The current political cocktail in South Africa is a potentially deadly one, and I find myself growing helplessly frustrated with the miners, with the dreadful demagoguery of Julius Malema and with the apparent inability of the police and the military to maintain the rule of law without resorting to terrible levels of violence. As so often, the less-badly paid act as a vanguard in political and economic unrest. The miners have more money, more health and more organization than their even less well-paid compatriots, and are able to demonstrate – and to resist – more effectively. Others follow in their train.
I know too that at the heart of this is the economics of inequity, coupled with the political savoir faire of a generation schooled in the conflicts of apartheid. Of all peoples, South Africans know how to storm the citadels of power.
Inside me, a voice shouts ‘Why can’t they just pay them more?’ The platinum, gold and other precious metals that they mine make many rich, but not the miners. Of course I would have to pay a price, in the cars that I buy, the jewellery that I purchase, a soaring cost of living in the West and falling standards of life. No more cheap ride on the back of Africa and Asia, then?
I can’t quite get my head round it all. There’s no point in inducing liberal guilt, nor in simply reducing my own standard of living in protest. That feels too small. I know we are all in this together, and that the well-being of the world depends on cooperative action. That too feels like a distant joke.
So what shall I do? Well, I think I will pray that the problem doesn’t go away for South Africa, and that it has deep global political repercussions for us all. I shall pray that the simple economics of less platinum, higher price, begins to have the weight of a global lesson in the ethics of cause and effect. God never meant us to live beyond our means, and I will prepare myself for a more realistic emerging lifestyle. It’s beginning to happen. May God’s kingdom of justice and righteousness come, and may we be blessed by it when it does.