We are our own her­itage – use it wisely

Sunday Tribune - - HERALD -

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.

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