Making a difference

Load shedding. Global warming. Mass killings. Broken sewage works. Corruption. Plastic pollution. Drought. Racism. Poor service delivery. Broken trains. Expropriation without compensation. Genetic modification. There is bound to be something in that list that makes you profoundly depressed, or very angry. And, let’s face it, that list is hardly exhaustive (add to it gang violence, road deaths and poor schooling, for example, if you like).
Yes, the world is, indeed, a mess at the moment, and South Africa is as much of a mess as the rest of the planet.
But, while there may be a glimmer of light at the end of our South African tunnel in the form of an outcome to next month’s election that hopefully will see President Ramaphosa more firmly entrenched in his position as ANC leader and therefore as president, many of the global problems faced by the human race are simply too huge to solve quickly, if at all.
For example, global warming is not going away soon, however much the more sensible nations of the world might wish it when they set targets for reductions in expected temperature increases. That’s simply because the world’s ever-increasing population will continue to burn hydrocarbons in their homes, factories, cars, aircraft etc, despite the huge advances being made almost daily in alternative energy supplies.
Likewise, plastic pollution of the seas, manifested in the vast gyres of floating rubbish now found in the centres of all the world’s oceans, is not going away soon, simply because it is too difficult and costly to recover it. People who suggest that it is feasible to sail a ship out into the middle of the ocean and simply lift the filth aboard for transport back to land clearly have no conception of what’s involved, technically or financially. It’s not like one is sailing a raft out into the middle of Hartbeespoort Dam to lift out an invasion of water hyacinth. It can take a fast cargo ship five or more days to reach a point mid ocean, and when it gets there the state of the sea is often not a millpond.
Factors such as these can contrive to make one profoundly depressed, a situation not helped when one switches on the radio in the morning to be bombarded by news of corruption and larceny on a grand scale among our politicians and business luminaries.
Will it help to see these thieves before a court of law and, eventually, in prison? Yes, it probably will, in a token way, but however many finally swop their suits for orange overalls it will not undo the damage they have caused. For the money is gone, either out of the country (courtesy of the Gupta family, for example) or simply wasted. It would be naïve, for example, to think that Chancellor House, Hitachi and others who have frittered away billions while building two sub-standard, obsolete, highly-costly and behind-schedule power stations are going to give back the money in some form of corporate mea culpa gesture.
The best we can do, therefore, is to start afresh, building what was started before the Zuma era, into something that will once again reflect the high ideals and promise of the Mandela years.
And that’s not something that we as individuals can do alone. It will take the combined efforts of us all to put our differences behind us and strive forward with the sort of common purpose we achieved in the glory days of the 2010 World Cup, or those now far off days of triumph in 1995 when South Africa won the Rugby World Cup.
But while collective effort towards a common good is the only way we as a country are going to get back to where we wanted to be, we still have to live as individuals. We still need to deal with the everyday issues of keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table, of ensuring the best possible education for our kids, making provision for our old age, looking after our health, and doing our own individual bit to minimise our impact on the planet. So that when we leave it after our allotted “fourscore years and ten” (or however many years destiny has planned for us), we do so safe in the knowledge that we left it in a slightly better state than we found it in.
And it’s not so difficult to do, so long as one arms oneself with an awareness of the issues that beset us, and the knowledge to overcome them. For, truly, ignorance is the enemy. If you don’t know that there’s a problem you won’t know what to do to fix it.
And some of the fixes are neither difficult to do, nor onerous. Preventing pollution by recycling one’s waste, eliminating plastics, composting organic matter, ensuring favourable habitats for natures little helpers ~ these are all things one can do on one’s smallholding. And should be doing. And doing them will make one feel much more positive about life in general.