Exceptional darkness

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By Kabelo Mollo

This winter weather is oppressive! It is as my West African friends would declare, an enemy of progress! Much like the pronouncement in the United States where the Supreme Court chose to repeal the infamous landmark ruling of Roe v Wade.

The decision effectively allows red and perhaps other Christian fundamental states to ban abortions. It has taken away the right for every woman to make a choice about their body, instead allowing federal governments to make the call. The “land of the free” moniker was dealt a severe blow when a conservative Supreme court made that determination. In all honesty I’d rather the weather oppress me than the courts! America seems to have started its regress to the dark ages.

Speaking of dark, our only neighbour South Africa has ratcheted up its march towards the darkness with stage six “loadshedding”. One tweeter suggested stage six is where Eskom comes to your home and blows out your candles while another claimed stage six is where Andre de Ruyter  (Eskom CEO) turns off the sun. Comedy notwithstanding, the energy situation in South Africa reached crisis proportion long ago, and it seems nothing at all is being done to fix it. The powers that be seem averse to independent power producers while renewable energy seems a pipe dream. The dark ages well and truly gripping us!

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What the two aforementioned countries have in common is an exceptionalism that has been sold to us so expertly that many of us believed it. When I was in my foundation years I attended the American International school of Johannesburg. It was a wonderful experience with an eclectic and cosmopolitan mix of children. What was interesting however was the propaganda machine that was on hyper drive. In our kindergarten class we were all given a turn to be the flag bearer, but even more sacred than that was the opportunity to lead the class when doing “the pledge of allegiance”. I think we all felt a great deal of pride whenever that opportunity came about. Of course half the class was American so that made sense but even those of us from the third world felt those pangs of pride as we pledged our allegiance to the flag.

South Africa meanwhile was touted as the rainbow nation. A dream nation state where the oppressed chose not to rise up and exact revenge upon their oppressors. It was a shining beacon of light in the story of forgiveness, nation building and leadership. Nelson Mandela the Nobel laureate and icon was praised beyond measure for his role in determining the course of the “New South Africa”. It was a feel good story like no other. But as has often been proved, if it looks too good to be true, it is too good to be true. Almost thirty years on from the seminal moment that produced an ANC led government we have a country in crisis, blighted by corruption and malfeasance while also enduring the harsh economic realities of geopolitics. That fairytale story has not ended happily ever after and from the outside looking in, the exceptionalism that seemed to cocoon the republic is waning rapidly. Another banana republic led by despots and their cronies seems likeliest.

In terms of the American dream, I think many of us are starting to see more of a nightmare with the black lives matter protest highlighting the danger of being a black person in the state’s. It genuinely looks scary, and when you think about the cases of the likes of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Ahmed Arbery and most recently George Floyd all of whom were minding their own business before meeting the ends of their lives you can’t but feel like perhaps it’s better to preserve your life in the third world. The overturning of Roe v Wade is another such moment. It’s been repeated over and over again that denying women abortions is only to deny safe abortions. Backstreet terminations will continue unabated and the society will have to deal with those consequences. I wish I could understand the “pro life” view point but for all my liberal and cerebral ideals of trying to understand things without prejudice, I just can’t with that particular theory. How it then becomes law absolutely baffles Me!

I write this piece not to pour unnecessary scorn on these two powerhouses, but rather as my contribution to remind the two of their greatness and the necessity that both show leadership. Both the US and RSA have important roles in global and continental politics respectively and it is incumbent upon them to be doing the right things. Sustained rolling black outs without a solution as well as relieving women of their bodily autonomy are two examples of not meeting the standard. This column implores both countries to fix these two issues so as to inspire the rest of us once again.