The incredibly tragic fires that have ravaged our Garden Route and the town of Knysna particularly these last few days, has maybe had us all thinking about things on another level in some way or another. Even if it was just a fleeting thought about what it might be like to lose everything. It’s humbling to say the least.

Catastrophe on this scale comes with it an exposure of the people we truly are. On the whole, I believe it has shown an incredible unity that South Africans feel but have forgotten about under the cloud of identity politics, media and politicians’ agendas.

We are South Africans, we come in all shapes and sizes. We are the unique, troubled but still promising teenager on the world stage. Granted, we are currently going down a very destructive path and maybe sadly it’s time to admit we’ll never grow up to be the Rainbow Nation. But this crisis and the reaction to it has shown that there is still a sliver of hope for our troubled country. The hope lies in the people, not the politics.

Unfortunately, the other side to this coin is how during this crisis what was revealed was a minority of people who showed their very ugly, angry faces in reaction to the fires. I could post here screen grabs of the terrible comments to illustrate, but I wouldn’t want to give the hate any more of a platform than it already had over the past few days. Let me just say this; while getting fire updates on social media it was truly shocking and I’ll admit hurtful to see people calling for another human’s death or celebrating other’s tragedy purely because of their colour. In my lifetime including my youth I have never heard people speak like this. I know, I’m a white South African so I couldn’t possibly say that, right? But its 100% true. It’s just basic decency to show respect after someone’s passing. Especially someone who is a stranger and was probably just a regular, hard-working, good person like most of us or a child that was completely innocent of any past indiscretion.

But the fire did not discriminate. It attacked Males and Females, Old and Young, Gay and Straight, Black and White. It just highlighted and brought home that the obsession we all have with who’s to blame for our lot in life, is nothing. It means nothing. It helps nobody. It’s just a taught obsession that can frighteningly be taken too far. Pent up anger that is nurtured and encouraged is dangerous for everyone. The massive push for Politically Correct culture has had the opposite effect to what it promised. It has aided in feeding the frenzy undercover and helping the cooker build pressure at a furious rate. I think we’re about to blow and we need to take action fast. We need to start communicating directly, one on one.

Sadly, I believe that things have gotten to the point where we can’t just make laws to get out of our divide, if we tried we’d regulate ourselves into true modern slavery and a nanny state that everyone will suffer for.

No, from my point of view this hate is showing mostly in the youth and that means it’s being taught. 20 odd years into democracy and freedom and we have never been more divided. Hopefully it won’t take another crisis to help us see the solution. We need to cut through the propaganda and start seeing each other again.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring for any of us and we certainly have a hard road ahead. We could take the example set by the people of the Garden Route during this disaster. Together they fought that fire and tried to save everyone’s lives not thinking of who they should help first.

Crisis often brings clarity.

In fact, the whole country has been activated to help the victims whoever they are. In future, we should probably be on the lookout for those in need around us. It’s too easy to turn away I know and just as easy for someone to turn away from you. I for one would like to believe that someone would be there in my time of need. It works both ways.

Perhaps if we can move past the virtue signalling and actually get our hands dirty to try to rebuild our beautiful country. We don’t need a government to do it, that’s been proven time and again. We need each other to pool our resources, swallow our pride and get on with, on the ground. We don’t have to give up our cultures or who we are as individuals, we just need to recognise that we also have a joint South African culture we are still developing, let’s not stuff it up. We’re stuck with each other for now, I think we could make the most of it instead of destroying it beyond repair.

What an enlightening time we live in. We are being forced to face ourselves. Some will wake up sooner than others but it’s inevitable. The cycles will always go around. The Battle is not won, but let us not surrender when we still have a chance. Hopefully we can avoid too much damage on our road to adulthood as a nation.

We can only try.

Photo property of Knysna-Plett Herald

*I would like to make a special mention to everyone affected by the Fires across the Garden Route and in the Storms in the Western Cape including those that have lost loved ones, their homes, their livelihoods. You are in my thoughts every second of the day and we won’t let people forget about you.

To those courageous fire fighters, emergency services and medics, volunteers and residents that risked their lives to save others, you have my utmost respect and admiration. Thank you for your bravery!

And finally, to every single person across the country that stepped out of their comfort zone and got involved somehow. Thank you, you give us hope.

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