Ignoring shades of grey limiting

10 November 2019

We entrap ourselves in self-deception because we are absolutist

IN the age before the ubiquity of social media, our country’s response to the carefully crafted creation of public he­roes went without much contest.

Not that such creation is based on a tapestry of lies, but, with each truth or lie, and accompanying hubris, there’s a shade of grey we often don’t pay much attention to.

It may be that this is so because it is upsetting to our being that what ought sensibly to be a universally held truth, our escape from our pain, is laden with “ifs”, “maybes” and “perhaps”.

We are obsessed with the creation of heroes and villains. We live in black or white. Right and wrong.

Take the celebrations of the Spring­boks’s Rugby World Cup win. EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseng Ndlozi makes comments that are racially charged, that seem to be designed to water down the euphoria brought by the victory.

What do we do? We shout him down. It’s our time to celebrate. Allow us one hour to let it sink in, Ndlozi. We issue un­printable expletives on social media to let it be known that anybody who agrees with him is an ass who must shut the hell up to avoid ridicule.

Yet, if we are honest, the truth lies be­tween Ndlozi and those ordering him to shut up – the proverbial grey space that requires a force of reason, not mere right or wrong, hero or villain.

There is some truth in what Ndlozi said about how the rugby victory is not a pan­acea for all our ills. He is correct that the momentary upsurge in patriotism must never lull us into believing that the basis of our disunity has simply vanished be­cause Mapimpi’s try was amazing.

Yet, he too must be reminded that the smiles we wear each day are not because we have no challenges.

If his logic was correct, it would mean all those staying in shacks would never have a reason to laugh out loud because they have no houses. It means Ndlozi, were he to visit Hammanskraal, would expect to see people crying in the streets because they have no clean water.

We know better, though. We also know Hammanskraal invented mavu­so, among many other things!

It is more an unwillingness rather than inability to contend with our grey issues that stands as a potent risk to our growth. When, for example, the Cyril Ramapho­sa administration hosts an investment conference that raises R371-billion, we celebrate him as a hero. We do not hold back. Indeed, he is the first president to achieve this.

As he says in his address to the confer­ence, these investment conferences are no talk shops.

The grey truth, though, is that while R371-billion is a great step in the right direction, we are far from setting the country on the correct economic recov­ery path. Moody’s has placed us on notice for junk status. Fitch and S&P Global Ratings have already declared us junk. While we must celebrate R371-billion, the celebrations might mean nothing if we fail to attend to our debt-to-GDP ra­tio that Finance Minister Tito Mboweni told us two weeks ago is not only unten­able and unsustainable but will hit 70% in three years.

For many of us, Jacob Zuma is an ar­chetypal anti-hero. The villager from Nkandla may have been out of his depth, may be our biggest mistake as a country, or even the most corrupt bandit to occu­py the Union Buildings, but, all things  considered, this is hardly the full picture.

His supporters, meanwhile, will tell us about radical economic transformation as if Zuma did not have nine years at the helm. The truth, though, is that he must go and face his corruption trial and most probably go to jail.

In our editorial comment on the Bok­ke’s victory last week, this paper said: “We take our hats off to former sports minister Fikile Mbalula who courageous­ly instructed the various lily white codes, including rugby, to either play black play­ers or face consequences”. Context is al­ways crucial. It is important for the coun­try to acknowledge Mbalula’s role.

In today’s context, though, Sunday World must be able to reflect on and not conveniently forget Mbalula’s contribu­tion to this victory in spite of the paper’s recent splashes on allegations of Mbalu­la’s worrying involvement in the murder investigation of his friend Wandile Bo­zwana. To do this is to traverse that grey line of honesty – and not giving a damn what he thinks. Our commitment, our praise and condemnation of Mbalula or anybody else must not be based on the person – but their conduct.

As a people, we entrap ourselves in self-deception because we are absolut­ist. We believe Ndlozi is not a patriot be­cause we naively believe he can’t express that which gnaws away at our desire to celebrate the Bokke’s victory.

The ground on which Ramaphosa moves must be worshipped because he received R371-billion worth of pledges despite the obvious fact that his efforts pale into insignificance given the work that needs to be done to mitigate the coun­try against the damage done by his pre­decessor. If you criticize Ramaphosa, or place some of his playboy ministers on the front page, you immediately become labelled Zuma’s poster boy – however ob­jectionable the very idea is.

As our democracy matures, and as we get used to how loud we are as a people, the idea that being a doctor allows one to speak nonsense and get away with it has gone out the window. That’s a good thing. We must, however, evolve our decibels to the appreciation of behavior and action rather than a robotic commitment to he­roes and anti-heroes.

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