Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Doing it for ourselves

I went to a talk tonight on Active Citizenship by Dr Mamphela Ramphele, at Kirstenbosch. It was for the launch of an interesting-looking book on how ordinary South Africans can make a difference. Some of the other speakers were a little arb - I had to do a lot of blackberry facebooking during a particularly long-winded anecdote about the National Union of Mineworkers' labour dispute with another union. But generally the idea was a good one: getting us off our arses, and transforming us from a nation of whingers to a nation of empowered citizens who uplift their own communities. She pointed out that we don't have any more baggage, for example, than Mozambicans, and yet they have made the decision to work towards a better future rather than moan about the past.

Two things stood out for me in what she said:

Firstly, we don't move on from our past because our post-apartheid amelioration system incentivises victimhood as a golden ticket for a free lunch.

Secondly, the vocabulary of 'delivery' has demobilised South Africans. We no longer do anything for ourselves because we expect houses to be 'delivered', jobs to be 'delivered'. It is absurd to expect the government to provide everything.

Where is our pride? Amandla awethu, my brothers and sisters :)


  1. On your "firstly" point, I'd agree. There's nothing so politically persuasive as victimhood. And this is why we do it. I could list all the examples, but I think you know them.

    On the "secondly" point - it is easy to onfect psyches with this nonsense, and I will give you a good example. Back when I used to shop at Tesco, I always used to queue at the self-checkout tills because the queue moved faster. And there was this battleaxe of a woman who used to stand at the end of the corridor of tills and marshall the person at the front to the next till available. And when she was busy doing something else, the Brits would stare blankly into space without actually gravitating toward something available.

    The mentality is the same.

  2. Haha, and when something that comes as naturally to the Brits as effective queueing starts falling prey to confused uselessness, you must know how disempowering 'service delivery' really is!