“It is part of our liberation and freedom, part of a world come of age, to recognise that we are capable of deciding what is good for us and what is bad for us, and acting accordingly… But someone must take the initiative. Is your spirit on that level?”
How can South Africa learn to cope with the human instincts of self, sex and the herd? They are good instincts. We need them to survive and enjoy living. But, like chocolate and whisky, too much of a good thing can be bad.
Sex is scary. People are shattered by the force of sexual attraction and the pressure for sexual satisfaction. Ninety-five percent of people masturbate and the other 5% are liars, says a doctor. Many problems from rape to home rage stem not from wicked intent but from failure to understand our sexual nature. We get corrupted.
Self-development can degenerate into greed. An African National Congress analysis notes that most revolutions start on a moral high ground but are susceptible to inner decay.
“The focus moves from the vision of a new world to the quest for power in that world; from seeking collective transformation to seeking personal gain.”
We worship financiers. Many who criticise the government for sending billions overseas for arms in the next decade, condone the billions transferred in vast profits every year. They accept an immoral economic system that enables possessors to deny the dispossessed the means to transform life. The media and advertising industries, knowing we follow the herd, manipulate sex and greed to promote their business and politics, and we get corrupted.
Immoral value systems are the HIV of the soul. The hidden corruption eating into our basic instincts, bursts into full-blown spiritual Aids and the opportunistic diseases of violence, attacks on children and women, bribery, hand-outs, kickbacks, inflated incomes, concealed crookedness and blatant criminality, which lead to death.
So how can a nation regain soul control of its instincts? The old way was by taboo. Kings or priests prescribed the rules and the disobedient were executed, or excommunicated. Parsons and politicians calling for a return to “the old days” must recognise that pining for the past will not bring it back. Clocks, calendars and social consciousness don’t work backwards.
moralities have been replaced by systems
of private choice,” writes Richard
Holloway, Bishop of Edinburgh. We have to
recognise that “the creation of morality
is our business, it is something we have
to do for our own sake if we are to live
sanely and with care for one another and
the good of society."
It is part of our liberation and freedom, part of a world come of age, to recognise that we are capable of deciding what is good for us and what is bad for us, and acting accordingly.
Soul power heeds vision. “Part of the answer to why comrades become corrupt should be found in the death of idealism in the New South Africa,” says Dr Molefe Tsele of the SA [South African] Council of Churches. Many politicians and parsons are mired in cynical pessimism. They need to be born again by recovering faith that society can be changed, the experience of confidence which prompted the cry:
We can recapture the vision of goodness in individuals and societies. This is why the TRC [The Truth and Reconciliation Commission] was so important, and needs concluding with a highly visible commitment to wash the spears and harvest practical reconciliation. Vision underlies the new religion education policy, enabling children to claim for themselves the values embraced by all religions.
Women and youth terrify global oppressors because they are visionaries. Women gave clout to social change throughout history. The youth who encouraged South Africa to reject political oppression in Soweto in 1976 might tackle economic oppression today. That is why so much is spent to lure them into the culture of clothes and cosmetics and self-centred pastimes. We need the vision of women and youth who are not corrupted by consumerism.
But the main focus for soul power is on group activity at the local level. The vision of an ideal country needs translating into the practice of a successful neighbourhood. Concerned citizens may call on governments to make changes at the top, but must form local groups to change society from the bottom themselves.
Many people focus their faith on the power of God in society through religious structures. These need to proclaim the vision of a transformed society, not merely clobber sinners or shampoo souls. Many reports call for the recovery of well prepared, powerful, positive preaching, prompting discussion groups where people can learn the moral strengths to enjoy their instincts.
The country is choking on spiritual pollution, and local groups can clean up the climate of cynicism, fear and destruction with a new spiritual environment of faith and hope, peace and justice, love and reconciliation. They can challenge media that flaunt only negative stories, and campaign for resources to back radio and television programmes promoting goodness rather than bad, and portraying people who celebrate their instincts without corrupting them.
Local government and local religions can bring progressive forces together to analyse and solve the problems. Such groups learn the soul power to cope with instincts, reject the stigma of Aids, motivate sexual behavioural change, provide resources for young people to change society, and empower women.
But someone must take the initiative. Is your spirit on that level?
Cedric’s article Blessings of Delight and the Curse of Corruption was written for the Mail & Guardian, December 14 to 19, 2001.
Thank you, Cedric, for your kind permission to reprint the article. Cedric may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org