I have been waiting for something interesting to happen here in the US; something that will draw the attention of my friends there in South Africa. In actuality it has been a bit dull here of late, with a very bad winter that seems to have dulled both the spirit of the American people for the purpose of advancing society toward more altruistic goals, or for that matter the retarding of same to the degree some seek here now. I figured also President Obama’s ‘State of the Union’ address would bring something of note since it is indeed a watershed moment here in our political spectrum. Well my friends the last weeks have brought both and perhaps we can draw some parallels here as well.
Karabo has a unique perspective in this venue with his focus on the arts and history of South Africa. I always try to draw some analogies to that when I can. I don’t know a lot about your history save what about everyone does in this world. Apartheid and such struggles always bring innate feelings to the surface in the various world cultures… we Americans are no different. We all share similar events in our pasts but few of that strong a nature as I am sure was experienced in your own great nation.
Now– the State of the Union address has few equals in the world as political theater. About the entire government of the US gathers in one room in our Capitol and listens to what is usually a vision of our President for the future twelve months, as well as a good ole political rallying vehicle for the party in power. Mr. Obama did not disappoint us as he delivered a talk that actually garnered a 92% approval rating through out the country. This did little to bring down his overall approval that has risen some 16 points in recent days. This fact proved to be actually of less importance in the grand scheme but more a backdrop to what followed. The Conservatives brought not one but two distinct rebuttals with the extreme conservative Tea Party ( refer back to my previous articles here if you need a review) delivering one of their own for the first time in history. Thus another first: two rebuttals to a sitting President that folks on the right are still ranting cannot be President because he was supposedly born in Kenya. Funny this”birther” movement ( proven totally with out merit), as it is called was not around for two, much more previous Presidents who were born in Territories, not in the US proper as the Constitution requires. Again, I might have made the argument a few years ago that racism was dead here, or dying. I would have been wrong. The State of the Union served to define in acute detail the great divides in our nation, deeper than every before. The Conservatives would gladly put all minorities in a rocket and send them to the moon, but alas that would cost too much money, unless it all went to some big corporation… then light the fuse asap.
Also happening here that may have peaked your interest was the first attempted assassination of a US Representative. These are our congressional officials closest to the people and represent some times as little as few hundred thousand people. There are 435 of them.
Gabrielle Giffords from Arizona was a moderate Democrat that very closely represented the interests of her constituents. She was against illegal immigration from Mexico which her state shares a border with, but she supported the Health Insurance Reform bill that made heath care available to all Americans regardless of rich or poor. She was shot at point blank range by a far right wing ideologue who was perhaps influenced by the incendiary rhetoric that has pervaded out system now since President Obama took office. This deranged killer of several others used a semi-automatic assault pistol with an extended capacity clip… 31 shots in fact. Where but in America can a known crazy buy a gun and a high capacity magazine on a whim? When you watch our old Westerns ( cowboy movies) and police dramas you get a slightly mistaken picture of gun violence here in the US, but unfortunately not a greatly mistaken picture.
I would hope that ballistic weapons play a far lesser part in your society than ours. We retain the right to own and use weapons of this nature in our Constitutional Second Amendment. Too much of our rural culture is built around these destructive entities. It will not quickly change here , but it needs to.
Now the whole world is watching the oppressed of several nations fight for the most generic of rights: the right to prosper and be economically viable at a personal level. Is it too much to ask of a world that is now so economically dependent on each other, where some nations prosper at the expense of the well being of the citizens of others, to find a way that all men might live in relative comfort from the perils of hunger and disease? Just over two centuries ago Americans fought for much the same reasons as the heroes in Tunisia or Egypt. Simply stated the tyranny of England was depriving the (American) colonies of all that they produced as a means of progress. Now America is going the other way. We are bought and sold by big corporations who own our government. They want to deprive our citizens of what they rightfully produce in much the same way. At the same time globally, because of the coercive nature of American wealth and business power, we are depriving people of the world of that same promise. That needs to change as well. I wonder deep inside if there may be other uprisings all over the world, some much smaller, but with the power of the internet to deliver information it may well happen. God speed. Should it happen here and it might, I’ll be in the streets to take back my nation from the tyranny of big business.
I know little of what the current economics of South Africa is. I have read something about Nelson Mandela and apartheid. But when one reads about this it is always about politics and peaceful racial activism. It is not about his changing the economic landscape of South Africa. I have no ideas about what problems South Africans of both races face as they push and prod the advancement of a nation toward prosperity for everyone. I get a sense that this is happening, but let me convey to you that the opposite is happening here in America. It is only partly racially inspired for the strata and classes of society that define poverty and affluence determine far more the class warfare that we face here than race itself. Our middle class is in decline as the middle class comprised of both races in South Africa ascends, or at least I hope it does. I admit I know little, perhaps others can educate me as I try to show by example the problems of America. What I would caution for you to guard against is the concentration of power, both political and monetary, in the hands of fewer and fewer people. Work as you must to decentralize it. The closer to the individual the means of production is held the easier it is for the individual to prosper. Don’t listen to calls for efficiency by economy of scale. The trickle down of wealth from the top to the bottom through ever increasing tiers of affluence happens less and less. It is your future you demand… please do so.