We are our own heritage – use it wisely
IS HERITAGE always just cultural? Or just something from the past? Or could today’s contribution to heritage be what happens in the future?
The next general election will take place in 2019. Already political parties are being formed and reformed. Established parties are gearing up for a victorious result to be earned at the expense of each other.
Above all, a new generation of young South Africans will be eligible to vote for the first time without having lived under legalised racism.
I don’t say apartheid because I don’t think apartheid is gone. Legalised racism in South Africa is happily no more, mainly thanks to a constitution that protects all and sundry, often to the chagrin of those who wrote it and who now try to undo it.
The born-frees could change the future of our democracy. If they register to vote. If they cast their ballot. If they understand that the vote is sacred and secret.
That is, in my opinion, the most important heritage we need to protect. Every citizen – young, middle-aged, senior, doddering or not yet quite dead – has work to do. We all owe our 23-year celebration of this remarkable “second chance to make our dreams come true” our active support as citizens and not passengers, a full commitment to the future of our children. No second choice here.
A future of freedoms? Of constitutional protection? Of enshrined rights for each person?
Yes, but only if we become involved in the run-up to elections, encouraging our families and friends to partake.
If we do not do what democracy demands, which is to exercise our freedom of choice, our insistence on the secrecy of the ballot, our trust in the impartiality of the Independent Electoral Commission, and our respect for those who disagree with our point of view, and use our voices to defend our rights as citizens of a country and not as mere members of a political party, we will lose our country.
The 2019 general election could well be the last flickering colour in our fast-dimming rainbow.
The joke used to be that black and white were never colours of the symbol.
Ironically, today, among the many shades of grey, our black and white is all that’s left. Throughout the world one can watch democratically elected governments use democratically accepted ways to diminish democracy.
We will no longer be able to fight obviously repulsive fascist laws of suppression as in the recent decades of wars and revolt.
The moral high ground has been sold to the highest bidder. And in most cases that bidder has enough support through money and power to cut all our feet to fit their shoes. There is no safety net.
If the people lead, government will follow. Stand up and be different. Use your freedom of choice.
Too many South Africans sigh and say: “What’s the point of voting?” It’s like looking at the key in your hand to the door of the future and then, with a shrug, tossing it into the dam of apathy.
That door will not open for you ever again. Besides being an addicted democrat, I am also a terminal optimist.
Because of my work, I will always recognise the “mock” in democracy and out the “con” in reconciliation.
The heritage I protect is personal, because voting is probably the most selfish thing we are allowed to do with pride.
The heritage of opinion was earned by so many who lost their lives fighting for our right to take that freedom for granted.
I have learnt during these mature years of struggle to always expect the worst, hoping that the worst will never be as bad as I imagine.
So far so good. But many of the old blueprints of expectation are now faded and fragile. We have to reinvent the excitement of being in charge of our future.
Heritage is not just history and culture. It is not only symbols of power. It isn’t a braai.
Heritage is the echo of your voice. You now have the heritage of a vote. You also have the heritage of choice.
In South Africa we still have freedom of expression. Recognise that heritage and strengthen it.
Evita Bezuidenhout & the Kaktus of Separate Development: Pieter-dirk Uys’s famous alter-ego rewrites history at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from October 31 to November 19.