Friday, March 23, 2018


One of my early nicknames was Flagburner. We had to sing 'Die Stem' (the old South African national anthem) at our 1992 school prize giving and a 12-year-old Trev refused. I can remember us all standing on the quad of our school, in lines, practicing as teachers walked up and down the rows. As teachers walked past me, I was just standing stoney faced. This was in the days when teachers were always right, and you did what you were told. 

'Why aren't you singing? Sing.' I refused, saying that this wasn't our national anthem. Our real national anthem was 'Nkosi Sikileli iAfrika'. I was also quite a tearful little chap. So my defiance was watered down. I was asked to just mouth the words, but I refused, saying that that would defeat the point.

To further my point, back in class, I drew a little old South Africa flag and burnt it. There came the nickname.

My neighbourhood was on the liberal side of White South African politics. Part of a lot of liberal White South African angst comes from the fact that we didn't really actually do anything of significance to push back against Apartheid. Not singing a song hardly provides struggle credentials. Life continued. Our lives weren't better than 'other whites' living around the world. Sanctions meant South Africa got any new technology late if at all. But charity starts at home, and there is nothing that kills activism like a mortgage and school fees.

24 years after the end of Apartheid, South Africa remains the most unequal country in the world. It has a Gini Coefficient of 63%. A measure of 100% would mean one person earned everything. A measure of zero would mean everyone earned the same. 

The truth is that the world as a whole has a similar Gini Coefficient to South Africa. At 65%, Global Inequality is worse than any individual country. We tend to look at, and sort out, inequality at home. This is exactly the same as the mortgage and school fees that caused even those who felt uncomfortable to do almost nothing. I don't know what doing enough is. We all have local needs. But in a connected world, I don't believe our concern can end where our bubble ends. That is the definition of Apartheid. Apartheid must die.

We lived in a Police State, what could we do?

The world has borders, what can we do?

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