Simon Dingle made an interesting comment when we were in Japan recently. He spoke about how in Japan there is a sense of tremendous national pride coupled with an almost unspoken distinction drawn between the Japanese and people who are simply not Japanese. This pride inspires the Japanese to be so good at what they do.
I was thinking about the stuff we put up with here and Simon’s point got me thinking about South African national pride, or rather, the apparent lack thereof. Despite the hope for a rainbow nation in the early years after the 1994 elections, we remain a deeply divided nation. We are divided across all the lines which we hoped to bridge: race, gender, cultural heritage, political alignment and religion. There has been talk in the past about what it actually means to be South African and what identifying as South African actually means beyond being a statement of citizenship.
I just don’t know that there is a coherent sense of South African identity. We don’t have the kind of national identity and national pride that drives us to do better and excel at what we do as South Africans. We are far more concerned with our own communities and, in many cases, even smaller groups of people we identify with. The distinction between South African and not South African is a question of which ID book you hold. Without a clear and strong sense of national pride we remain a hodgepodge collection of racial, cultural, political, religious and gender-based groups huddling under this umbrella term: “South African”. This boils down to a lack of respect for each other as human beings and fellow South Africans and we see that in our daily lives through the way people treat each other and how we don’t look at each other anymore.
Even our government doesn’t speak about a rainbow nation anymore. Have we lost our national pride altogether?
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