iafrica.com reader Andrew de Pomeroy-Legg says that he is struggling more and more to maintain his liberal thinking...
So there we have it. "The Spear" has been painted and displayed, and what has it achieved? Well, for one thing, it's gone and whipped up a complete frenzy of allegations and counter allegations! Brett Murray has offended blacks and in particular Zulus with his open depiction of our president's private parts. The gallery who refused to remove the artwork likewise, and the press who published photographs of it are being singled out for boycott. This is the one side of the story.
The other side is of a group of people who believe that the president has in some way received comeuppance for the way in which they perceive his behaviour. He deserves it. He sleeps around with unmarried women half his age. He made irresponsible comments about HIV/Aids, and his management of the affairs of South Africa has been less than positive.
So who's right, and who's wrong? Is this art, or is this pure provocation? These are not simple questions to answer, and trying to do so is only going to open one up to criticism from those of differing opinions. I have opinions about these questions, and I believe that Brett Murray is off sides, but in some way I feel that the president has courted this and that it is justified or even deserved. The old saying of making one's bed and sleeping in it comes to mind, so I guess I'm kind of on the fence. Is it good art? Possibly, but not something that particularly grabs my admiration. So where does that leave me and my opinion?
Well for one, I believe that the painting is not the real issue here. The real issue here is the response by the ANC, Cosatu, NUM, the SACP and the Zuma family. All of these entities have expressed shock and outrage at the painting, and all of them have suggested that racism is the problem.
The amount of energy expended is significant and continues unabated. As others have suggested, it would be reassuring to get the same level of outcry about the Aurora mine scandal, or the Eastern Cape education debacle. The same response could be wished for the debacle with regards to our top cops of late, and the apparent inability of the presidency to appoint someone fit for the job, but on these issues we just get blessed silence.
The biggest problem with "The Spear" though is that Brett Murray is not public enemy #1 in all of this. No sir, it is me. I am public enemy #1, along with every other white person in South Africa. We are insensitive. We are racist. Given the outcry, you'd think that we all got together around a nice big braai, had a brainstorm as to how to best offend our black brethren, and painted the blasted spear together!
Brett Murray has wittingly or unwittingly provided the ANC and its alliance partners with the ammunition they need to whip up racial tension. Stir the pot of old emotions, and fan the flames of intolerance that they claim to want to get rid of. My concern is that this is not the only contributor to the simmering increase in racial tension in South Africa, and it brings me neatly to the point I really want to make here.
The ANC relies to a large extent on a historically emotional vote to maintain a significant majority in South African politics. We have a president who tells people that their ancestors will question them should they not vote ANC. Emotional blackmail plain and simple.
We have a president who has to make corny jokes in Parliament about his sleeping with the daughter of his peer. We have a government that has failed South Africans on so many fronts, and shows no sign of stemming the corruption that causes wanton waste of taxpayer's money.
This money could have gone into schools and health care; it could have gone into housing, but instead it is funnelled away into private accounts held by the politically connected. It is wasted on kissing competitions and purchases we do not need (arms deal, etc.), and even when it is available, the lack of management capability caused by cadre deployment sees to it that in many cases it does not get utilised as it should.
I have a problem with this. Not because it is mainly blacks who preside over this mess, but because it is a mess. I work hard for my money and I pay my taxes, but the government does not use my money effectively. I have dreams of a South Africa where race is not a factor in people's economic status, the type of education they receive or the home they live in. These dreams and hopes of mine are shattered by the ANC almost daily, and what is the result?
Well, I as a 37-year-old white guy find myself struggling more and more to maintain my liberal thinking, my positivity and my dreams for a better South Africa for all. I don't consider myself racist, but more and more I find myself generalising negatively about my black fellow citizens.
I know I shouldn't, and I know that you can't generalise, but it is becoming an uphill battle for me. I have no respect for our president, and I have very little for those that support him. I find the silence of others in the ANC sickening and I feel them to be complicit.
Worst of all, I start to question those who vote for the ANC, and as you can see, slowly the distaste spreads, and I have to keep reminding myself not to generalise. So, what's the problem with this?
The problem is that I like to think of myself as a fairly open-minded individual. I hate racism and I dream of a better South Africa for all. I never played a part in Apartheid but I recognise how I have benefited hugely over so many of my fellow countrymen.
In a way, I feel guilty about it and the result is that I feel strongly about our obligation as South Africans to work on redressing the wrongs of the past. It's not just because of the guilt, but because it is the right thing to do! This is what really irks me about the current ANC-led government. They are failing in this task. They are the first to speak about redress, and yet they are not attending to the problem.
Instead, they turn their backs on corruption and its results, act on it only when forced to do so by the media they attempt to muzzle, and then at every turn when things don't work out, they simply pull the race card. The politically connected continue to get away with murder, and all this with my tax money!
Our president may not have been found guilty in a court of law, but there is a difference between legal guilt and actual guilt. In my mind, he is corrupt and guilty. It makes me feel angry, resentful and helpless.
I can deal with that, but the worst of it is that slowly but surely it is turning me into a racist, the very thing I despise and hate. The very thing I speak out against, and as much as I know it is wrong, I sometimes feel like I'm slipping into a place I don't want to be. Worrying though, I think I may not be the only one, and if there is anything South Africa can do without right now, it is more racism.
If anything, "The Spear" and the controversy surrounding it have clarified this problem for me. Am I the only one? Surely not! Is "The Spear" the actual problem here, or is it just a symptom of an unhealthy undercurrent in South Africa today? Is it an indicator that whilst we are dreaming to grow together, there are those who willfully force us apart for their own selfish agenda? Is the Rainbow Nation slowly evaporating?
I truly hope not, but should those in positions of power be allowed to continue on their course, I fear that this country will lose the momentum of goodwill that we began to develop, and that will be a crying shame. I hope the political race mongers and corrupt officials are willing to make changes to the way they operate, or they will need to accept that they will go down in history as the people they are, and not as the people they profess to be.
What do you think of Andrew's opinions? Leave a comment below...