I simply cannot avoid a topic that’s been weighing heavily on all of us these past few weeks. I’ve noticed a profound change in our demeanor: we as a nation are down, depressed, and dragging our heels and our hearts through this very tough time. In fact, such negativity on all media channels available to us has made many countrymen reconsider their options here. No one can be surprised or cast blame.
As a country, we seem to have hit rock bottom: high level corruption, parastatal failures, escalating crime, vicious murder, rampant AIDS, lack of border control, government meddling, load shedding and horrendous xenophobic attacks on immigrants and refugees. Can it possibly get any worse?
Government is compromising our new democracy in a big way. As an example in the hotel industry, the tourism sector stands dumbfounded as we see tourism teeter on dangerous ground. Recent visa controls placed on our inbound market, followed by reluctance to reconsider or remedy legislation, has resulted in our Chinese and Indian markets slashed by more than 50% over the last quarter according to reports. Throughout boardrooms, corridors, coffee shops and Facebook feeds, an increasing dissatisfaction from businesses, friends and colleagues is evident. The big question: where to from here?
I’m reminded of a beautiful line from poet (musician) Sting; ‘then let me build a bridge for I cannot fill the chasm,’ countered by the famous words of John F Kennedy, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” What can we as South African citizens do to effect the change we so desperately need?
It’s easy to retreat into our laagers, try and live in ignorant bliss and believe a knight in shining armour is on his way. But hey, how long do we wait? Our country is on its knees; we are in a crisis which is soon going to have an ever more profound effect on our economy, our direct incomes and our happiness. It’s easy to talk in platitudes, but where are the real solutions?
I’ve toiled with these questions for days. I know in my own personal experience, that ‘rock bottom’ is sometimes the necessary place to start; acknowledging that we are at the bottom provides the foundation for the next step, which can only be upward, or at least forward.
I don’t have the solutions, BUT I do have the belief that provided there are enough brave people standing up, speaking out and refusing to accept vitriol from our leadership, using public forums to disagree, debate and contest, there will always be hope. And hope is real. Hope can be transformed into much needed respect and ultimately…change…
It starts with me and you.