There’s a Time for Nationalism

All and sundry know that I describe myself as a Pan-African Globalist. I am from Johannesburg, have a calling to the future of African leadership and have a love for understanding global cultural contexts, its accompanying beauty and pain and with a deep love for Ireland and Brazil. But today I am South African!

Hub Johannesburg with Behold SA hosted an event over a month ago called Making Social Entrepreneurship Practical. The aim was to develop viable business models to create social impact where four groups competed in a challenge. For their prize, today I had the privilege of hosting the winning team over lunch with modest, inspiring, and cut-the-crap David Lewis. David is the former chairman of South Africa’s Competition Tribunal, now heads up Corruption Watch and is author of Thieves at the Dinner Table. The informal conversation centered on how to encourage public participation in stamping out corruption. I was introduced to systemic corruption – where everyone becomes invested in sustaining it.

It is quite sad that South Africa has dropped in the Corruption Perception’s Index to 64 out of 183 countries. While I do not condone corruption of any form and certainly do not think that we should look at the lowest benchmark, I need to shout out my opinion that any system you create that benefits self at the expense of the other is a form of corruption.  I get to travel abroad quite a bit due to work and a huge part of my job is about bridging diversity. I see this form of corruption all the time. It may not be labeled as such but occurs each time when people create systems that promote their agenda through undetectable nuances. Outlying communities from the source of power are crying to be heard; hearing goodwill of inclusivity spoken about but there always seem to be barriers to entry. When people’s voices are not heard they feel oppressed. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire warns us “The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors.” Those in power would therefore do well to approach life in a fair and equitable way. As South Africans with a disadvantaged past, we should keep watch of not taking on the nature of our oppressor as we all scramble for our piece of the pie.

On a lighter note, I went to Tanz Café in Fourways this evening – a part of town that’s unusual for me to socialize in. I mostly frequent places that attract a diverse racial crowd, so it was once again an eye-opener of the work needed to be done to bridge our racial divides in South Africa – I’d be surprised if more than 3% of people in the place were not white (apart from the waiters). But when the music started all thinking melted away and this was my tribe. Listening to Lonehill Estate and The Graeme Watkins Project on the same stage was unimaginable. What a surprise to hear that all those songs were South African! I knew all the words and would gladly pay the same ridiculous rate that we do for international acts coming to town. My introduction to iScream & The Chocolate Stix was pretty cool too. We paid a measly R60 to get in when my cheap ticket to Red Hot Chillie Peppers cost R415. Hmmm, this does not feel right.

So, if it means that as South Africans we value ourselves more, take our place on the global stage, appreciate diversity and reduce greed; then by all means I am proud to be a nationalist.

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