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Riding the cultural waves


A previous blog post discussed the theory that cultural differences are the reason why South Africa is struggling to prosper economically and politically. Different cultures (and not different races) have different values and definitions of success that keep people from living together in complete harmony.

Making waves

In a recent article the issue of certain “groups” being more successful at the cost of others, came up. It reminded me of the theory about different cultures and it’s possible that certain cultural groups may be riding the high waves and others are constantly down in the troughs between the waves.

The tribal wave

President Jacob Zuma is certainly riding one of the biggest waves. He is prosperous, has four wives (at the last count), many children and lives in a compound that was upgraded at great cost and questionable necessity, which he did not pay for himself. He is not alone on this tribal wave. According to his culture, many wives and protection by an inner political circle are the norm – after all, he is the king! The king appoints his favourites, who often include family members, regardless of their level of competency, qualification or intelligence. One should remember that millions of the people in the troughs far below the king’s wave are too happy to live with less and allow the king to get away with everything. He is the king!

The capitalistic wave

The definition of a capitalist and whether capitalism is good or bad (especially for a country like South Africa), is a debate for another day. One thing is for sure – there is a huge capitalistic wave in South Africa and certain cultural groups are perceived to be riding it. One of them is the Whites, who are constantly accused of prospering at the cost of other who do not possess much in a materialistic context. Often forgotten are other cultural groups who also ride the capitalistic wave. Unfortunately, the “W” word is too easily used when discussing inequalities in South Africa. This wave is a well-known wave in the world and many western cultures ride it without question as part of a “natural” survival instinct. Not all of them are stingy – Facebook’s Zuckerberg recently announced giving away millions made from his ride on the capitalistic wave. Maybe the model of the rich giving to the poor has merit and many capitalists in South Africa will confirm their income tax bill reflects that the model is already in place.

The crime wave

You don’t need to be a crime expert (whatever that means!) to see that crime is another big wave in South Africa. Millions of people are participating in a variety of illegal activities and creative money-making schemes at the cost of others’ lives and happiness. Admittedly, much of this crime is committed in order to feed a family or perhaps help a child get a head start in life. Still, there are too many riding this wave, often taking their cues from similar waves being ridden elsewhere in the world. It is understandable that the eye-watering sums of money to be made, convince many innocent people to get onto the crime wave.

The corruption wave

Often mentioned in the same sentence as crime, corruption is a huge obstacle standing between South African citizens and their prosperity. Billions are lost annually as a result of corrupt officials and government employees, not to mention the opportunists in the private sector. As with the crime wave, admittedly the corruption wave is also ridden by many desperate individuals trying to take care of others, even though it may clash with their value system.

All at sea

There are many other waves not mentioned here – some good, some bad. The bottom line is that we’re all at sea in South Africa. It’s a choppy sea at the best of times and calmer waters will depend on how and which waves will be ridden best to benefit all citizens. Maybe some new wave is required, which could be called “intelligent, sustained, effective leadership”.