Our Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel delivered the 9th Annual Steve Biko Lecture at UCT on the 12th September to honour the great man’s life and work. Invoking the clarity, intelligence and vision that proved to be so energizing to a broken people, Steve Biko was brutally tortured and killed for it.
The parasitic corruption, greed and abuse of power that moved monstrously through the minds of those he stood fearlessly against, appear to have found new, willing hosts. The sanitizing spring.clean of Madiba and the Constitution offered a glimpse of the potential underneath the mess. But we’ve started to forget the dimensions of possibility we dreamt of together as we walked around our newly unified rainbow nation in 1994.
These days home’s looking a little like a gaudy hillbilly palace invaded by debaucherous misfits who’ve bullied their way in and raiding the place for any valuables.
Those who could stand against ethical rot with the class of courage and intellect of Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu seem to have been born in a time where heroes weren’t made of bendy plastic.
If it weren’t for the miracle of social media I have no doubt I’d have been less inspired by the Minister’s address. [Talk of government knowing that they have no hope of delivering houses, justice or hope without participation* from the community is no big surprise on the rewind. Good thing Trevor Manuel is an engaging speaker or I'd have been as asleep as the MPs who are outted on the live Parliamentary broadcasts.] Being outsourced the goverment’s snag list without the attendent perks wouldn’t have me rushing in with glee. And pegging all our hopes on those warm-hearted, overworked, overwhelmed beings in the NGO sector is as sure a bet as waiting for George Bush to become a vegan.
An energetic democracy requires some energetic activism. What a tragic waste of the precious lives of brave leaders if we’re merely swapping one tyrannical regime for another with a bit of heady free-time between.
Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless or corrupt.
- MK Gandhi
Before the doors that have let in light and opportunity from the outside world are slammed shut, we have the opportunity to wedge in, evoke the courage of the ancestors and stand in the way of injustice. I’m sure there’s an illuminating strategy would work, but until a visionary leader actually emerges to bestow it upon us, I’m not going to be expecting a miracle.
HOWEVER if you are crazy enough to think that life could be more interesting that middle-America’s mantra of work-buy-display-repeat.. I say these times are custom.built for us. We are digitally-enhanced to stretch across the length and breadth of the planet, with the the power of the attention economy it’s a snap to gather communities of those with shared passions, AND lo! we have a worthy cause to engage some meaningful change to countless lives. Good heavens, for a wannabe hero, this is the place to get your game on.
It’s not a South African issue actually, it’s a global challenge to those of us who have these new.found tools to outrace the challenges that threaten to engulf humanity (if not in violent strife, then at least in choking consumerism).
Surely if we invoke the energizing memory of these great ones powerfully enough, we too can craft ourselves the right kind of leaders with bright minds, warm hearts and clean hands and once again change the shape of the world?
* Ironically we didn’t get to participate, question or offer suggestions! Anyone else think it may be a really good time to offer the remaining forces for good in political office a helping hand into digital ubuntu and the wonders of Web 2.0 activism at work?
Thanks to the kind invitation from the Steve Biko Foundation.
[oh yes, the pic above is licenced under Creative Commons so please feel free to use & share (exciting if you attribute to me, Max Kaizen, but not essential) I took the pic on New Year's morning '08 from the southern tip of Africa]
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