I sense that people are more despondent than ever about the future of our beautiful country. It is not surprising. Months of incessant loadshedding (for my readers outside South Africa this means daily electricity rationing on a schedule of several hours each day) after years of water shortages, service delivery failures, potholes, corruption, and general deterioration and decay of the fabric of society has left people empty.
It seems that nothing is being done.
It seems that a long slow decline is firmly in place, and nothing can be done about it.
Most people seem hopeless. And it is depressing. Even those who have remained in love with our country and want to see it succeed, those who have believed, are losing hope.
Why would you hope? All the hope has come to nothing. And when you continue to hope, you will just be disappointed. So you might as well give up and join the crowd of critics watching the spectacle that is the demise of our country.
It is easy to criticise from that vantage point – as the spectator of the spectacle. It is easy to justify your position and distance yourself from the problems. After all, it is the other race, the other gender, the other political party, the other side of town, the other ideological position, the other bunch of greedy and corrupt people…they are the problem.
But it is this positioning, more than the actual problems, that leaves us hopeless. And hopelessness is a sure way to give over to the decline, which causes even more depression. Just look into the eyes of poor and jobless people, and you can see it there. No way out. These days you see that look on most South Africans.
It feels like hope has failed us.
But it is more than that. It is that hope without action that leaves us powerless (literally in South Africa)! It also leaves the problems for others to solve or continue perpetuating. It leaves it to the government or those we see as ‘other’ to solve the problems. Those people we don’t trust and even disdain.
But I also sense that there is an underlying current change. You may not see it yet, but if you really want to, you will notice how many people are jumping into the arena. They have given up their role as spectators. They are doing their bit to help. To clean the streets. To offer their skills to fix infrastructure. To help educate the poor kids in their town. To start businesses to deliver the services that should be delivered but aren’t. Some are even making a living this way.
We all have a choice.
Many wealthy South Africans are relocating or leaving. It is their powerful choice to exercise if they have the means.
Those who stay because they either do not have the means or just love this country and its people must make a different choice.
You can choose to be hopeless. You can choose to spend your life hurling abuse as a spectator. It’s easy. But it won’t bring meaning to your life, and I doubt you will be content.
You can also hope without taking action. You will almost certainly be disappointed and may end up depressed.
Or you can choose to jump into the ring if you’re not already there. You may find it rewarding. You may find that it gives your life meaning. You may find that you restore your hope.
At the very least you won’t feel powerless.
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