Article written by Likeleli M. Monyamane.
Last night, many South Africans watched the State of the Nation Address (SONA) by Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa. I also watched it, albeit very briefly, preferring to rather read about it tomorrow. What fascinated me was not the SONA itself but the number of comments I read on Facebook of people proudly stating that they couldn’t care less about the SONA because they didn’t get the point of it and they just had no interest in politics. In reading those comments I was reminded of a picture I once saw that has haunted me until now. The picture
depicts German soldiers walking past and examining a number of Jews in what looks like a concentration camp from the Holocaust. The caption on the picture was a quote by Pericles (A Greek Politician), “just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you”.
I thought about the same quote earlier this week when I watched Half of a yellow sun, a movie adaptation of the novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It documents how the lives of ordinary Nigerians were affected by the Nigerian Civil War (also known as the Biafra War) that took place in 1967. I’m sure that some of the people were interested in politics (like the characters in the book/movie) and I’m also sure that most of them were just like my Facebook friends – happy living their lives not realising that in the background, politics was busy deciding their fate without their consent.
It baffles me that young and mostly well-educated people are so proud of their political apathy in a world where we don’t have to look as far as Germany and Nigeria to find stories of politics affecting people’s lives adversely. This attitude makes me wonder; why do people think apathy is nobler than involvement when it comes to politics? I believe the answer lies in what was echoed in another picture I saw doing the rounds on social media of a politician standing on top of a platform that rested on the edge of a cliff. On the other side of the platform, keeping the platform steady so that the politician doesn’t fall down the cliff was a number of people holding up political flags. The caption on it was, “the people don’t know their true power”. The message conveyed by this picture is that people don’t realise that they hold the fate of the politician in their hands.
I reckon that people are disinterested because they truly don’t know their true power. We don’t vote because we think our vote won’t make a difference. We identify politics with the names of political leaders not realising that many political leaders (whether we liked them or not) have come and gone and yet the politics remain and they stay affecting our lives greatly.
We think politics don’t affect us because we don’t understand the world we live in and how every single aspect of it is affected by political decisions. Furthermore, we don’t take the time to understand our world because we are content with it remaining as we found it. We don’t really think we have the power to change it.
We choose to be ignorant about the fact that the same ANC that we are complaining about was voted for by us, the people. The ones who hold the power to decide on who leads us. We conveniently forget this truth when we go to the polls and vote them into power again.
And lastly, those of us who have the potential to lead this country and this continent into a better destiny don’t realise that our lack of desire to be politically involved in the “dirty” game of politics is putting our world in danger. The truth is those who understand their own power and the power of politics have gotten involved and are making themselves available for influential positions over our lives (look at Robert Mugabe being elected as the chairperson of the African Union). And as we continue to proudly proclaim how we are not into the business of politics, politicians will continue making a business out of our lives.