There is a difference between being immoral and amoral. Immoral seen as the opposite of being moral (if being moral means being “concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour”). Amoral is on the other side not really minding those principles of being wrong or right. The question can be asked: does nihilism lead to amoral behaviour, and the ultimately to immoral behaviour? In recent news students from various campuses around South Africa protested for numerous reasons (increased fees, outsourcing etc.) and left in the wake chaos. Statues of previously highly regarded figures were destroyed, paintings were burned and cars torched. On top of this 20 schools were burned down and 2500 matric students (grade 12) are missing class. This is our future. Youths do not get an education because schools are burned down for political reasons. Students who will be our future leaders, doctors, police, teachers burn down cars, art, buildings. If we cannot have something we burn it down. We are the short-sighted, myopic people of South Africa. In this piece, I will try and show how in South Africa there is a tendency to do something for the right reasons, but with the wrong measures. We need a political change in South Africa; voices were suppressed even after apartheid and people were not heard. But is the way we deal with these problems the right way to do it?
The South Africa of pre-1994 was the first in history to give over their power willingly, the first country who destroyed their own nuclear supplies, the first country to have 11 official languages. We are the country of reconciliation, of BEE (Black Economic Empowerment), of peace and loving care, of Ubuntu. We are the country where white and black and all the other come together around a braai (BBQ), drink a beer and laugh at the world… or so it seemed. Was this just the short-sighted view, the illusion that everything could work out smoothly after years of injustice? The “white” people brought money to Africa and made the “blacks” poor (Steve Biko’s words in one of his essays). But today we are here. We cannot go back and correct the past. We can just move on.
Nihilism is the idea that nothing has meaning, everything is meaningless. It is clear how immoral behaviour can come from this. The burning of 20 plus schools in May 2016 can be seen as a myopic and immoral act. We will burn down the schools (i.e. the future) to get what we want today (i.e. a political debate about under which municipality their land is governed by). The sad thing about it all is that nothing will happen. Life will go on (with 20 fewer schools) and things will remain the same. The country’s money will go into the wrong basket, houses will be built for the rich, the poor will get poorer, the rich richer. South Africa is the country that is blind, beyond myopia, acting before thinking.
This sounds like a lot of speculation. I can be accused of the same thing by writing this piece. But we need to look further. We need to look at the future. South Africa is a place of opportunity, but this is slowly fading because of a myopic view. We are looking at the present, we do not like what we see, and we burn it down. In South Africa, I claim, there is a big problem looming behind the smoke of the cars we burn because we don’t get what we want. Nihilism, the idea that nothing matters. Why do I need to wash the floor of a rich person who “stole my land”? Why do I need to work for a better South Africa if I myself will not be part of the future? It is useless, meaningless. The problem today in South Africa, I claim once again as my own view, is that we have a divide between those who want change, and those who enforce this change. We have a situation where the people who want this country to succeed cannot say something or do something because they are the minority, the marginalised. The people who instigate, enforce and bring on the “change”, those who throw petrol bombs, are those with the voice, and the myopic view. This will lead to nihilism, a feeling of meaninglessness, and this will cause immoral acts becoming the norm in South Africa.
What I tried to do in this piece is just to show that the way we bring on change in this country is not the right way. Burning down 20 schools is not going to bring on the change we want. We need change. We need people to stand up for what is right. We need the voice of the voiceless, the people who are forced to study in a foreign language, the people with no water to drink, those without food or homes. We need to listen to them, but burning down our future is not the way to go. It is short-sighted. It is a myopic outlook on the future and it will lead to immoral acts brought on by nihilism. We need to listen, we need to speak up, but we don’t want to see South Africa burn.