Tag Archives: south africa

When things start falling apart

Things seldom fall apart suddenly. A leak in the roof of a house will drip by drip gradually weaken the structural walls. A country’s slide into authoritarian rule comes with many small repressive laws. A divorce is preceded by many hurts, insults, and betrayals. A company’s bankruptcy comes after years of poor management and missed opportunities.

Traveling through my home country South Africa during the past few days, I have been wondering how the ruling African National Congress (ANC) government could so utterly lose its moral compass and ruin every major state-run enterprise through corruption and mismanagement.

When Nelson Mandela steered the country to democracy in 1994, South Africa was hailed as an example to the world. A race war was averted. A new “rainbow nation” of diverse cultures was born. Mandela and his compatriots sacrificed their best years in prison for this ideal. I covered the elections of 1994 as a journalist for a major news agency and visited the country again in 1997 and 1998. There was a sense of optimism and euphoria among all race groups. Foreign investment and tourism flourished.

A serving culture is turned upside down

It wasn’t to last. The ANC always had a dark underbelly of hardened ideologues and self-serving opportunists. During the presidency of Jakob Zuma (2009-2018) the ANC elites turned from serving a country to looting a country. Literally, every municipality, hospital, school, postal service, energy supply company, and public transport system run by the ruling party today is malfunctioning, or not working at all.

The rot can be seen in derelict railway lines, potholed roads, collapsing bridges, and lack of basic services in once-pristine rural towns. I was aghast to learn from old friends in my hometown Dundee in the eastern KwaZulu Natal province that the water supply is switched off for most of the day because pumps have not been maintained for years. Electricity outages are almost a daily occurrence.

A culture of entitlement

What is happening in South Africa has its roots in a culture of entitlement that is a growing global phenomenon. Mankind has experienced an exceptional period of material upliftment, luxury, and comfort that previous generations could never have dreamed of. It has, unfortunately, come with a huge cost to the environment, physical and mental health. When a society is indoctrinated with a “happiness recipe” of material gain and immediate gratification, the hangover comes with addiction, depression, and fanaticism in the form of extremist political movements.

Instead of being grateful for what we have, we are constantly comparing ourselves with the happier, wealthier, younger, and more beautiful people we see in the tabloids. Instead of cherishing the present moment the mind constantly wanders to some distant future when we will be happily enjoying life with the million dollars we are earning annually.

A fertile field for dictators and demagogues

The entitlement culture is a fertile field for demagogues of all persuasions. In South Africa, influential politicians are demanding the seizure of private property and farms for redistribution to the poor – in effect meaning redistribution to themselves. Demagogues always find an external enemy to deflect from their own failures. As a result the ANC still enjoys massive support.

In Russia, a majority of people continue to support President Vladimir Putin’s horrific invasion of a sovereign nation. They seem to believe in the prosperity dream of a new Russian empire. In the United States a populist demagogue, calling Putin “smart” and “savvy”, is filling his war chest with donations from millions of supporters still believing that a democratic election was rigged. His chances of again winning the next U.S. presidential election are not unrealistic.

Tunnel vision: the hallmark of an entitlement culture

A hallmark of an entitlement culture is tunnel vision of the ego-mind. When in tunnel vision there is no evolution or progress of mind and spirit. The head-mind or “ego-mind” is caught in a belief. Its mind is made up of what is right and wrong in the world.

Head-Mind is incapable of listening to the alternative argument and will interrupt you before you have finished your sentence. They will tell you that 1+1 = 4. Nothing will persuade them otherwise. Their lives have been taken over by an alternate reality and they will be reaffirming their belief daily with similar believers in social media bubbles. Once entrenched in a tunnel-vision bubble it is virtually impossible to break down the walls the person has surrounded himself with.

What is the solution?

The worst thing you can do is try to convince a person that he or she is wrong. The ego-mind will never admit a mistake. Realization and humility mostly come after a painful process of catharsis. This is a path that only an individual will have to walk. Addiction to an ideology is comparable to the alcohol addict who will only seek help when everything has fallen apart.

The realization might come that a life of bliss is a perception. Material comforts and the satisfaction of basic needs are important elements but will never be a replacement for good health, a sense of purpose and meaning, friendships, and community. We, humans, are innately social beings and spiritual in nature. Where we feel a connection to something larger than the self, nationality, gender, and race, the journey to joy begins.

Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker

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When things fall apart

During the past week I received reels of video footage from friends and family in South Africa revealing horrifying images of carnage and destruction. Thousands of looters were burning and destroying shopping malls and vital infra-structure with a government obviously too weak or incompetent to restore order.

It appeared as if all social order was collapsing. But amid all the chaos were signs of hope. Communities of all races got together to defend their homes and properties, gathering together for prayer, giving each other hope and volunteering to clean up in the aftermath.

Works by the Majorcan artist Joan Bennassar

South Africa is in many respects a microcosm of global problems highlighting race and gender issues, cultural diversity, and the huge disparity been rich and poor. The economic fallout from the pandemic has entrenched deeply underlying social and political frictions.

Inflection points bring out the best and the worst in humanity

Sharp inflection points, challenges and conflicts inevitably bring out the best and the worst in humanity. During my years as a reporter in South Africa I witnessed clergymen selflessly serving the poor and downtrodden in the poorest township slums. The country has brought forth leaders, poets, authors, musicians, sports and film stars admired all over the world. But some of its people were also responsible for terrible human rights violations and could be described as “the very personification of evil.”

Sometimes such contrasts can be found in individual persons. In the final years of apartheid Adriaan Vlok was the minister of police. He was the man responsible for bombing the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches and trying to assassinate its secretary general. He later publicly apologized for his actions, washed the feet of his former enemies and later ran a child feeding charity funding it mostly with his own pension.

Major paradigm shifts are underway

At the start of the 21st century we are seeing major social, political and economic paradigm shifts. Human knowledge and change has increased exponentially compared to previous generations. The American inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil argues that whenever a technology approaches a barrier, a new technology is invented crossing that barrier. He predicts that such evolutionary shifts will continue to become increasingly common, leading to profound technological change and rupturing old orders.

Digital technology is at the forefront of a doubling of human knowledge every 13 months. Just to put this into perspective: In the year 1900 it took about a century and by 1945 it had been reduced to every 25 years. This “Knowledge Doubling Curve” was first created by Buckminster Fuller in 1982. 

Cultural leaps are not integrated mentally and psychologically

Such “cultural leaps” pushed by technological advances create enormous opportunity for the educated, computer-savvy middle classes with access to high-speed Internet. But we are left with less time to cope and integrate such changes mentally and psychologically. More knowledge does not mean more wisdom. A growing number of people respond to the massive cultural and economic changes by walling themselves off in radical political and religious “tribal bubbles.”

The large pool of people employed in manual jobs are no longer needed in an increasingly automated economy. Whether we are looking at the unemployed in the former industrial cities of the United States, the coal-mining areas of northern England, or the “yellow vest” citizens in low-paying jobs in France the picture is very similar. There is a growing populace feeling left out, having nothing to lose and who are open to the rhetoric of the professional deceivers and demagogues.

Those tech concerns who have reaped the most benefit from the digital revolution will have to learn to share their wealth by at least paying taxes in proportion to their earnings. This revenue can be used to invest in improved education, infra-structure, health and upliftment of poor communities.

The law of yin and yang

When things fall apart during times of crisis it is a wake-up call. It is not a time to blame so-called “instigators” but to look at the bigger picture. We need to ask questions and seek answers as to why there are so many very disgruntled, angry and unhappy people around us.

In the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang an illness always manifests itself when there is an imbalance between the polar laws of life. An imbalance causes first disharmony, then conflict and ultimately leads to destruction. When the scales tip into one or the other extreme we get to a tipping point.

Nature inevitably tries to restore the balance so that all within the system can survive – in the case of the human body, the different organs interrelating and working in harmony with each other to maintain physical health.

Humanity is currently not only battling a deadly virus but also having to deal with huge environmental, economic and social challenges. I would like to believe that humanity is edging ever closer to breaking through that barrier toward a new horizon of elevated consciousness and opportunity.

Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker

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South Africa on the brink?

jacobzumaandhispredecessorsThere is a saying that a country is as good as its leader. South Africa was an example to the world during Nelson Mandela’s presidency during the 1990s when it showed the world how to reconcile different ethnic groups in a new democratic rainbow nation.

Sadly, South Africa’s current president Jacob Zuma is showing the world how a patronage system of bad governance can send a whole nation into a dangerous downward spiral.

Zuma plunged the country’s economy into a tailspin by firing a competent finance minister for no apparent reason, replacing him with a complete unknown, then backtracking and re-appointing a previous holder of the key portfolio.

South Africa is a land of many paradoxes, having brought  forth some of the world’s best leaders such as Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi and Jan Smuts. It is a land of pristine beauty and at the same time a country ridden by extreme brutality in the form of  spiraling murder and rape statistics.

In the vibrancy of this melting pot of many cultures and traditions, a tension arises that either catapults a nation to glory or sends it into the cesspit of disaster.

The country’s wise leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mandela and others  realized that it is the thin thread of good moral leadership by example that keeps the fabric of such a nation together.

Zuma and his inner circle have been playing with fire, seeing the presidency as a means of power to secure government posts and lucrative contracts for friends and family.  A patronage and entitlement culture has taken root from the central government to local councils where state institutions are manipulated for personal ends, the judiciary and free press threatened. State-run institutions from hospitals, schools to police are in an appalling state. Much of this has gone unnoticed by world media, focusing on other “more important global events” as South Africa’s moral fiber has been torn apart.

The South African press and social media has been bravely reporting on many of these scandals including the building of a palatial private home for Zuma with state funds. The populace was grumbling and perhaps hoping quietly that Zuma and his cronies would be pulled to heel as they were slowly but steadily ruining the country.

But as the South African currency and stock market took a nosedive in the wake of Zuma’s irrational decision, something seems to have happened. A low grumble is turning to a loud roar of “Zuma must Fall.”

In following the social media from a distance, its seems that the South African populace finally has had enough. Several weeks ago the country’s youth took to the streets in massive protests against a fee hike, but there is much more to it than that. There is general frustration and discontent about the high unemployment and poor state of the economy.

Mandela’s words at a 1994 trade union congress ring so true:”If the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government.”

I would venture to say that Zuma’s days are numbered.

 

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