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​​The paradox of being South African



To be South African is to live in the ultimate paradox - rich and poor, selfish and selfless, entitled and humble, growth and destruction, peace and anarchy, love and hate, hope and despair, opportunity and deprivation.


Over the last few weeks, I have felt these contradictions more acutely than usual, and I have felt deeply conflicted.


I feel conflicted by the deep love I have for our country, whilst simultaneously feeling anger and resentment towards our collective behaviour over the last few weeks.


I feel conflicted by the incredible hope and aspiration I have for our future, whilst simultaneously wanting to jump on a plane and leave it behind because it feels like a never ending uphill battle.


I feel conflicted by the depth of human kindness I see in fellow South Africans in the darkest of times, whilst simultaneously feeling angry and resentful towards those who manipulate others for their individual benefit.


I feel conflicted by the immense opportunities that exist for jobs and entrepreneurship in our country, whilst simultaneously feeling despair that these opportunities largely exist for those who have had the benefit of a good education and an enabling home environment.


I feel conflicted by the judgement I place on others, only to later feel ashamed that I judge them from the comfort of my safe home with a high speed internet connection.


Can you relate to any of these?


Personally, I've really struggled with the experience of these paradoxes over the last few weeks. I find myself psychologically yearning to resolve the inner conflict by landing on one end of the contradiction or the other. I find myself searching for an absolute view that can provide my psyche with clarity on what is going on and where I fit into it. I find myself in constant conflict between selfishness and selflessness: between “me” and “we.” The conflict between the empathy I feel for all South Africans, with the instinctive desire to keep myself and my family safe at all costs.


So. Damn. Conflicted.


And as much as I've searched over the last few weeks, I have found no form of clear resolution. I simply cannot resolve the contradictory experience I have of being a South African. So, rather than running away from it, I realize that I need to embrace it.


We live in a country which is full of paradoxes which push and pull at one another constantly - like a good rhythm, the push and pull of these experiences provide the baseline for the dance of our experience as South Africans. The rhythm of South Africa is strong, the stakes are high, and right now we have the opportunity to embrace the music.


Is this a solo dance, or a group dance?


We are simultaneously individuals and members of a group. The contradictions that present from these two simultaneous truths can never be neatly resolved, so how will we choose to dance with them?


I generally like to end my blog posts with some sort of clear insight, and it makes me uncomfortable that I cannot provide that here. There is no clear resolution to this conflict - it is a paradox.


Personally, in engaging with this paradox, I choose to lean more towards the group than the individual, because dancing with others is a richer experience than dancing alone.


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