I really love South Africa. I’m lucky. Who on earth wants to live in a place you don’t love? What a waste of existence that would be. I really dig my home country.
In the 1980’s, my pubescent mind was fuelled with sexy TV imagery of American life and I had fantasies of going to reside in the world’s wealthiest nation. In 1984 I toyed around with Dallas Texas as a future residence; I thought that one day I would crack a nod to JR Ewing’s Oil Baron’s Ball.
As a young white South African urbanite, I felt disconnected from the isolated, Calvinist, economically sanctioned, white ruled South Africa of the mid-1980’s. The country was governed by elderly white gentlemen who wore 1950’s homburg hats, defiantly waved their finger at the world and wanted me to go defend them against communists and terrorists that I couldn’t recognise.
During the turbulent early 1990’s, like so many of my generation, Australia seemed like a great option with its familiar language, superior weather, similar sport and sunny barbecue culture. So I quietly put in emigration papers and planned to go live in a South African laager on Sydney’s Eastern shores.
Almost twenty years later, I now find myself being South Africa’s greatest ambassador. I’m so lucky that I never became one of those ex-South Africans who scour the media looking for bad news in order to justify a self-imposed refugee status.
I love South Africa. My love is not spawned by finances, convenience, ignorance or personal narrow interests. I love this country because it actually deserves my love. The country has plenty of problems, no argument there, but there is so much to be proud of.
I am fortunate that I probably could live anywhere I choose. I have travelled the world and there many places I really like and could easily move to. But South Africa, I love.
This morning as I began my Sunday run along the Atlantic Seaboard’s spectacular promenade I thanked my lucky stars that I am privileged to live in such paradise. I realise that I am one of the lucky few who can experience the best that South Africa has to offer but that door is far easier opened than many other places in the world.
As I cruised past Cape Town’s new stadium and security guards waved me by, I looked at what we have achieved in a few years. Our infrastructure is great, our developing country still abounds with immense opportunity, we enjoy a good life and we have done really well since Apartheid ended in the 1990’s. We boast businesses, banks, financial markets and standards as good as anywhere in the world. The country has weathered the financial crisis brilliantly because we have developed a robust culture that handles adversity in our stride.
The best part of South Africa is our optimistic people, our self deprecating sense of humour and a warm hospitable people. South African’s are street wise and plucky. When I travel the world I see how savvy and sensible we are in comparison to those who have never had to deal with danger and difficulty. South Africans, today, are cosmopolitan, worldly and socially progressive.
Two decades ago the country was a mess and we were pariahs of the international community. We have really come a long way and while plenty of problems abound we take our place as a member of the international community happier, wiser and more prosperous.
Sometimes when I get to our most privileged citizens’ braais, dinner tables, board rooms and tabloid newspapers, I think I am alone in my love affair. I find it strange that those who have done best after Apartheid ended, are often our greatest naysayers. They are the ones who quickly hone in on the faults, and forget all the good.
But my love for the country grows. The ones who complain, criticise and moan simply don’t convince me, that this place is so bad. Some of them really try hard and when my guard is down, when they outnumber me and when they develop a credible argument, I find myself nodding in agreement. But I quickly remind myself that we have so much to be thankful for.