We live in such a fascinating country. Not one single person, if you take the trouble to get to know them, is one-dimensional. Last week I met a successful Afrikaans singer whose album has gone double-platinum and who plays towns like De Aar as well as massive shows like Afrikaans is Groot. His name is Refentse Morake. Yes, people who love Identity Politics – your head probably exploded.
Having spent a week in Austin Texas, I managed to take a deep breath and exorcise some of the hokey South African obsessions that keep cesspools like Twitter alive with anger, fury, outrage and consternation. Instead I found myself talking to visionary people, pragmatists and venture capitalists about things like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Robotics. You know, the stuff that will take us forward as a species, instead of backwards into our fearful, tribal, primitive past. We all have that choice, you don’t need to leave South Africa to choose to move forward.
Two big stories have dominated the national dialogue (at least if you believe Twitter is a true reflection of the feelings and thoughts of most of our people – by the way, I don’t) over the last few days: Helen Zille defending colonialism and two rude assholes shouting at each other at Spur. Lurking somewhere in the background, Bathabile Dlamini’s dereliction of duty, SARS owing citizens some R19-billion in VAT, and a suspicious burglary of the Chief Justice’s offices seems to bother only a few.
We’re so goddamn stupid.
No wonder we account for about half of one percent of the world’s GDP. We’re like one of those rural backwaters where the internecine battles of one family against another distract them from an invading horde who end up slaughtering them all. It’s deeply discouraging, and considering our unique qualities, geography and infrastructural advantages on the continent, we are more than disappointing.
If you want to be better, might I humbly suggest a few things? These aren’t based on any qualities I believe I have, but upon the qualities of those who have changed the world for better and whom (as a student of history and a communicator) I have observed:
1. Individuals who think of themselves as individuals first are truly free to self-actualise.
2. Blaming another person, the government, history or your parents may be valid, but it won’t help at all.
3. Your failures and successes are yours. Own them.
4. Nobody cares enough about you to conspire against you, except you.
5. If you want to be successful, help other people solve their problems.
6. There aren’t good and bad people, there are good and bad ideas. Some of those ideas are baked in early.
7. Collaborate to grow. Holding on to something and not sharing it will keep it small.
8. Think ten times as much about tomorrow as you do about what happened yesterday.