Although from time to time we may find ourselves using this blog to let off steam and to make the occasional complaint; we hope that we can also use it to encourage you to think, to examine and to challenge all aspects of your life.
South Africans have a lot to complain about. As winter approaches, it is the lingering threat of Eskom’s load-shedding; for us Gautengers it is the haunting prospect that the e-tolling system cannot be deferred forever; and for anyone with a nature loving bone in their body, it is the tragic impending extinction of rhinos. And that’s not to mention the truly sombre state of affairs when it comes to violent crime rates, government corruption and the ever widening gap between rich and poor. And yet, that seems to be all we South Africans do: complain.
We love to “like” activist groups on Facebook and to “share” their pictures to show our solidarity with the cause. We love to post angry comments on news24 and to phone in to 702 with our 2 cents worth. We love to “dialogue” and to boldly claim what we would do if we were in charge. But talk is easy. It makes us feel as though we have achieved something, when in actual fact, everything is exactly as it was before the conversation started. Now, I am not saying that discussion cannot be productive, but it would seem that standing on the side-lines saying, “Someone should do something about that”, has become a destructive South African condition.
Take the e-toll situation as one very blatant example. No one wants to pay to use our national roads; that point has been made very clear on social media sites and other public forums. Petitions have been signed; the tags have fervently been boycotted and the implementation has successfully been held up by litigation. Yet, of the roughly 2.34 million car owners in Gauteng, only 100 vehicles showed up for Cosatu’s drive slow protest in February this year. But that’s ok, right? Because we were all at work and couldn’t get time off. Well then what about OUTA (Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance) the civic action group established to oppose and stop the implementation of e-tolls, who require donations from businesses and individuals to cover their legal fees? To date, according to their website, they have only 11329 supporters. So yes, no one wants to pay e-tolls, and we’re very vocal about it, but when it comes to actually doing anything about it, we’re happy to sit back and watch it unfold in the press; as long as we can leave our angry comments at the foot of the page.
Now I don’t just want to pick on South Africans. Apathy seems to be a human condition. This is most clearly reflected in the phenomenon of New Year’s Resolutions. The most popular of these tend to revolve around self-improvement: “This year I will be more fit, more healthy, more outgoing, more assertive.” You start off well. You join a gym, stock the fridge with fresh fruit and vegetables and buy a book called “Personality Power” or “10 Steps to a Better You”. But somehow the fruit and vegetables get past their best before you’ve had a chance to eat them, you never make it past chapter 2 and you find yourself slipping into the gym just to use the bathroom so that you don’t fall short of your Vitality quota. You’ve liked all the right pages on Facebook, you’re following all of the health gurus on Twitter, yet somehow it’s May and you still weigh the same and still feel breathless after the short walk from the basement parking garage to your office.
Once again we are all talk and no action. We want the outcome but aren’t willing to put in meaningful effort. We want to talk about what is broken, but we want someone else to actually fix it. We won’t leave our comfy spot on the couch to go for a walk around the block because Homeland is coming on and we won’t stop buying cupcakes because they’re trendy and they taste so damn good. We won’t sacrifice a day of leave to participate in a protest and we will moan about the government yet won’t even take the time to attend a local council meeting. Since the end of 2010 rulers have been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen and civil uprisings continue across many African and Middle Eastern states. Now, I am by no means advocating for revolutionary demonstrations, but perhaps it’s time we closed the laptop screens, started using our cellphones simply to make calls and rather than complaining, used our energy to initiate change, rather than just talk about it. Because as Dr Seuss says:
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot. Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
 All Media and Products Study (AMPS) 2012 a
 “Cosatu’s e-toll protest gathers momentum”, news24 2013-02-11, http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Cosatus-e-toll-protest-gathers-momentum-20130211