Sunday, August 22, 2010
I have always been supportive of South Africa and positive about it's people and future, the guy who would argue down naysayers at work, at the dinnertable, wherever negative sentiments might arise. For every pessimistic complaint about our politicians, our crime levels and our problems I would provide a counterpoint.
My family has been on the victim's end of it's fair share of property and contact crime. We've been tied up, stabbed and held at gunpoint in armed robberies. We've had cars and small items and even the entire stock of our shop stolen. Most families in this country have had similar experiences, regardless of race or background. Despite this I have always sung South Africa's praises to all who would listen, firmly believing these problems would be solved.
For every corrupt politician shamelessly leeching funds needed by the poor and downtrodden to fund an opulent lifestyle, I have firmly believed there is another dedicated, hardworking individual with a love for their homeland and the fire of justice in their belly. For every potholed road I've been able to point to a glowing new advancement in public transport. For every dirty downtown street I've been able to counter with encouraging stats about waste management and recycling. Dropping educational standards? Growth in industry and sheer number of people getting an education will sort that out in the long term.
But none of that matters anymore. As of this Thursday past my optimism is gone, taken by the thugs with knopkierries beating on a door, the other side of which had been barricaded by my wife and one of her patients to keep these monsters out. Who were these vicious villains? Were they drugged up kids on a narcotic warpath? Career criminals looking for their belongings? Perhaps escapees from the mental ward come to exact their revenge on the institution? No, they were my wife's highly trained and respected colleagues in medical work. Nurses and other staff that work in the public hospitals. Professionals entrusted with the care of our sick and downtrodden, wanting to drag co-workers out of the hospital and physically assault them for not partaking in their illegal strike. Health care workers forgoing their oath of service to haul non-striking theater staff out of active operating theaters, regardless of the already anesthetized patients who's lives lay in the balance.
At the same time schoolbusses were announcing they would discontinue their services during the strike action for fear of being targeted. By schoolteachers. Let me spell that out: school buses full of children the potential target of violence by school teachers. I am completely in favor of industrial action, of underpaid and undervalued workers having the right to express their unhappiness and disillusion, especially when these are the workers carrying out two of the most important jobs imaginable: caring for our sick and teaching our young. However strike violence is not a valid part of this action, and nothing on earth justifies these same caregivers turning on each other and on their charges, nothing.
Because of the hair-trigger nature of racial debate in our country I have to emphasize that this is not about race. There were members of various races on both sides of that door. This is simply about the people of our country failing at a basic human level-to have empathy for our sick and young. Even in times of war, hospitals and schools are considered places of safety and refuge. Violating them in any way whatsoever is looked on with great scorn and leads to trials in The Hague. Yet here are our own medical staff and teachers violating that universal principle-for a pay rise. What kind of a people must we be, when those in our community we are expected to trust more than any other must be feared like common thugs? How can we be expected to carry on "Leading SA" and hoping for a bright future for our beautiful rainbow nation? Well I for one can't. My hope and faith and optimism -fundamental parts of my being- have been wrenched from me by the dogs that threatened the life of my wife while she was in the act of helping someone.
Cry the Beloved Country. Indeed.