When Right is Wrong and Wrong is Right

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The other day I stopped at a stop sign and the driver behind me hooted and hooted (blew on his horn) at me. You see, in South Africa stopping at a stop sign is no longer the thing to do. Someone was telling me how they risk using the postal service because anything with the slightest value just doesn’t get to its destination. The attitude was, “That’s just the way things are and if you use the service expect your stuff to be taken.” Just two tiny examples among many, many more, of how we in our country are slipping in to a dangerous ethical lethargy, where right slowly becomes wrong and wrong slowly becomes right.

Does this all sound rather trivial. I suppose to some it does. But let me add something more to the pot in the form of a revealing article entitled, “The SACP’s love affair with North Korea.”

The SA Communist Party, (who are bedfellows of our ruling party – my words) recently held a meeting addressed by North Korean Ambassador Jo Yong Man. According to the SACP press statement, he shared ‘the history of the Korean revolution, its current contradictions in the fight against US Imperialism and the South Korean puppet regime.’

“He invited the SACP to jointly celebrate North Korea’s 50th anniversary of independence on 27 July 2013. It’s mind-boggling that a political party in democratic South Africa finds affinity with the ghastly repression and backwardness of North Korea.

“It epitomises George Orwell’s fear about Stalinism: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” North Korea is a vast prison camp for 24 million people that tramples on every single human right.”

Let it be said, this all happening while the great Nelson Mandela, with all his marvellous and magnanimous history, lies  dying in a hospital and whose presence and enormously spacious spirit certainly would not have been tolerated in any way by that frightening regime.

But what’s all this got to do with so called insignificant little unprincipled acts? Well, when you no longer stop at stop signs; when you persist in stealing people’s post; when you allow a myriad of other ethical discrepancies to become the order of the day, you slowly allow yourself to be grasped by an ethical blindness and darkness the scale of which eventually becomes sheer dread. I must confess that at times I despair over the land I love.

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About Don

I love life. Sometimes it makes sense, other times not. Discerning its underlying patterns and beauty always provides great reward and meaning and is a passion I ineptly follow. I feel deeply attached to nature and love the sea with its distinct moods and colour and find walking along its beaches wonderfully inspiring. Writing, sketching and photography is a sheer joy for me and the blog is one of the places I am able to express these pursuits.
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18 Responses to When Right is Wrong and Wrong is Right

  1. josna says:

    Don, you are pointing out a troubling downward slide in the state of affairs, both of state functions and civil society, something that can go relatively unnoticed while one is in the midst of it—until things reach crisis proportions. (Doris Lessing writes about this state of affairs as “it” in her 1974 _Memoirs of a Survivor_.) When you can no longer trust the basic state services you have taken for granted, and people are thrust into the situation of having to organize themselves, it is a frightening prospect indeed. Are there enough organizations such as unions and citizens’ groups who could unite in a social movement to inject South African Democracy with renewed efficacy, energy, and commitment? If not, there is the risk that motley groups of individuals of different political persuasions could form their own militias and take the law into their own hands. We see this danger here in the United States.
    On the North Korea question, although I don’t know enough to confirm what you say about the SACP and the ANC being bedfellows, didn’t your government condemn the recent North Korean nuclear test?
    Thank you for this post and for keeping us alert.

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    • Don says:

      Thanks Josna. Appreciate your comment. You ask such good questions and raise such important issues. I’m sure you understand that the complexity is of such a nature that one can’t simply handle it in a response like this to your comment. But let me say a few things.

      Firstly, the African National Congress (ANC), The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) are in a strategic political alliance with one another. It’s called the Tripartite Alliance. They are so embedded in one another that it is difficult to know at times who is running our country. They are indeed bedfellows although cracks are beginning to appear in their Alliance. These cracks are being watched with great interest precisely because of the kind of discrepancies in the kind of announcements you mentioned in your last paragraph.

      Secondly, there is a profound mistrust in the basic state services. Last year there were all sorts of upheavals in townships throughout the country because of basic service delivery. The government has failed dismally in this area and people are losing patience, especially when they see the extend of the corruption that is going on and the enrichment of officials. The police are fast losing all credibility. The kind of violence they themselves are perpetrating is totally unacceptable. Crime, in spite of what the government may say, is at unacceptable levels, especially against women and children.

      Thirdly, there are some wonderful citizen groups and NGO’s that are doing marvellous work and they are beacons of light and hope in the midst of the darkness and turmoil. And, yes we are in constant danger of motley groups making their presence felt, but there is also a tremendous amount of goodwill amongst our people across the racial divide.

      Fourthly, A new political party has just been registered which is led by a woman of immense credibility who herself could no longer find a home in the ANC. Opposition to the ANC is growing and this is a good thing. We are in desperate need of stronger opposition. The main opposition, the Democratic Alliance are themselves growing especially after the appointment of Lindiwe Mazimbuko as leader, an outstanding young woman who made such a profound impression on the programme Hardtalk.

      Having said all this, in spite of the enormous difficulties facing us as a nation, there are those pockets of hope and light that inspire us all. Hope this helps a little Josna.

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      • josna says:

        Thank you so much, Don, for having taken the time and trouble to write such a thoughtful reply. While I know that the situation is serious, I am heartened by the developments you mention. The situation in India seems quite comparable, in that there is so much corruption and violence in politics, government, and government institutions, but there are also so many people and that are doing amazing, inspiring work. I will keep an eye on the Democratic Alliance and hope that it goes from strength to strength.

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      • Don says:

        Pleasure Josna. Thank you for being so interested.

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  2. Don,
    I share your frustration with the “little things” that become larger and larger until we often wonder if the world will ever be able to go on without a significant course correction, but then it appears to. The world as we know it will certainly be a much lesser place without the presence of Nelson Mandela. His example of courage and determination to make his country better at such high personal cost is an example of the very best of our species.
    Margaret Mead says “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.”
    The legacy for Mr. Mandela may be how many of these small groups he leaves behind in your country and ours.
    Sheila

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    • Don says:

      Thank you Shiela. Yes I agree with you. It’s strange how those little course corrections just suddenly materialize in spite of us and the decisions we make. We will never be able to fully grasp what Nelson Mandela means to us. Sadly the very organization that he was such an intricate part of shows less and less of his spirit as the years go by. But thankfully there are those that hold on to it and will carry his legacy not only in the present but right in to the future. Love those words of Margaret Mead. What an outstanding woman. Her books have given me much.
      Thank you for being a fellow frustration sharer.

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  3. Hester says:

    Like a friend said after all the violence: “Cry for the beloved….”

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    • Don says:

      So true Hester. One often feels that way. And I must say that I’m so tired of that false shallow kind of ra-ra optimism and patriotism that just has no idea of the magnitude of the issues we face. Sometimes I feel that that is one of the most dangerous attitudes in our land – an optimism that just refuses to see and grasp the real issues. Thank you for your comment and I hope you are well.

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  4. nrhatch says:

    I see the dyke leaking in so many places that I’m afraid it won’t hold much longer . . . we don’t have enough fingers to plug all the leaks. 😦

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  5. Kathy Marsden says:

    Thank you for the balanced perspective holding both small and big in view. I find myself forever having to juggle these things, much of which I can’t fathom. I am thankful every day for the Methodist minister who prayed for Dr Mandela back in the early 60’s. When I was growing up in South Africa there was such a successful attempt to blot that name from our minds. At least I felt some connection with the man who led the change that has taken place in our country, because his name was said in our prayers. I say it in my prayers now with a gratitude I hardly know how to express. In all the disquiet of the situation with it’s flouting of the basic law of humanity that you do not do to others what you don’t want then to do to you, as you have mentioned, there is hope, because not every person behaves selfishly, and not every person is greedy. On the political front the new party gives me hope for the future because the leader is a thinker and she has integrity.

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    • Don says:

      Thanks Kathy. As you say we will never be able to grasp fully the debt we owe Nelson Mandela. His very name embodies all that is just, good and true. I too have confidence in the new leaders that are stepping forward, especially Dr Mamphela Ramphele. She is an outstanding woman. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

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  6. Complacency is a destructive force. First it starts with the little things like not obeying signs (which is actually quite a big issue since it is a possible fatality waiting to happen) then progresses to no one speaking up for human rights and safety. When we behave ethically as a society we all prosper. Another insightful and eye-opening post, Don.

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  7. katy says:

    Does this ring a bell Don? “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark”. Marcellus commenting of “Claudius,s mismanagement of the body politifc astutely notes the Denmark is festering with moral and political corruption. I like what you said about Mam. Ram. – and she is a little pocket of hope and light in the dark and dirty world of politics. I oftern say you have to be a bit of an ostrich to live in S.A. and stay fairly sane. We love our adopted fcountry but still the questions arises “To flee or not to flee”!!!!!

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    • Don says:

      It certainly does ring a bell, Katy.I agree with you – she is a pocket of hope, refreshing and full of integrity. I just hope she is able to handle the intense resistance which is already coming her way and that it’s not going to turn in to another COPE. Thanks Katy.

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  8. I didn’t know any of this. Thx for sharing. I wish cable news in the US would share more “news” and not put so much focus on just 1 or 2 things at a time.

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