Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mandela's Legacy

I've spent the last several days mostly at home vigorously failing to write down any of my many thoughts. South Africa is unfinished business for me. I know that much. My blogging was not up to my intentions of course, but stands as a sort of series of photographs, incomplete and some blurry, but nevertheless captured memories. But I don't think I've finished.

I think a lot about South Africa, and what it has done. There is rightly an impression that South Africa must be a bit backward politically, that finally in 1994 it shrugged off institutional racism. But as a microcosm of the World it seems to me that it is the first not the last.

Because South Africa is a microcosm of the world, and a world which is globalising faster than everyone is comfortable with. South Africa contains both the First World and the Developing World, but in 1994 the borders were removed. Maybe we should keep a careful eye on it. Maybe we should study Mandela's politics carefully. It might be the best model we have to pull down the global apartheid which is holding back millions of human opportunities in every direction.

Australia may feel blessed to be an island, and to be able to pretend that we can seal ourselves off from the problems of the world around us with our own version of barbed wire, but this world is becoming one very rapidly, and ultimately I fear the barbed wire is going to hold us back.

Don't talk to South Africa, which shares a very permeable border with Zimbabwe, about refugees. Actually, if you're Australian you better keep your mouth shut about that topic pretty much wherever you go.

This current Australian election reveals to us more starkly than ever the inadequacy of federal government when it comes to the real issues of our day - population, poverty, climate change, terrorism, sustainability. These problems, for both major parties, are things that can be kept out by border security and xenophobia. But they can't. Addressing these things - and Australia still isn't even big enough to spend the recommended 0.09% of GDP on foreign aid - is addressing Australia's biggest problems. Educating and developing the World is the highest priority for Australia's interests. Meanwhile any interplanetary visitor would be reporting back to its people that Earth practices apartheid and that the current Australian election is the western elite once again voting for it.

I refer to the fact that Pauline Hanson's then-controversial views on refugees have now permeated both sides of parliament. For anyone who still feels strongly about this issue, the only political refuge, unfortunately, is the Greens.

"Build the fences higher," is not going to work. At some stage in the medium future, the World is going to have to pull the fences down and let the people of the World live where it is good for them to live and get jobs where they can get jobs. If facing that sort of music horrifies us, we should think of the white South Africans, and not feel so self-righteous when we do so.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Carl said...

Good about the Mandela's Legacy and also about to spending the several weeks and facts about South Africa is great to read.

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November 10, 2010 4:53 pm  
Anonymous Cam Cazaly said...

The "boat people issue" is an ugly distraction. The vast majority of these folk turn out to be genuine refugees. In any case, compared to the amount of overstayers that come by plane, the numbers are truly insignificant. Maybe the ALP lost their moral compass in western Sydney, but the trad media establishment also has more than a touch of responsibility here. Why do these echoes of the WAP still have any currency at all? I thought we'd moved past this.

June 07, 2011 12:14 am  

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