Rob's Rambling

The Tutu Elephant

Posted by rob August 19, 2011, under South Africa | 2 Comments

The Elephant



Let's address the rather large elephant in the room, shall we?



If you're reading this and you're a white South African, congratulations - you are privileged and have benefited from Apartheid. You know it, I know it and so does everyone else.



That's the plain and simple truth of it - yes, I know that many white people are not "rich" in comparison to many other people (take Julius Malema for one) but that doesn't mean that you're not privileged.


In comparison to the millions of people living below the poverty line in a country that is slowly being eaten by corruption; a sort of social ennui and simple complacency, to claim anything other than privilege is at best naive and at worst irresponsible.


No, not all Whites are evil and no, not all Blacks are poor. And no, not all Coloureds are marginalised (though that's a whole different story) and not all Indians are... well, I can't say that I know any generalisations about Indians.


Regardless, the fact remains that generalisations sometimes spring from at least a grain of truth.





If we're honest with ourselves (and really, if we can't be honest on the internet, where can we be?), many Whites were flagrantly evil prior to 1994 (after which, many of them were simply scared of what might come) and if we stick to the theme of honesty, I don't think anyone could claim that the majority of Blacks weren't and aren't poor.


For the Whites



Speaking now to anyone White, South African and reading this, now's the bit that you probably won't enjoy.


With this imbalance in mind, what more is there for us to do? We pay our taxes, we pay VAT and we pay the exorbitant markup on petrol so that our roads are fixed - why should we be expected to do anything more? Who is Desmond Tutu to chastise us as a race for not doing enough to cure the country?


More complex than any of those questions are the feelings and opinions that start to bubble to the top in thee discussions - what Tutu referred to as justification.


"Well, I worked bloody hard to get where I am today, why can't they?"


"I already pay taxes, now I'll have to pay for the NHI - why should I do anything else?"


"How do I know it will be used properly?"


These are all valid in their own way but in a more worrying way, are the harbingers of certain doom in a nation. Social responsibility is for everyone, not just those who are in positions of power.


You worked hard to get where you are? Congratulations. Now work even harder to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to work as hard as you did.


You already pay taxes? Well, so do I. So do many millions of people who earn enough to pay tax. Know why those people you saw toyi-toying or shouting support for the ANCYL don't pay tax? Because 20% of nothing is still nothing.


How we you know funds will be used properly? What have you done to ensure that funds are used properly? Have you filed complaints? Have you joined an organisation? Formed a watchdog to monitor public funding?

There are so many ways in which you (as a privileged and educated member of society) can help to ensure that funds are properly managed - if not in the public sector then simply in this one, all-important fund.



As for there being nothing else that you can do, I put it to you that until you can walk into any informal settlement, grab a passing person (who is very, very likely to be considerably poorer than you) and genuinely say "I am doing my utmost to fix the problems in my country", there is still work for you to do!


Who is Desmond Tutu?



And if you're seriously asking "Who is Desmond Tutu to ask this of me?" - he's the man most likely to tell you the truth.


Every politician will lie to you in one way or another, telling you either that their administration is different or that money is being spent wisely (out the window of their brand new X5) but throughout the years of our country, Desmond Tutu has earned a distinct place of honour in South Africa.


He is (was?) respected by both sides of any debate and very few have ever accused him of trying to gain something for himself.


Don't lose the sense there is by now turning on him because he said something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Deep down, you know it's the truth - even if you don't want to admit it to yourself.


So what do we do?



We brainstorm. We come up with a way for the problems to be solved - and then we implement it. With enough safeguards and balances to satisfy the most paranoid of investors, this kind of fund could do a massive amount of good.


Failing that, come up with another idea - something that will help (even a little) to drag the country out of the state that it's in. This is a call to action and it's something that most people profess to want to do and let's do that instead (as well?)


If you are here, reading this and you honestly don't think that there's anything you should be doing to make your country a better place, perhaps you'd be happier somewhere else and well, you're welcome to go there anytime.



Lastly - don't take this as chastisement or even a mild rebuke. I invite you to comment, tell me where I'm wrong (I am, I'm sure) and give me something constructive.

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Currently have 2 Comments

  1. What is an antonym for antithesis?
    If i'm that, does that make me just like you?
    I’m just average, common too
    I’m just like him, the same as you
    I’m everybody’s brother and son
    I ain’t different from anyone
    It ain’t no use a-talking to me
    It’s just the same as talking to you
    -Rob A. Zimmermann

  2. Quick Q on topic.

    What do we do about the fact that so many of our population have lost their purpose in life and identity post apartheid?  I'm talking about the masses who are so easily enticed into some or other protest because fighting an evil is all they know... think Don Quixot.

    I'm thinking uneducated people who remain so because somebody or other can't actually do the job of running an education department properly.
    I'm thinking the masses who would rather strike, trash the place and not work while demanding something they feel they are owed... than contemplate working for it (a realistic sustainable goal).  Perhaps the thought of owning something that you actually worked for has never had the chance to take root - even now, 20 years later.  WHY THE HECK IS THAT?
    There is a bigger social ill around us, and the philosophy of take it despite it not being yours, because you have been done in and are owed it is alive and well.  Rightly or wrongly, we have to ask ourselves... for the sustainable long term, what can be done NOW to help fix things?  Is it really forming a "White people working for poor previously disadvantaged black people" coalition?  Seriously?  Good luck with pulling that off.
    If we can't come up with anything tangible, let us at the very least treat the people around us like we'd treat our own - if nothing else, just respect, a smile and greeting while passing a stranger in the street... be ignorant of their social standing, or whether they speak the Queen's English or Gompo's or West Bank's for that matter... cos it's the little (BIG) things that count, like attitude, and it's those things that will have a lasting impact.  The catch is to do it even if you're the only one.
    Sometimes we do the folk around us no favours by our efforts, we can't throw money at this issue - there are just too many people standing around waiting to grab every cent you throw (no, i'm not just talking begging and car guards, I'm talking wonderful new government projects - when the education system and health system is failing)...
    Ultimately I have hope for the next generation.  I'm talking black South Africans and white South Africans who have only known Apartheid from a history lesson POV.  With *educated* youth moving up the ranks, the approach will change, as will attitudes around us.  Suspicion will fade, as will the jaded outlook we've all got so sick of hearing...
    That said, the real worry is the sheer numbers of disenfranchised around us who expected more from a government they voted in.  If we look back at Europe and the last two world wars, it becomes obvious that Africa, and South Africa in particular, is experiencing some of that "I'd rather have a tinpot dictator who says what I want to hear than a society that grows further apart every year on the social scale".  It's easy to convince a disenfranchised people to vote you in if you say the right stuff - it's  not like they have anything to lose!

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