Twenty years into democracy and we are at each other’s throats. Levels of dissatisfaction go far beyond the high crime rate and unemployment figures. I could list the issues which have caused most despair and conflict over the past few years, but they’re old news now.
South Africa is not the only country whose government appears to fail at every turn, nor are we the only society bursting with violence. But we are part of a country which is still trying to transform itself into a “rainbow nation”. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for that to be realised now.
I’m tired of apartheid. I’m tired of reading about people who had to get violent to get access to basic human rights. I’m tired of judging, being judged, and feeding off a never-ending stream of negativity.
I think you’re tired too. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a call to arms. The message I’m trying to impart is this: I do believe that, despite the undeniable challenges still to be faced, we are actually halfway there.
Unfortunately, in many ways our parents’ view of South Africa and other races and cultures will continue to follow us as we carve out our future. The misconceptions and cruel beliefs we’ve had to see them struggle with and try to impart on us are a part of who we are, whether we like it or not.
I don’t want to go on a tangent about how we should make more of an effort to get along and accept each other – we’ve all heard about that. Ironically, it’s also what we’ve been taught alongside being taught to be cautious of the ‘other race’. We already know that we have to do better. We know that we want better.
There are issues that we must still face and they are serious issues with the potential to cripple the country. But our generation is nonetheless achieving what anti-apartheid activists fought for: we’re standing as one, despite our differences. For a long time, our history has formed a very real part of our present, but we are moving away from it now in a very real way.
Yes, it sounds dreamy and romantic but for the first time I feel that, despite every horrible twist and unbelievable turn, we are getting where we’ve always wanted to be. The very fact that our government has let us down time and again means that we’ve been forced to deal with what’s truly important. When we look back one day, we may realise that it’s the sole reason we’ve moved forward.
It would be dangerous and wrong to say the strikes, the protests, and the general apathy of our government have all been a good thing. But at least our generation is moving South Africa into a space where we can talk about uncomfortable things and accept each other for who and what we are.
There’s no doubt that things will get worse before they get better, and we all have a lot of work to do on ourselves, but at least we have reason to hope.