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   Letter from London
29 March 2004

Ivan has become quite a favorite of mine. The material he supplies from time to time is thought provoking. Without his permission (sorry mate) I'm publishing a mail he sent to me this week (or was it last week) from a friend in London. Read it. (In other words, no joke this week) Take it in and think about what this country does to a person -

A little voice from the dark tip of Africa.
When I am consulted by the confused, infatuated or intoxicated I often default with a trusted yet very simple response, "listen to the little voice".

Yes, the beauty of this response is that it's confusing in itself.
But that's where the simplicity lies - the inward journey!
Trying to find clear-cut answers for questions that can only be answered on some kind of endless continuum is a silly starting point and therefore the medicine must match. Should I be going out with her? Do I believe in a God? And my billion-dollar question, does South Africa have a future?

All of these questions are often topics of long discussion because they are only partly factual. Yet, arrogantly I say they are easily and probably already answered by your little voice, you just need to listen and trust it.

It's difficult to find a more ardent supporter of the "The sooner you leave South Africa the better" camp than myself. Ardent and vocal, I am like the jerk that says you should never go to a casino because if you play for long enough you will always loose your money. Of course the jerk is right about loosing your money - John Maynard's rational man would never put a foot into a casino- but that's not the point. A casino and a church are the easiest thing in the world not to enter after a strong dose of logic and rational thinking. But both have stood the test of time.

Making a home in South Africa falls into the same category.

Contrary to popular opinion, South Africa measured in terms of quality of life is of the lowest in the world - you simply can't take the stars, the weather, the amazing views, maids, gardeners, and properly boozed caddies for free. There is a price to be paid and it's that price that puts us in the bottom quartile of the rankings ...crime, corruption, politics, aids, unemployment, rape, healthcare and education, all in dire condition.

But is that how we should decide on whether South Africa has a future?

Should we ask questions like is unemployment so bad that crime will never improve? Will education ever receive the funding and attention that is needed for the development of a civil society? It's taken me a long time to realise that these questions are likened to those related to gambling and religion. The facts remain the same and the rational answers remain the same but that's not the way we live our lives. The answers depend on what makes you sleep with a smile. They depend on your little voice.
I have been in London for almost three years now. This unbelievable city has taught me how big the world is, its effortlessly given me a first hand introduction to a broad range of nationalities, it's shown me how they live, how they think, how they dress, how they eat and how they laugh.
It has culture bulging out of its seams, musicals, plays, art exhibitions, bars and clubs of every possible nature. There is money to be made from all angles and the weather, taken in its context, is not half as dreadful as people claim. In fact, to quote Oscar Wilde, "When you are tired of London you are tired of life!" However, time and time again I find solace in the menu provided by the country on the dark tip of Africa. I'm not tired of London, on the contrary, but I think I know where I belong. To laugh uncontrollably (surely an ultimate daily experience), to relax, to relate to problems and for people to relate to mine, I more often than not find comfort in the company of a South African. Three years down the line and I reflect on the diversity of my friends, but at the same time I reflect on the meaning of friend. Who do you phone when you are bored and have nothing to do? Who do you plan your holidays with? Who do you call when you need help?
While my range of friends stretches across a number of accents, the best ones share my passport.

Is this enough to make a decision to move back to SA? Can you overlook the problems, the crime, and the possibility of your wife or child being raped? No, please don't let me hear that you can get raped or have your car stolen anywhere in the world - because fact are facts, South Africa scores very badly on both counts. Every first world country provides a much higher standard of living - please note I did not say better, only higher! We have to ask ourselves, if we don't move back, where the hell are we going to go to? Where else could we find the beauty, the friendliness, the weather, the humour, the South African way of life?

We have drawn a very short straw - but we have to play on. If you can find a home with the English, the Aussies, the Canadians or Lord forbid, the Kiwis, then best of luck to you. To the rest, I look forward to seeing you in the land of extreme life. South Africa does have a future; it just depends on what kind of future you want. Exist somewhere else, or live at home!

I leave you with a last thought...
History reveals that some people have had the power to single handedly transform nations. People like Adolph Hitler, Mother Teresa, Princess Diana and even closer to home, our own Nelson Mandela have each significantly impacted a nation. OK fair enough, they are icons in history, but following the same principle how many people like you will be needed to make a positive impact on a nation. Could you make a difference to a nation? Could fifty people like you make a difference?

In the last two years and nine months I have never contemplated moving back - only because it's never made sense. The country's future has been clouded by too much uncertainty and that's something I was not prepared to risk. I have just come back from a holiday to Jo'burg, my former home and where things are supposed to be the worst. Maybe I have become weak and fickle, but that place is pumping. Yes it's Africa, yes it's rough, but I have just realised how much I love it, and sooner than later, it's going to become my home again.
I am hearing a little voice, and I trust it. The thought makes me sleep with a smile.

In time...

 

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