Reading Doberman's post below - Dismal state of the police - did, as warned make me depressed. It yet again brought back all those terrible feelings of fatalism and sense of unavoidable doom I experienced whilst still living in SA. I thought I could leave those feelings behind. I thought things would have changed by now. I couldn't. They haven't.
I know it may seem on this blog that we are pessimists and are always focusing on the negative side of things. But how would you feel watching your terminally ill comatose brother busy wasting away in intensive care?
That is how I feel. For those still living there, even the most positive of the positive, sometimes feel like giving up. Sometimes it feels like there is never going to be a normal society in SA ever again.
Professor Jansen is one of the most eminent intellectuals in SA. When he talks, I listen. Normally bubbling over with enthusiasm and "feel good" optimism, his latest article in the Times will leave you with no comfort, but at least it's the truth.
Values have been eviscerated - Professor Jonathan Jansen
Demand nothing less than a reversal of this moral decay
THE surrounding neighbours look longingly at the prefab building of the local school. One of them makes his move, and starts ripping the wood from the building. If he can do it, feel the others, why can’t we also get wood from the school building to light up winter fires?
One by one the other neighbours descend like lean and hungry vultures on warm, innocent animal flesh. Within hours, the feeding frenzy levels the school with the ground. There is nothing left. Their own children, who attend the school, now have no building in which to learn during the harsh Cape winter.
Every now and again my boundless faith in our country takes a hard knock. Like the time a kombi carrying people with disabilities overturned in the Karoo and the local community descended on the accident scene to rob the victims of their cellphones and jewellery.
I am more and more convinced that a fundamental shift is taking place in South African society. It is a shift of values. Whereas, before, everyday theft was limited to a few, now everybody steals given the slightest opportunity. Whereas, before, peaceful protest by professionals was sufficient to drive home a bargaining point, now it is not enough unless buildings are ransacked and people intimidated. Whereas, before, the Eastern Cape was singled out as the province where corruption was regarded as normative behaviour, and decent behaviour the aberration, now it is true in all nine provinces.
It was once left to a few public leaders to hold together the thin spider web of values that projected South Africa as a decent society to the international community. But one of them, Nelson Mandela, has been silenced by age. Another, Desmond Tutu, has been ridiculed into obscurity by angry youth acting as the battering rams of dominant parties. Yet another, Paul Verryn, has been vilified for embarrassing the powerful by taking care of refugees in his Methodist church in Johannesburg.
This is the modus operandi of a corrupt nation whose people have lost their moral bearings. It is not enough to plunder the resources of the country and show contempt for the poor. It is especially crucial to mow down through vile language those moral standard bearers whose lives exemplify superior values.
The underlying crisis in our society is not skills nor, to coin a phrase, capacity building. You can train police in the latest technologies of DNA fingerprinting, but if their value set is corrupt, then dockets will continue to disappear in the case of paying criminals. You can provide a laptop with training to every teacher, but if they do not believe deeply that the education of a child should not be interrupted under any circumstances, then long hours of teaching will be lost to strikes, stayaways and sheer indifference.
Unfortunately, millions upon millions of rands are spent annually in government departments and in the private sector to train people. We have regular and public bouts of anxiety about the shortage of skilled “human resources” for which the simple solution, we are told, is more and more training.
It is as if we believe that notching up hours of training in endless workshops and seminars somehow translates into improved performance and better values. One area in which conferences and training abound is, ironically, in ethics training; yet this is precisely where our fragile democracy crumbles.
Our crisis is one of values, and as I have argued in these pages before, it can only be resolved through powerful leadership. Values is one arena in which change is necessarily top-down.
Nowhere is the crisis of values more evident in leadership than in the racially over-sensitive and emotionally immature coach of the Springbok rugby team. When his out-of-form flank forward decides to insert his fingers into the eyes of the British Lions rugby player, the coach reminds us of the difference between ballet and rugby. So what if the eyes of an opponent are gouged? Millions of youth watch this abandon of values in the eyes of this pathetic leader of one of our proudest national sports.
Right now the country needs some dramatic and moving public acts of leadership that challenge, even reverse, the precipitous slide into a valueless society.