“Critical thinking without hope is cynicism, but hope without critical thinking is naïve.” (Maria Popova, Bulgarian writer)
South Africans move very fast. It’s a defense mechanism of sorts. If we stay too long in a place, we’ll have to think how terrible it is.
And many things compete for our attention because of their awfulness. They are mostly rooted in a lack of accountability and a thread of impunity that runs through our society. Whether it’s the vice president’s VIP protection unit Assault on three motorists on the N1 motorway near Fourways in Johannesburg Or Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste enjoying a Craven Week rugby game despite facing fraud charges – these individuals do it simply because they can.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chief’s Spokesperson was found to be in a compromising position regarding the PPE contract and was simply moved to a bigger and better position at GCIS.
And there are many other examples.
This is also a country where a president seems completely out of touch with our challenges and who shows nothing but “shock” or “disappointment” while playing for the cheap seats in his party, and is paralyzed by either the bullying of Gwede Mantashe or the vain Fikile Mbalula and their ilk. Recently, when the dwindling and useless ANC Youth League voted to lead it amid the usual ANC administrative chaos, Ramaphosa was willing to offer a slap and smile on the back. South Africa’s youth unemployment rate is 62%, yet the ANCYL conference was fantastic.
As those affected by cyclones and floods in KwaZulu-Natal await help, as people continue to live in fear of cholera outbreaks in Hamanskral and elsewhere, as every state-owned enterprise lies in tatters, our government thinks it can bring up something complicated. like National health insurance. Chisana olives Defend the flight of fancy severely lately. Such folly when citizens’ trust in government is at an all-time low. Snouts will be waiting at the trough to destroy the last bit of what works in the public health system.
And yet, despite all this (and more), we are still merchants of that immaterial thing called hope.
In the dying days of the ruling party, of lies, deceit and cruelty towards the most vulnerable and marginalized, hope can seem unexpected. With the election in 2024, which we know will be fraught and perhaps even dangerous, we need to keep our wits about us, or, as Michelle Obama puts it in more popular terms, “stick our knits.”
South Africa is not unique in experiencing a distinct political moment and threats to the rule of law even as it is fragile its kind. In the United States, we have witnessed a rollback of rights long held by the Supreme Court which has become more of a political mouthpiece than a legal guardian. In this context, we cannot help but be grateful to our Constitutional Court which, despite its recent vicissitudes, has kept the line when law and politics awkwardly intersect. It has been true to the precedent on our basic human rights. The United States will also have to navigate the 2024 election for sinister choices. In Europe, war, climate change, politics, the disruption of artificial intelligence, and the rise of the right provide no solace.
As Toni Morrison reminded us:
There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, and no room for fear. We speak, we write, we speak a language. This is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruising and bleeding, and while it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also important to refuse to give in to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom. like art. (“No room for self-pity, no room for fear,” NationMarch 23, 2015).
Or as Adrienne Rich wrote:
My heart is stirred by all that I cannot memorize:
Much has been destroyed
I have to throw in a lot with those
who is aging, in reverse,
With no extraordinary strength,
Reshaping the world.
(The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977)
Book by Rebecca Solnit Hope in the darkWritten in 2003 after the Iraq War began, however, it is also informative so far and well worth a read in its entirety. She writes with more than a hint of pragmatism when she says, “It is important to say what hope is: not the belief that all was well, or will be well. Evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and enormous destruction. Hope I care about.” It is about broad perspectives with definite possibilities, ones that invite or prompt us to act. Nor is it a sunny account of everything that gets better, though it might be an anti-narrative of everything that gets worse. You might call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings. It is seldom Change is straightforward…Sometimes as complex as chaos theory and as slow as evolution.Even things that seem to happen suddenly arise from roots deep in the past or from seeds dormant for a long time.It is important to stress that hope is only a beginning; it is not a substitute about action, only a basis for it. The status quo would like you to believe that it is immutable, inevitable, and invulnerable, and the lack of memory of a dynamically changing world reinforces this view. In other words, when you don’t know how much things have changed, you don’t see them changing or that they can change.
South Africans, of course, understand hope, history, and rhyme better than most. But we have lost our way and our institutions are faltering. But, every day rights are being restored through struggle and people are taking action. Whethers Extended Permit Exemption from Zimbabwe Or fight for more meaningful whistleblower protection or fix our streets and communities in spite of government. That list is also endless.
Cutting and pushing politics, from new parties to “early” agreements and coalition talks, is necessary…but not sufficient to rebuild our democracy.
It is also worth turning our minds to the sociologist, thinker and professor of intelligence Carl von Holdt Inaugural Lecture 2022 Where he began to expand on his thesis on the creation of “alternative social systems” and how these systems are taking shape in our country.
In many ways, his supposed theory reflects some of what Solnit sets out in a more lyrical way when he writes: “That these ‘alternative social systems’ are on the rise are both a reaction, and also the promise of being able to imagine a different future for the country. It is the communities that grow communal food gardens.” to ensure food security; those who cooperate to repair potholes or to conserve and share water; those who say no to violence in their name; those who reject political hierarchies and vie for political power; and those who find new intersections to act and promote activism… while these appear Primarily in forms of resistance against the untrustworthy and self-interested leaders of the guilds, societies, student movements, and representatives of the traditional countryside, they point at the same time to a different kind of future.The independent experiences from below are different kinds of new social systems and they are the signs of light, a kind of desire. who are irrepressible to do things differently. They bring forth new repertoires of action, new ideas, and new possibilities.”
Where these can take us should be our focus. Cutting and pushing politics, from new parties to “early” agreements and coalition talks, is necessary (and important as we approach the next election) but not sufficient to rebuild our democracy. What we really need to think about – and act upon – is something that goes beyond party politics. Rather, it is about what it means to live in a society with dignity at its core. In other words, to reshape society in ways that are not naive or naïve and where hope is an act of defiance. DM