family of bling, abuse, corruption and greed but the nuclear and social family of support, care and encouragement whose focus is the wellbeing of its children, its people and its land?
What if resources were not pillaged, misused, siphoned into private interests and pockets but used instead to promote authentic communication and an emotional intelligence that engages with people not as herd voters or victims, but as individuals who belong to communities in dire need of infrastructure and education?
What if, instead of living in the past and exploiting past trauma to promote divisions and racial hatred, we focused on the present and building an egalitarian society made up of people who don’t blame and accuse but speak openly and honestly, and listen to one another’s concerns in a genuine effort to understand them?
What if, instead of being driven by a leadership of thousands of people bent on power and exploitation, we rather lead by example? What if we follow the examples of 200 young South Africans lauded for inventiveness, social commitment, business acumen and creativity?
What if true freedom is not freedom without learning from the past and adapting these lessons to building a present and a future in which we all commit to making a contribution, regardless of racial, social, economic structures and positions?
What if, instead of a media that promotes sensationalist stories of racism mouthed by a fringe element and lunatics on social media websites, it turns to pursuing the stories of the many people who are resourceful, interesting and insightful, and demonstrate their skills in unique ways for the good of their country?
What if, instead of disdaining the youth, the uneducated poor, as a hopeless swamp of unemployable people damaged by the system, we view them as deprived individuals who lack what many of the young 200 South Africans benefited from: family, unconditional love, support and homes that, rich or poor, cheri-shed the children and helped them to become who they are?
What if, instead of hoping for a change in government and leadership thrashing about like a headless beast bent on its own destruction, we change ourselves first and then work on all the other essential changes to take our country to the heights it has failed to reach?
What if, instead of claiming to put South Africa and South Africans first, we the people do it, and pay whatever price we need to make that happen?
Hard work is a given, education is essential, but imagination is the ultimate key. It’s a familiar place for a few, a scary place for some and a challenging one for many, but every-body has one, even if the key to it may be rusty.
Cloud Nine is a heady height for me. But without imagining a different, better country, we will never make it happen.
Rosemund Handler is the author of four books