Friday, 27 June 2008

46664 Concert in London - Patriotism misplaced?


I am writing this post while watching the 46664 London concert and I write these remarks as an immediate response to what I am seeing on my television screen. I know that this post will be contentious to some but I do hope they spark debate...

The massive crowd gathered in Hyde Park is witnessing a fabulous line-up of international and South African artists all presenting their music as well as their comments on Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 90th birthday. As the camera pans over the crowd many South African flags are seen flying proudly above their holders and the crowd joins in celebrating the Soweto Gospel Choir as they sing a chorus of "Jive Soweto!".

I cannot help but wonder how many of the attendees who now proudly wave their SA flags are expats who tomorrow will find themselves around dinner tables across London criticising the South African government, moaning about the high crime rate, the electricity supply problems and so on. Many of these people have legitimate concerns but have chosen to emigrate to so-called "greener pastures" where they justify their decision to leave their homeland by telling others how awful life is in South Africa.

I would like to think that these same people have skills aplenty which our country now needs. Their expertise and knowledge need to be channeled into creating employment opportunities and training and equipping local business owners and labourers.

Is this patriotism misplaced? Is all the flag-waving and cheering for South Africa the expression of an inner desire to return to the homeland?

The question I ask is this - If you have chosen to leave South Africa because of how little hope you have for its future, how can you stand in a crowd and proudly wave a South African flag? Is this not hypocritical?

As I wrote early in this post, I know this is a contentious and sensitive issue. I write this as I watch the 46664 concert and this reflects my immediate response and gut feeling.

Your response is welcome ...

For a related post see this post from June 2007.


9 comments:

Ismail Dhorat said...

Great post and a valid question. I can speak from experience, as i am currently an expat. In my experience when you leave SA you really miss it, and you yearn for anything South African you can identify with(Seriously, little things like boerwors or a good ol SA braai, hearing a south african accent) ... and yes we proudly hoist our flags when there any SA events, rugby games anything that is SA, and no its not hypocritical.

Why? It's based on the assumption that most people have left because of the CRIME, tons of people (Myself included) move for the experience of working overseas, experience in a different culture it teaches you valuable lessons.

Also, the assumption that everyone bitches about the crime is wrong, with me and other friends of mine we are largely positive. if we meet new people we sell the country "South Africa is one of the most beautiful places, you should go vist... or CT is One of the best cities in the world, Table Mountain, Highest Bungee in the world" (Choose your sell) We sing its praises over and over. The crime issue comes up sometimes when you meet someone and it's usually by them... you still try and stay positive. Though it really bites you when you sing your countries praises, a colleague goes for holiday and gets hijacked at gun point, money stolen, made to lie on the ground. (Yeah it really happened) but hey... you still try and stay positive...

so to answer your question, no it's not hypocritical.

Anonymous said...

Great article and a point that is close to the hearts of many South African expats, myself included. Although what you say is true that South Africa needs our skills and expertise right now, my question is: at what point do you throw in the towel and decide that your personal safety is more important? That's my reason for not being there - and unfortunately it has surpassed the altruistic and patriotic sides of me. Quite frankly, I am not prepared to put myself or my children at risk, but that doesn't mean I don't love South Africa any less or think it is anything other than home.

Arthur said...

Thanks for these great comments and the honesty expressed in them. My response :

Ismail - I am so pleased to hear that you use every opportunity to show the positive side of our country to others. I know that not everyone overseas moans about SA but I know that many do (I have several friends and family overseas who will testify to this). It is refreshing to hear your positivity and I totally agree that time spent in a foreign country does wonders for life experience and lessons in other cultures. I guess my only question would be whether you intend returning or not.

Anonymous - Yes, crime is a problem in South Africa. Denying that would be extremely foolish. We have two children and have chosen to stay. In doing so my wife and I have undertaken to ensure that our children understand both the good and bad about a country that is still very much in the throes of huge and dynamic socio-economic change. If SA is still your home, when will you consider it safe enough to return?

Radio Review said...

Great article.

It would be nice to have this concert in SA where local South Africans get their chance to support these acts.

Plus it would be valuable from an economic perspective to have international guests arriving here and seeing what a great spot SA is for a holiday etc...

Arthur said...

Radio Review - Thanks for your comments. I suppose the pound is mightier than the rand but I do agree that local music fans would come in their thousands to a concert such as this held in South Africa.

Anonymous said...

I too am an expat and can understand both sides of the argument. Yes, I would love to return to my country of birth and have my children near their immediate family and our long time friends, but it's not the place for us.
I remember growing up in a very different place to what SA is today, but think, if it was that way some 30-40 years ago, my parents may have decided to move elsewhere.
In response to your comment about when will it be safe enough? well, when good people I know personally aren't being killed for petty crime! I have had friends and their families killed for their possessions and I find this appalling! I honestly do not feel safe when I return home for holidays and every noise I hear, I question what it could be. I do not want my children to feel insecure, so chose to live abroad. In saying this, I know that other countries have their crime, but it's just not to in your face and not so violent......yet!
One thing I can say, is that when I lived in SA, I had hope and I didn't feel threatened, but now being abroad for a good amount of time, I can now compare it and unfortunately it's not our first choice.
In saying this, I feel deep sorrow as I love the country, I love the people and I love the culture. I always support SA in whatever they undertake, I just do it from a distance. I have never shown patriotism to any other country and have never been inclined to take on any other nationalities passport.
I write this with a lot of family and friends in SA who just don't understand and have very negative views to us being abroad, but as with us all, sometimes choices are difficult and not always as clear cut as people may think. We accept that they chose to stay and they too must accept that we want to stay away. I must also add that I have never used crime in my argument to them to live abroad as I feel it is a sensitive issue to anyone who lives in SA...hence my decision to stay anon!

Arthur said...

Anonymous - great reply! Thanks for putting your point across so well. This is indeed a sensitive subject so I understand your desire to remain anonymous.
I do respect the wishes of those who have chosen to leave the shores of South Africa for whatever reason. I guess my wife and I just aren't at the stage where we feel it necessary to make the move. Thanks again for your well-written response.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for listening. And let's hope you never find yourself in that position either, but I hope that if you do that your family and friends will be supportive and you will feel happy about your decision!

satxoska said...

i wish i could have been there, what a luck you had!