2019 taught us that South Africans want the best for each other, that together, we are stronger. More than that, it proved that with the right attitude we can really achieve pretty much anything, writes Howard Feldman
The sun that shone on 2019 is setting fast.
And in the twilight days of the year, it is important that we look back to see how we fared.
In a few short weeks, when the calendar reads January 2020, we will no longer care about the year that was, let alone the last decade, that will be summed up by our choice of music, popular movies and celebrity un-doings. Before we know it, it will be the fashion fails that will grab our attention, and all real lessons will be lost.
We are that shallow.
I asked the listeners to my morning show to sum up their highs and lows of the year. Most listed South Africa winning the Rugby World Cup as their highlight.
For some reason we seemed to forget about the Ndlovu Youth Choir who made us proud on the international stage. Both these events showcased what we are capable of. Linked to this, somehow was the birth of the #ImStaying movement which was what a number of people mentioned.
Xenophobic and gender-based violence unsurprisingly was listed by some, but nearly all mentioned Eskom as their lowlight.
For me Eskom was both a low and high, for the following reason: I reached the pit of negativity one winter night during the past year. Load shedding was at its most aggressive and I, along with the weather, was bitter.
As a family we weren’t prepared, and consequently had no alternate power supply. We had no heating, no lights and worse than that, no cellphone signal. In short, I had nothing to distract me from the frustrating reality of a corrupt and shameful government who were the cause of my suffering. I felt impotent and angry and very sorry for myself.
Not one to give up on connectivity I paced outside in search of a few bars of signal. It was only when I viewed myself from the outside in, that I realised how fast I was plummeting. And that I had to stop my descent into complete misery. That was the moment that I resolved to ensure that I would do what I could do, to make myself comfortable during a power outage and to ensure that I would protect myself as much as I was able to.
I also resolved to celebrate the positive of the country.
What I didn’t realise was that many South Africans, each in their own way, had decided to do the same. It was as though a collective decision had been taken to seek that which uplifts us, without denying the challenges that we face. Shortly after that, the pendulum swung and South Africans began to scribe their own narrative.
The best way to determine if 2019 was a decent year is to look at where we were at the end of the year before. My view is that although SAA, Eskom and the economy are not where we want, or need them to be, there is now a real and constructive focus on getting them right. Eskom has a new CEO, SAA is undergoing restructuring and no one is taking the NHI too seriously.
South Africans have further matured in our democratic growth.
We are sometimes even aware that political parties like the EFF gain more from dividing us than uniting us, and at times are even capable of forming our own view as to whether something is truly racist or not. We are able to spot a cheap attempt at race baiting.
2019 taught us that South Africans want the best for each other. It proved that together we are stronger. More than that, it proved that with the right attitude we can really achieve pretty much anything.
In his poem Invictus, William Ernest Henley could well have been referring to the year 2019 in South Africa when he penned the words, “In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud, under the bludgeoning of chance, my head is bloody but unbowed.”
Together, indeed, we are stronger.
– Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.
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