Khalid Wasi

Modern-world demands require bravery

  • Let freedom ring: the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr gestures to his congregation in Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 30, 1967 (Photograph courtesy the Associated Press)

A long time ago, or should I say “once upon a time”, while there was yet darkness in the lands, simultaneously there existed the brightness of a hope for a better day.

The 1940s saw a band of newly educated persons pushing in the areas of education, politics and labour to break the back of structured deprivation in all those areas.

While the mood was determined, it was not unruly because they kept the focus on the things that mattered.

At that time we needed more teachers, school facilities and resources.

We needed better pay and parity with benefits such as healthcare, and we needed political expression by way of the right for everyone to vote.

By the 1960s, most of those objectives were achieved in large measure and the thought of a true human equality was seen as achievable as the last frontier of a civil and human rights movement that had, in its lexicon, phrases such as “I had a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”

The phrases did not end. There they went on to say things such as:

“With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

“This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring’.”

That was the spiritual message belted out in church after church, in community after community, and even country after country in the early 1960s.

That tide changed with the introduction of cryptosocialism and a more separatist agenda that began to fill the atmosphere, and the vision of an inclusive society began to fade away. Survivalist mode kicked in, tricks and deceit became basic tender.

False handshakes, backstabbing, ostracism, lies and suppression for the sake of retaining or gaining power became the new legitimate tools for the philosophy of “by any means necessary”.

What happened to the movement towards democracy and the pursuit of brotherhood of man?

Leadership today is so unabashed they scarcely mention it — except to criticise, but never to lead.

There is an old song whose title is Look What They’ve Done to My Song.

We need to look and see what they’ve done to our political movement, which in turn follows with what was done to our education.

No one should deny that the share of the dollars in the marketplace shows a greater disparity, which means on an equitable basis that hope has diminished likewise.

What was once a beautiful symphony has turned into a wretched groan.

We gave birth through our own loins a new generation of leaders who never heard of or saw the vision but were beguiled by the treachery of a sad, revisionist political agenda, which replaced the standard of the movement of our forefathers.

They have inherited the nasty traits of decades of example.

We can do better if we choose to take up a higher cause and be the example that we want to see if we pursued nobler ends rather than the simple politics of retaliation and the all too familiar self-aggrandisement of “me first”.

We are not bound to a past or systems that are inadequate; we have to be brave to be consistent with the demands of a modern world.

This fear of being the first or unprecedented to establish new ideas must end.