Thursday, May 29, 2014

On Being A Patriotic Yet Critical South African

My article as it appeared on News24, May 28, 2014
http://voices.news24.com/fareed-kaloo/2014/05/patriotic-yet-critical-south-african/

We have just witnessed another successful and peaceful election in our young democracy, and as South African’s living in an African continent so rife with political change marred by violence and death, we really do have much to celebrate.

While we may be collectively disgruntled by issues of crime, poverty, corruption and a host of social negatives, we should balance our critical outlook of our country with the many positives which justify our flying the patriotic flag well and truly high.

As a student of everything political and economic, I was fascinated to learn that we were one of the very few nations able to weather the storm of the recent economic collapse experienced by countries perceived to have been better equipped with far greater resources, wealth and experience. The economic downturn may have affected everybody, but the leadership we had in our then Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, was of a high enough caliber as to steer a course away from collapse toward economic stability. Allow the gravity of this accomplishment to sink in and applaud it for what it is, for this was no simple task.
For all the things our government got wrong, this was one feat they got right.

When Eliot Rodger opened fire at the University Of California killing 6 students and injuring 13, it brought back memories of the Columbine High School shooting in America in 1999. Since then there have been at least 31 shootings at schools across America, each involving fatalities. In stark contrast to America’s gun laws and the powerful NRA (National Rifle Association) gun lobby, South Africa has for the most part been able to stem the tide of rampant gun ownership. While the argument can certainly be made for the number of illegal guns in circulation and the percentage of crimes committed by firearms, we need to applaud the authorities and government for the firearms policy which attempts to regulate gun ownership. Many gun owners may feel that the systems and checks in place to attain a gain license are nothing more than another tax on citizens. The reality is that gun ownership in South Africa is nowhere near as easy a process as it is in America, where all one requires is a Social Security card and the filling in of a document. The rest is pretty much an over-the-counter purchase.
For all the things our government got wrong, this was another feat they got right.

In a recent panel discussion I was invited to on CII radio, I made mention of the fact that South African’s can be proud of our entrepreneurial spirit and the driving force behind each one of us that makes us want to overcome and succeed. We’ve shown this fighting spirit on the sporting field, in the political arena, across the business spectrum and in innovation. We’ve taken on the best in the world and come out on top on the cricket pitch, on the rugby field, in the swimming pool and in various other sporting codes. We gave the world the CAT scan, open heart surgery, barbed wire, the Kreepy Crawly and Pratley Putty amongst other innovations. We’ve shown that we are able to find solutions when presented with questions and obstacles.
While the world spends at least $1.7 Trillion annually on it’s military, we should not forget that South Africa is the only nation to have ever given up it’s nuclear weapons program voluntarily. We raise our voices each year when presented with alarming facts on what the rest of the world is doing with their nuclear weapons; the destructive power nation’s are trying to achieve in their ability to wipe countries and people off the planet. We should take the time to applaud our own country for it’s stance on nuclear weapons.
While being critical of others, this is a shining example of why we should be patriotic.

The next time we complain about the price of petrol and how we’re getting screwed over by our government or the Ministry Of Energy, perhaps we should take a critical look at how exactly our fuel price at the pumps compares to the rest of the world. You may be surprised to learn that a recent study of 160 developed nations in the world placed South Africa at, wait for it, number 80 on the list of least to most expensive. Have a look at the global index here http://www.globalpetrolprices.com/gasoline_prices/ and you may want to rethink that move to Australia, New Zealand or the UK.

So how do we fare as a nation on the social arena, more specifically with regards to marriages and divorce?
As a barometer of how a countries citizens are engaging each other on a happiness index, and how well our social and moral fabric has integrated into our homes, many regard divorce rates as a good indicator. Since general contentment and happiness outdoors leads to general contentment and happiness indoors, or at least it should, the marriage and divorce arena is a great litmus test. With the release of the latest stats on this topic from StatsSA, a few interesting details stood out. The highest number of divorces were recorded in the 30-40 age group, with 49% of plaintiffs being women. Huge increases in divorce rates were shown in both the Indian and Coloured communities, with an average increase across all colour lines of 23%.

How does this compare to the rest of the world?
Out of 92 countries polled, South Africa was 64 on the list. While we may not be doing as well as Brazil or even China, we’re certainly not as bad as the US, UK, New Zealand or Australia.
Have a look at the list of divorce rates per population here http://www.divorcemag.com/statistics/statsWorld.shtml
An interesting factor in divorce trends worldwide is the socio-economic element. With the ever increasing need of double-income households, both men and women or both spouses for LGBT relationships are playing an active role in the work environment. For many couples, this has seen an interesting dynamic where the female or ‘wife’ in the relationship is bringing home the lions share of household income. Stress and Finance has always featured highly in matters of divorce, now more than ever.
A common approach by psychologists and marriage counselors is to focus on the positives and show couples the many elements within their union that they should be grateful for. The belief that a current situation will get better is the beginning of the journey toward contentment.
One of the many things we have every right to be content about is the beauty of the country we call home, and the amazing people we share it with.

In the final analysis, let us never forget that South Africa gave the world it’s greatest icon in Nelson Mandela and presented every budding democracy a blueprint for the finest constitution ever penned.

While there are a great many things to be critical of as South Africans, there are an equally great many things to be proud and patriotic about.

Viva South Africa Viva!