The state of the nation! I have always found it rather strange that a country needs a state of the nation speech, be it in SA, the US or anywhere.
This is the 21st century and we are bombarded by 24 hour news channels, newspapers, magazines, emails, twitters and goodness knows numerous other information channels. The countries budget is splashed over the news, even the “pre” budget now gets huge coverage so what else can we get from what has become more of an extended party political broadcast, clapped at the end of every sentence, by those happy to be closest to the money and the power.
So what is the state of this great nation at the foot of Africa? Well I would say it is rather like the curates egg, good in parts! I am lucky enough, through my real job, that I get to travel around South Africa a great deal. I am even luckier in that I also need to travel overseas on a fairly regular basis. The result is that I get to see many aspects of our country and also other nations.
It would be a serious BGO (Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious) to state that there are vast chasms between our people, financial, culturally and social but that to some extent in my mind, makes a state of the nation irrelevant. The impossible wealth seen in the homes, vehicles and personal trappings in and around parts of Johannesburg are a planet away from the poverty and lack of opportunity that exists in vast areas of the country.
The leafy English style lanes, and their residents, in Constantia have no parallel with the harsh reality of many other towns, even within the Western Cape.
Yet here we are in 2011 and my feeling is that we are at least trying to move in the right direction. Yes R3.2bn on a census that many will avoid, could have been better spent on building over 60,000 new homes and a R500m police contract influenced by our beloved Chief of all constables is a disgrace, but we need to look beyond those elephants and see the rest of the good works going on.
The state of the nation is that we are in a state of change, but at least not in a complete state! Now looking beyond our borders and we are quite simply living in extraordinary times. The Chinese say “may you live in interesting times” as a curse rather than an endorsement and I wonder right now whether the White House, has a handle on all the change that is going on or is daily playing catch up, trapped behind the wave?
As the Arab world, as we like to generalise it, enters a massive state of flux who will ultimately be the beneficiary of these changes, will it be true democracy or just a once off flip into extremism and new radical religious regimes.
Were the people really able to motivate themselves to such bravery, or was the CIA on one side and or the likes of Al-Qaida behind it? In my humble opinion we are at a momentous moment in world history. If the American’s can get it right and do and act in the right way we could see the political map changed forever in favour of democracy. If, however, they get it wrong then they can do more damage than Afghanistan and Iraq ever did and the line between “them and us” will be harder to cross than at any time in the last thousand years!
So life goes on, the cricket will get played while tin pot Kings and Presidents taste the wrath of those they subjugated for their own benefit. The wealth of tyrants now will be frozen by hypocritical Swiss bankers, who last week treated them to champagne and chocolates. Yet through it all the vast majority of us simply get on with our lives.
What’s the state of the nation? Well exactly the same as it has ever been, it is totally dependent on how high on the hill you live!