No, I don’t have them.
But I hope nobody was seriously expecting I would. And I want to dispel a myth that has been doing the rounds for some time now, and tends to take us all in at some point, but is ultimately holding us back from making real progress.
There is no Black Superman coming to save and unite us all who has all the answers.
We don’t need an Aboriginal version of Malcolm X, or Nelson Mandela to lead us to the ‘promised land’ of a better tomorrow and unite us all for a common good. It’s a popular thought, one I’ve even bought into at times myself, but it is holding us back from where we really need to be.
Nelson Mandela was an amazing man in many respects, and whether you are a critic or an admirer, it is undeniable that he influenced many South Africans who believed him to be their hero. The man who saved them from apartheid and promised them a better tomorrow. The ANC today owe their position largely to the loyal voters who were Mandelas army, who have allowed their faith in one man to let them believe that they could close their eyes and relax. He helped to establish the ANC, so it has his seal of approval and saintly touch, affording it an almost unquestioned morally superior status. Superman had come to save the day and now, they could be free and relax their guards, content in the knowledge that their hero, Mandela, had ensured all would be well forevermore.
But it wasn’t to be. Enter Jacob Zuma, now head of the ANC but probably more scandalously known as an alleged rapist and big time embezzler after his headline grabbing first term in power. Despite his party claiming that they are dedicated to uplifting the quality of life for the poor, he installed a swimming pool at his luxurious compound while failing to achieve delivery of electricity or running water to the poorest of his people first .
He has just been inaugurated for his second term.
The problem with wanting to jump behind an icon, whether racial, religious or otherwise, is that doing so is littered with pitfalls and hidden harms – and the fallout from these will be long, people will suffer, and as a country we will take years to recover from it. Jim Jones wasn’t always offering after lecture refreshments of bitter tasting KoolAid that knocked you down dead. Nearly a thousand men, women and children did what the man they had followed unquestioningly, some for nearly a decade by then, had asked them to do. Parents helped their children drink the foul liquid, then drank it themselves.
They hadn’t all been unknowingly spiked the night before with mind altering drugs. They hadn’t been mass hypnotised or told a lie about what flavour that KoolAid was. Every adult knew that to drink it meant death. And that is what they did. Few people said no, and fewer still tried to run for their lives and hide. More than 95% of the followers at Jonestown went to their deaths on the panicked whim of their icon and nothing more.
Icons and Idols have tremendous power to do great harm. Whether it’s a religious figure, racial icon or representative of an ideology that is politically based or otherwise, they should not be free from scrutiny, and should never be believed to have all the answers. If we allow ourselves to believe such a thing is possible, that one person can tell us all we need to know, and guide all our decisions, then we allow that person an opportunity to have complete control of our lives.
Once you hand over that much power, it’s all up to luck whether you wake up in time not to drink that KoolAid.