While we might not agree on what on earth “equality” is and what such a concept would mean for us, tangibly, there is often a space were we can come together and more readily agree upon. While we might not know what equality is exactly, we certainly don’t have it.
Not only do we not have it, but many would contend that we are very far from where we need to be. I think that this point is clearly evidenced by the sheer magnitude of the material inequality, civic unrest and downright violence we are seeing. All around us. Pumped right to us through all our news sources. Beamed into our homes to televisions and radios. Waiting for us right outside our doorsteps and hanging like a dark cloud in our places of work… for those fortunate enough to even work that is.
We’ve come so far though. Like here in South Africa. Having – one way or the other – dispelled the Apartheid government. We have witnessed the civil rights movement of the ever present US of A. We have seen the rise of the so called democratization of the world as we know it. Much has been gained and much has been lost. There was so much bitterness and pain in the struggles that brought the world into it’s present state of being. In fact, I mean all of this in the present tense… You know, the depth and sheer sacrifices of these movements and the people who drove them are being virtually lost amongst the noise of the monotonic optimism with which we look back. Through lenses we encourage our children to use, to embrace a simple history of struggle and success that simply never was.
So here we are. In our relative position. Doing our best to enjoy so called individual freedoms that we assume was the purpose and intended culmination of the efforts of the conflicts that tainted and painted our collective histories.
And now through the painstaking efforts of those before us we are left with constitutions and institutions. Built by passionate and discerning minds who sought to protect [wo]mankind from herself. From himself. We have rules and strategies that are so complex and so glittery – but slippery. Their essence seems so easily lost on all but everyone involved in the process of their formation, their intentions are met with the opposition of our continued efforts to progress with our daily lives freeing ourselves from what we deem to be unnecessary stress.
We have these institutions with their well thought out constitutions. Why do we find it so hard to enact them?
Where is our Political Will?
Now I’m not speaking directly to your Parliament. Your Congress or your Cabinet. I mean to address the Politics between us. In our homes on our doorsteps and beyond do we have the political will to push forward in a direction towards social equality?
We seem to be growing quite cynical, fostering and flourishing opinions damning the inherent fallacies in our institutions – you know, the ones with the glistening constitutions. We are frustrated by the inability to resolve our own behaviour. Blinded by the fallacy of our assumption that they ever existed to do this on our behalf.
Let me ask you though.
The next time your brother or your father – by blood or otherwise – speaks words of violence against women. Will you have the Political will to listen to what you are hearing? Will you have the Political Will to act against what you are witnessing?
We are in times where we are in many senses connected to one another more than ever before.
We are in times where we are in many senses disconnected from one another more than ever before.
We have broken and will continue to break records as we gather in numbers to protest. The world over.
We are gathering in ways that have never been seen on this Earth. We will stand in solidarity against injustice, it is clear that we are willing. But do we have the Political will to Build while we Burn?
We distrust these institutions, with their much talked about constitutions. Their flaws and their limitations are so clear to us in the light of the modern day. But now we must rise with another wave and acknowledge that even with their failings that their are still tangible gains to be made.
I won’t end on this note, here where I normally do. I’ll share with you a suggestion if not a provocation.
Remember the conflict somewhere in Central Africa? You know that one we saw briefly in our newspapers right in the bottom left hand corner under the latest corrupt “African Leader” special news spread.
Well, yes. It’s still happening.
And guess what? We have troops deployed to the area. From our country. South Africa. They are working there on behalf of you. And on behalf of me.
We have asylum seekers all over our beautiful city, from somewhere in the Congo, you know? Many drive the local middle class and tourists around in taxi cabs. Many remove troublemakers from trendy nightclubs. Many work as informal traders. Many are treated with disdain by Home Affairs. Many are treated without a second care. Many are seen as nebulous “African Immigrants” from somewhere “up there”. Their French is not elevated to the level of exotic or romantic. Where are the translators we need for the stories? Are they perhaps deployed to our French tourists who wish to tour the colony…?
Many stand by and watch as we gather in protest. With our record numbers as we argue veraciously for the Freedom of Palestinians. As the Congo, wherever that is, goes on and on without mention.
I am complicit in these actions, don’t get that twisted. While and I don’t mean to accuse, I think that their is something important missing from our discourse that I cannot excuse.
I leave you with a thought as it is, in it’s infancy..
We know with our structures they exist in their present shape that they cannot deliver us to equality. But we must generate and encourage a revived spirit of new Political will. More energy is required and more sacrifices are to be had, prepare to let go of your overvalued individual freedoms if you do not acknowledge that we must work and accept some good with the bad.
Our era will be remembered on how well we are able to make this transition. Will we be able to Build while we continue to Burn?
Acknowledgements must be made to Public lectures that I found to be extremely persuassive and have heavily influenced this essay.
Presendent Michell Bachelet for her participation in the “Gender in Dialogue” discussion at the University of Cape Town
Professor of Philosophy (Sheffield University) Miranda Fricker for her talk “Epidemiological Equality?” at the University of Cape Town
1 Miranda Fricker – Epistemic Equality?: http://youtu.be/u8zoN6GghXk
Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy Charles W. Mills (Northwestern University) for his talk on “Race Equality” at the University of Cape Town
3 Charles W. Mills – Racial Equality: http://youtu.be/dAaDz2Ac1aQ