Jack Bloom on overcoming the hang-ups that handicap us as a country
How screwed up are we as a country?
There are many aspects of our national psyche that only psychologists can really explain. For instance, why is so much talk around the Soccer World Cup about how we need to prove ourselves to the world.
Our stadiums should be superb so that the foreigners will be impressed. Our streets should be safe so they don't get robbed or murdered. Roads should be fixed and public transport improved so they can get around with ease. And we should all be on our best behaviour as friendly smiling hosts.
But why can't we do all this as a matter of course for our own benefit? We surely devalue our own worth when we motivate good things for outside approval. It's an inferiority complex, part of the psychological scars that we bear from our history. It's why criticism by whites is often dismissed as camouflaged racism even if is well-intentioned and obviously true.
These kinds of internal demons led former president Thabo Mbeki into disastrous policy errors.
Worst was his Aids-denialism that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands who could have been saved by early prevention measures and anti-retroviral treatment. He raved instead against stereotypes of black male promiscuity and accused Western pharmaceutical companies of wanting to poison Africans with their drugs. The quack Virodene drug and local herbal remedies were promoted to show that African cures were as good as Western medicine.
All this while he took great care to be meticulously attired in the best tailored Western suits.
This is why former DA leader Tony Leon saw virtue in proudly traditionalist Jacob Zuma being "comfortable in his skin". Whatever his other faults, Zuma seldom uses the race card to stifle debates.
Julius Malema, in contrast, plays to black nationalism when he questions why ethnic minorities dominate the economic ministries and berates the SA Communist Party's Jeremy Cronin for being a "white messiah".
Yet his taste in clothes, accessories and vehicles is all European or American.
He draws large crowds even though he has done virtually nothing for youth or the poor whom he claims to champion while flaunting a lavish lifestyle funded by government tenders.
Politics is never entirely rational in any country, but our blind spots and hang-ups are particularly self-defeating as we don't have vast resources to waste on healing our psychic wounds.
Take the top-level obsession with expensive land redistribution when most black people flock to the cities where they see their real future. Meanwhile, our food security is in danger because 90% of redistributed farms have failed because of lack of ongoing support.
Another leadership obsession is to blame the past.
This is understandable, but not productive as successful countries are forward-looking and willing to work even with former enemies.
There are two ways to react to setbacks - either blame others, or look inwards and address them squarely. This is true empowerment, the type that politicians don't like because it means they are directly accountable for failure.
As with preparations for the successful World Cup, we should cultivate a culture of "no excuses". We should appoint the best people for the job, adhere to deadlines and deliver. This is the best way to achieve national sanity.
Jack Bloom is a DA Member of the Gauteng Legislature. This article first appeared in The Citizen.
POST SENT BY: CFC NEWSROOM