Stuck in history

Yesterday is gone – but yet it lingers. It lingers in the icons that we carry in our museums, the mysteries in our art and the meanderings of our public institutions. It lingers in what we tell our children about themselves and the world.


South Africa as a country seems to be stuck in its history. Our museums talk of a reality that none of us can identify with; a future which if informed by the past will only lead to the status quo. We are often unhappy with the status quo yet there is no sense of dignity being imbued by our institutions and cultural iconography.


We look at depictions of our cultural heritage that denigrate us to our tribal past, or that somehow glorifies the struggle of people against each other. We revel in division and forget that the very principle relies on remaining divided. We have a new history and it is the present.


The hallmarks of modern democracy include the separation of church and state, of government and labour and the oversight of institutions by parliaments, elected by people. What we forget is that the social fabric that is inherent in our museums, public institutions like libraries and art galleries that define our future direction. What binds you to your neighbour, how does our social fabric get knitted.


The current state of our museums and public institutions is un-understandable and poorly conceived. Nothing is celebrated, nothing is exalted or elevated – we are happy to depress ourselves by walking into an art gallery or museum. We spend most of our money on paying salaries when we should be laying down infrastructure that breathes life.


The thesis, antithesis with the subsequent synthesis is crying out into the South African landscape demanding a new national identity – a new way of looking at things that is not reliant on race politics, tribalism or the fact that we are at some level the root of all humanity. This is something to celebrate but somehow we miss the necessary vision to look at tomorrow. What are we going to do to inspire humanity to be more and better? Where are we going to create a future in which we are leaders and not just statistics?


We need to be brave and break down and rebuild our history and build a new future. We need growth, development and future-thinking. Complacency and mediocrity are just luxuries for which there are no time. Our monuments needs to be new, our statues must celebrate a new humanity and purpose. We must run conferences and invent that connect people into new ideas and thinking and challenges us all to look at the problems of our time anew.


We have a duty to ensure that every building, every civic structure and social organisation somehow focuses on the legacy that it leaves. We need to erect institutions that will not only stand the test of time, but tower as beacons of hope to future generations. These need to be imbued with the icons and pictographs that does not celebrate a current state – but a vision of perfection – a vision of the future. We need more of these – and they need to affect the lives of people. We need beauty and harmony in a society in which there is starkness and dire realities.


It is not only our buildings that need a new way of looking at them, but also our institutions. How long will we keep going and keep up messing up on basics? Our institutions needs growth, development and vision and need to weld together our basic fabric in society into a common humanity that serves us all. Whether it is education, correctional services, water services, transport or development – we need new models that accelerate development. It is convenient for our leaders to hide us from each other, to keep us in the dark and to limit the rights and imaginations of young people across the world.


Politics have corrupted the purpose of power. Individualism has corrupted the purpose of being human. Education has corrupted the aspirations of the many and limited it to the few.


It is the aim of our politicians to create jobs for people. We forget that this means that we need a common purpose, which is to serve each other. The virtuous circle in society remains disrupted and is never established as there is no-one that takes the baton in the relay. We have all forgotten how to serve. We call it a lack of service delivery – but it starts with service and this is rooted in serving each other. To serve another you need to recognise that we are entirely the same and that we are all drawn from the same divine spark and that this has nothing to do with extracting the cash from the wallet.


We still censor the view of the world and fail to give people the tools to view the world in new ways.


How do you open the minds of people? You show them new ways of doing this. Where do you do this – in art, in education, in museums, in opening up knowledge and transferring power. We have a common humanity that is crying out for a collective wisdom and a daily reality that requires inspiration.


We cannot wait till we have enough history to rewrite history. We need to go out and change history today – else we are changed by it.


Someone once asked what would you do today if you knew you would not fail? Go out and do it. Inspire someone today, build something new today – else we may remain stuck in history.