Funny! After the carefully staged theatrics of SONA night we watched the film adaptation of the Milan Kundera's iconic novel on the Czechoslovakian Spring "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". It's not a great film by any means, with Daniel Day-Lewis playing the chief protagonist, Tomas, who escapes the pain of the world through the joys of promiscuous sex with an enviable cast of willing and gorgeous girls.
Perhaps the best part of the film, however, is the depiction of the brutal, inept and corrupt Russian Communist rule under which a talented and creative people were reduced to grinding poverty and paranoia. But let us be quite clear about this: Kundera makes his view plain that, to some extent, the Russians were simply the other face of the irresponsible Czechs who were too caught up in their own narcissistic, self-indulgent games to ward off the threatening menace from across their border.
Watching the dangerous EFF in the staged buffoonery in Parliament heckling the equally buffoonish ANC Top Brass in the staged theatrics which preceded the embarrassingly irrelevant and predictable address by Zuma, it seemed that we were watching the South African version of Kundera's novel with politics, unfortunately, taking the place of sex as the opium of the masses.
South Africa is a country addicted to slogans, primitive identity politics and grandstanding. Thus the majority (at least till now) accept the political mafia running our country into the ground while it white-ants the institutions which shore up our new and precarious democracy. In exchange they indulge in anti-social behaviour on the personal and collective levels, enjoy the dubious pleasures of racism and bask in the politics of grievance with our history providing a bottomless sink of stories and myths to light the path to self-destruction.
By now the verdict of history is in. The countries which have succeeded in providing their citizens with stability, personal freedom and prosperity are procedurally and, to a significant extent, substantively democratic, have a largely free-market, entrepreneurial economy, have an educated and technologically minded population, provide sufficient "social welfare" to avoid debilitating poverty and pockets of alienated criminality, maintain crime and civil disobedience at relatively low levels and possess some sense of national identity (lasting longer than the latest world sporting tournament) based on genuinely shared values and a shared destiny. These reflect a broad liberal, entrepreneurial ethos coupled to ideas deriving from a social democratic ideology.
We are clearly a long way from there and the question is, "how do we get there"? An accumulating body of evidence suggests that economic success at least, rests upon a set of common cultural values, including, a broad level of social trust, a generalised morality extending beyond one's own ethnic group, a commitment to personal responsibility and autonomy and, finally, belief in thrift and the value of hard work.