Is SA Rocks bullshit?

In my ideal world, Red Star Coven would be dominating the Amatomu charts, not David whatsisname.

Walton has written a post that deals with a topic I often think about, subtitled South Africa does not rock, it’s a disaster.

Before you react emotionally, go read it. He’s not an afro-pessimist, he attacks that (almost) as equally.

The world is not binary. It’s not made up of socialism vs capitalism, terrorism vs innocence, good vs bad, or any of those false dichotomies that dumb down our brains. The Zen koan I keep quoting (hauling out one limited mini-realisation over and over :), asks whether, for example, a white chess pawn in the left hand is the same as a white chess pawn in the right hand. It is difficult to grasp.

In this context, the question would go Are you an Afro-pessimist or an Afro-optimist? Answer it now.

Did you answer Afro-pessimist? Wrong! Wake up! Afro-optimist then? Wrong! Wake up!

I’m tempted to leave it there, but lets play with some of the ideas. And by writing more I’ll fall into the good/bad trap, but it’s hard not to do so and still be coherent 🙂 Giving it the slightest thought, it’s obvious that things aren’t all terrible, or all fantastic. Ecstasy and agony are both part of the human experience. So neither states are objective, unchanging, realities. What matters is our perspective. For most people, ecstasy is preferable to agony. But how we expect and describe things is another matter altogether. Focusing on the worst is partly a protection mechanism, learned from past experience. Focusing on the best is a healthier human condition. By focusing on the best, we work towards creating that same situation in reality, and have more energy to do so.

So, if optimism is a healthier human condition, is that the same as ignoring harsh realities? No.

The press is almost overwhemingly negative. Perhaps not always in perspective, but in reporting and highlighting bad news over good. Negative news, for me, is demoralising. I have less energy to do things if I am demoralised. Depression and lethargy go together. Being negative is draining. Positive news, on the other hand, energises me, and makes me more likely to contribute in other ways.

That matches with research about the human happiness, which seems to indicate that if things are getting better, in a person’s perspective, they are happy, and things are getting worse, from their perspective, they are unhappy. So happiness is about movement, life itself, not a static state achieved after certain material objectives have been met.

So, onto SA Rocks. As they state, SA Rocks is not a website dedicated to blindly praising South Africa. We here at sarocks.co.za understand that every country has flaws and we do not deny the flaws of South Africa. We do feel that there are enough people who berate our country and it’s time for people to start acting and thinking positively about South Africa.

That’s certainly not bullshit. It’s a healthy reaction to the almost overwhelmingly negative news surrounding us. It’s about achieving balance, seeing the positive and negative, getting a fuller picture. Of course, some may use it to rose-tint their glasses, but that doesn’t seem to be the intention of most people involved.

Quoting from Walton, SA does not ‘rock’. South Africa has 41% unemployment. It has rates of violent crime you’d expect from a war zone like Iraq. It is still a deeply racist society, and the division between rich and poor is growing. People are dropping dead from Aids because the government doesn’t care about them. Cops still shoot protestors. We have an incompetent, kleptocratic government. Infrastructure has broken down. You can’t trust the postal service, public transport, department of home affairs, or communications network. This is not ‘rocking’. This is pretty fucking dire, and we need to do something about it.

I can no more accurately say something like SA ‘rocks’. It has a 75% employment rate [selectively choosing the statistic to put the best spin on things], plummeting rates of violent crime, a society where racial divisions are disappearing fast, with growing economic integration and reduction in the poverty rate. AIDS is starting to come under control thanks to massive government intervention, albeit belated. and so on.

Of course, making the latter claims are nonsense as an accurate picture, but the point is it’s as accurate a synopsis as the former, merely reflecting a different perspective, and an equally dubious statistic.

Back to Walton: Hear no evil, see no evil.. True, but that’s certainly not the case for most of us living here (and I’m sure anywhere SA expats hang out), or what SA Rocks are trying to achieve.

And here’s the other problem with it: it’s so middle class. Yes, South Africa does rock if you’ve got money. You can afford armed response and security, and privatised solutions to all the infrastructure problems. Growth rates are phenomenal, and if you’re in the tiny percentile that’s raking in the cash, I’m sure things look pretty good.

I think this is getting closer to the real reason for his post. Someone with a byline of Each heart is a revolutionary cell, and a blog title of Red Star Coven has a certain delicious perspective, that may not fit easily with the hated middle-class label.

But the sentiments are untrue. SA ‘rocks’ (and I’m assuming SA rocks means happy with matters in this context) for many people. What’s important is perspective. A poverty-stricken monk is generally happier than an overstressed lawyer. It’s got very little to do with the material. It’ one of the fundemental flaws of our time, claiming that material possessions such as cash, car, all that bullshit will make us happy. It has nothing to do with it. Material safety is another matter. Happiness measurement is always controversial, but a number of studies indicate that it’s not the middle class who’re happiest. Are people seeing things getting better or worse? The rural poor seem to be surprisngly happy – perhaps because it’s there that small things are having a large impact on low-level needs – villages getting access to water, for example, as well as being less-impacted by urban crime.

So, does SA Rock? It does much more. It dances to tango, eurythmy, skank, bharatanatyam, kwaito, sokkie-sokkie and mbaqanga. It toi-tois, krumps and raves. Perhaps it even dances to the St Louis shag.

It also murders, wins rugby games, rapes, fucks, cheats, makes sweet patootie, smokes dope, gives sweet kisses under the moonlight, stabs in the back, and everything else that makes it what it is.

Are you sure it’s just a disaster?

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10 Replies to “Is SA Rocks bullshit?”

  1. Wow. That was one of the best posts that I have read in a very, very long time. I think you hit the nail on the head.I would love to publish this post on SA Rocks, if that is ok with you, please email me and let me know what you think!?

    What impresses me most about this is that you have expressed precisely my mentality behind SA and SA Rocks. I am not blind, stupid or ignorant, I am not wealthy beyond my means, but I can stay positive and be positive and react positively when I hear bad things and read the news.

    I also find it interesting to read Walton talk of the middle class and SA is great for the rich when he was wealthy enough to flea SA when things got too troubled for him.

  2. Nic

    Why do you make the assumption that I ‘flea’ South Africa because things got too much for me?

    I did nothing of the sort. I was very happy living in SA, happier than I am now. I will live there again. Despite my happiness, I was very critical of the wrong directions I saw us going is as a country.

    I didn’t ‘flea’ – I came overseas because my girlfriend was here. I’m not wealthy either – like most South Africans, I came over on a Working Holiday Visa and got a job in a pub.

    Travelling is not ‘flea’ing. And it doesn’t negate my right to express my opinion.

  3. I’m dumbstruck. I cannot agree more with Nic. It is one of the best posts I’ve read in ages. Now go pat yourself on the back for a super piece of writing. Respect.

  4. Ja Ja! (as opposed to hear hear!) I have to agree – an awesome way of describing how a postive mentality gives you a postive outlook.

    Yes, I’m proudly middle-class, but I can also proudly say that I have been able to help other people rise out of poverty, with the result that their children are now at university. That rocks!

    So I agree with Nic, and fully support, an initiative like SA Rocks – we might get beaten down and dragged through the dirt by the reality of this countries situation, but sonner voortanne we can still grin, lift our middle-finger to the world and say, SA Rocks!

  5. Thanks from me too – wonderful to be reminded of the ‘beautiful specifics’ of life in SA.

  6. As above, it is wonderful to read something so well-balanced and clearly argued. Very few writers on the issue manage to translate emotion into sensible argument. And this article is highly sensible (I like, I like).

    I am interested in the studies that show poor people are happier than middle class people? I’m not saying it isn’t true, but I would like to know how that kind of thing is measured. Middle class people certainly complain a lot. So if it’s based on the amount of complaining that goes on, I wouldn’t give it much credence:)

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