Friday, October 16, 2009

The dream of 1994

By Marius Redelinghuys

Fifteen years into the post-apartheid new South African dispensation we’re hearing growing groans and murmurs lamenting the long-lost dream of 1994. This was a central theme of Cope parliamentary leader Dr Dandala’s campaign speeches as he criss-crossed the country and it prominently features in the Dinokeng Scenarios Report in the form of the “Promise of 1994″.

Maybe we were allowed to believe in this dream, and it certainly had its merits in at least creating a semblance of national unity and ensuring a peaceful transition. The dream of a non-racial, non-sexist united post-apartheid South Africa working together to create a better life for all had its utility, and I don’t think it’s entirely naive to cling to such a noble idea.

The cracks, however, are showing, and they’ve been showing for quite some time. We’re seeing increasingly violent “service-delivery” protests and the resurgence of the Afrikaner right wing (although I wouldn’t declare a state of emergency just yet). The country is marked by deteriorating socio-economic conditions, an education and healthcare crisis, sky-rocketing contact and violent crime rates, and a state and government increasingly run like a family business.

I am starting to see George Carlin’s point — I think we call it the dream of 1994 because, like the American Dream, you have to be asleep to believe it. South Africans were pacified by politicians and propaganda into accepting a negotiated settlement that was ultimately the product of consensus and not of confronting the real, deep-seated issues that would inevitably return to plague this new South Africa. Moreover, in successive election campaigns and in subsequent packed stadium addresses South Africans have been sold one dream after the other: “working together we can do more”, “one nation, one future” and “a new agenda for hope and change”.

It seems we have come full circle though, and there are those attempting to resurrect this dream of 1994, this figment of our collective imagination, when what we really need is a wake-up call and to resurrect a nation in a deep slumber of apathy. Sadly, however, those who do wake up, those who do question the failures and promises of houses and jobs and food for all go about burning libraries, municipal buildings and foreigners, expressing their disappointment and disillusionment in the only way they know to work effectively. Even worse, those of us who dare question this dream publicly are decried as racists, counter-revolutionaries and accused of attempting to incite backwards debates; marginalised and sidelined for daring to differ with the status quo.

I think it’s safe to say that for the majority of South Africans the dream of 1994 is long dead, long have we slumbered, dreaming of a “stupid racist rainbow” nation instead of critically reflecting on and pro-actively addressing the very real social, economic and politically challenges. The euphoria of the post-apartheid 1994 Mandela era is over and cynicism is creeping in. Will we continue sleeping, dreaming, having nightmares plagued by crime, the AWB and Julius Malema?

“Dreams are but the illusion that we put upon ourselves to make life in an unbearable world liveable” (anonymous) — when we refuse to face reality. South Africa doesn’t need another saviour, South Africans need to stop dreaming about saviours and salvation and wake up to realise that we are individually responsible for their own salvation, for their own reality, for our present and future reality. The dream of 1994, a noble and respectable dream, cannot be achieved when fast asleep, indeed, as the wise, gay wizard Albus Dumbledore remarked: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Vuka sizwe! Vuka Mzansi vuka!

1 Opinion(s):

Exzanian said...

A very well written article. Increasingly we are seeing many “rainbow believers” starting to wake up and realise the dream is over. The rainbow is finished, klaar and kaput, and will never be resurrected. The dream of unity is a dodo in SA. It’s ironic and sad to see Redelinghuys and others of his type only now starting to grapple with this realisation; something I have seen all along.