There were four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.
While I was away for the first two weeks of August, large parts of White River had a sustained power outage of some 50 hours, due to a failed transformer that had to be completely replaced. Relocating one from another area, recommissioning etc was a lengthy process. Social media exploded with complaints and abuse, as a few stalwarts tried to keep people informed and updated. Venom was heaped on them, even though some of these individuals didn’t work for the Municipality, had no control over what was happening on the ground and were just trying to assist the public at large.
A few days after power was restored, there was a Ratepayers meeting. Unsurprisingly, it was packed to capacity as people arrived in droves to voice their unhappiness to the Municipal officials present.
Recently another Ratepayers meeting was held – these are regular events – and 8 people pitched up. Memories are short. Once we are back in our comfort zones, we tend to forget that being an active citizen is an important part of community living.
Towns around South Africa are running out of water. Phalaborwa hasn’t had water or electricity for days on end. Barberton is also struggling. These are just the ones I personally know of. Yet we are still so complacent that every time we turn on a tap or a light switch, we simply expect water or electricity to flow. You may or may not be aware of the #Imstaying Facebook page which started only a couple of weeks ago and has already reached 681,000 members as I write this. At some point someone posted a suggestion that we all get involved in improving our community, mooting ideas such as picking up litter, fixing potholes, cutting grass, feed the homeless etc. Again, there was an avalanche of criticism with the general theme being “why should I when I pay taxes?” and “It’s the Government’s problem.” Ah. They do have a point of course; we pay taxes for just that. The reality however is that this isn’t happening, for a variety of reasons I am not going to debate here because that is not the subject of this blog.
The point is that REALITY is what we need to deal with. We all know what our ideal community would look like. The reality is we don’t live in it and are unlikely to for the foreseeable future. Unless of course we decide to decamp to a remote island somewhere and work in a beach bar but, let’s face it, climate change may soon see that proposed destination swamped by rising oceans.
Responsible Citizenship is the new buzzword. In fact 100 Choices is doing 100 interviews with people they consider responsible citizens and you can find out more here https://web.facebook.com/100choicesgame/ There has been a fascinating array of individuals, ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things. Some very quietly. All making a difference in their own unique way, in the spaces they inhabit. They are inspiring stories.
You probably know that famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi – “you must be the change you want to see in the world”. I was sad to read recently that our local SPCA has closed their recycling point. Why? Because people are too lazy to sort their rubbish and just dropped off anything and everything. A really good idea, which not only served the community but also brought in some much-needed funds for the charity, bit the dust because people cannot be bothered. The very same people who will no doubt express outrage on social media and share those posts that talk about how the planet is drowning in plastic. This is not the first time recycling points have closed because of abuse by the very people it is supposed to assist, even the big retailers have folded in the face of wet and decomposing rubbish being dropped into their recycling bins. While there have been a number of posts lamenting the closure, no-one has come up with any solutions or alternatives. Recycling is becoming big business and we need it in White River.
We are walking around with blinkers on, hoping that Somebody, Anybody will come along and solve the challenges we face, or wave a magic wand so that pure water flows, we don’t have daily load shedding, potholes miraculously get filled and streets are litter free. Just not me.
To quote the metaphysical poet John Donne said (1572-1631)
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Our belief that we are on top, as opposed to being part of, will trip us up if we are not careful.
Can you be that Somebody who makes a small difference in the space around you? Today? If not now, then when?