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A year of hopeful foolishness, where we danced into the arms of death

For many desperate, poor and unemployed South Africans, the wait for a better life continues while poverty and joblessness escalate.
For many desperate, poor and unemployed South Africans, the wait for a better life continues while poverty and joblessness escalate.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

It is often said that a day is a long time in politics. It follows, then, that a year is an eternity in South Africa.

We began the year with the usual State of the Nation Address promises of economic growth, jobs and other nonsense. Indeed, more people have since been retrenched.

More shock therapy came from the dramatic testimonies at the state capture commission, including the outlandish claims made by Jacob Zuma, the liar- in-chief.

We were further numbed by yet more news of gender-based violence, causing us to wonder if the soul of our nation has not been taken over by the worst of demons.

While we were still trying to recover, national and provincial elections came upon us. A few politicians lost or gained seats, but real life continued to worsen.

White plotters in the DA took back their party, leading to dramatic resignations that shook the country.

South Africa won the Rugby World Cup, thereby injecting a tiny dosage of hope that evaporated as quickly as it came.

There is even a king who died this year. According to African tradition, kings and subjects are not supposed to be compared, but more South Africans seem to have mourned Xolani Gwala's departure.

That all these things happened in one year is unbelievable. Such is the whirlwind called South Africa. Its supersonic twirl induces the worst of dizziness.

What must be kept in mind, though, is the fundamental question that underlies everything we do: Is life getting better or worse in SA? As we watch the last bit of this year fade into history, such is the most important question.

In the end, all the noise that gives colour to human drama dies down. What remains to be determined is whether the noise contributes to progress or regress. In other words, have all the things that happened this year taken us forward or backward?

Whenever such grand questions are posed about the life of a nation - especially about life as it currently unfolds - controversy is bound to ensue.

It is the nature of politics that those who rule want their subjects to remain forever hopeful.

As your lot worsens, those who don't know your pain continue to convince you that things will be better.

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer earned the unenviable reputation of being a pessimist for his timelessly sombre declaration: "Befooled by hope, man dances into the arms of death."

Strangely, that is how life flows. As all the things around us suggest we are moving from bad to worse, we are still expected to remain hopeful. Only at the moment of death does it dawn that we were fools when we refused to come to terms with our lot.

Think of the millions of uneducated and unemployable black South African youth in their 20s who are told by politicians to remain hopeful. Twenty five years have proved that our incompetent government does not know how to create jobs. And still the unemployed are expected to remain hopeful.

Each time a new president from the same failed party comes into office, the propagandists of the "new man" introduce more specious slogans to prolong our hopeful dance into the arms of death.

Long after our time on this troubled earth, history shall confirm yet again that we were all engaged in the same game of enriching a tiny elite and impoverishing the masses.

Looking down from the cloudless ether of the afterlife, it shall finally dawn anew that all the twaddle about some amorphous new dawn was nothing more than a ploy to get our hopeful foolishness going.

Those who wish to use this year as a realism test must ask themselves how many jobs have been lost compared to those that have been created. The answer will confirm 2019 as the year of hopeful foolishness. I wish you a better 2020.