GREY MUTTER: Imagine dwelling in a country where leadership authentically prioritises the well-being of its residents, writes Lance Fredericks
THE CREATOR of the hit show Seinfeld has an issue with people wishing him a happy new year too long after the fireworks have gone off and the Champagne corks have popped.
In one of the episodes of another of his hilarious shows, the Curb Your Enthusiasm star and creator, Larry David, set a statute of limitations on the seasonal salutation. “Three days,” David declares, and then adds, “By the way, everything doesn’t have to be happy. Why does everything have to be happy?”
However, over in the Far East, society is gearing up for the Chinese New Year. This year, 2024, will be the year of the dragon. So I suppose it’s still OK to reflect and bask in the hope that the new year will bring.
With that in mind, and in the crisp embrace of a new year, promises of positivity, renewed vigour, and a heightened connection with our fellow humans still linger in the air. Despite the relentless challenges that each day brings, the onset of a new year invites us to adopt a revitalised perspective on the world. It whispers to us, “Maybe this year I can do better, and in doing so, inspire others to follow suit.”
My words often spill onto the pages of this newspaper, and very often those words are critical of the seemingly endless service deficiencies, infrastructure disparities, and the hollow assurances of those responsible for the upkeep of our cities, towns and, yes, the entire country.
But then again, who can blame me? It’s second nature to cast blame, pointing fingers at the myriad of issues surrounding us and those responsible for perpetuating the rot.
Yet, I thought, what if, just for a fleeting moment, we redirect that critical gaze inward? What if we shift our focus from lamenting what others do wrong to the modest steps we can individually take to set things right?
Could the key be as simple as counting what genuinely counts? Let me see if I can explain what I mean …
Consider the essentials – a roof sheltering us, a bed embracing us in sleep, and sustenance, whether lavish or meagre, gracing our tables. Yet, beyond our boundary fences, these basic elements of a comfortable life remain elusive luxuries for many.
In a world where countless souls lack these basic gifts, is it fair for us to persist in our ceaseless complaints about what we lack? The undeniable truth is that a significant portion of us enjoy privileges far beyond the reach of others, and – may I suggest – perhaps it is high time we recognise this.
Now speaking of privilege, I find myself writing this column from the Far East. For the second time in a short period of time, I was blessed to travel to Hong Kong; so as I pen down these reflections from foreign lands, the privilege allowing me to traverse borders and visit family abroad is not lost on me.
I constantly wonder, how many of us have had the chance to venture beyond our home towns or possess the means to do so?
Now when I see the order, efficiency and accountability of the systems that are in place in this bustling metropolis, it’s easy – very easy – for me to see the almost infinite chasm between how things are done here (in Hong Kong) and back home, in good old South Africa; and it’s heartbreaking. What they are doing here is not rocket science, it’s simply a different mindset, a different work ethic – people here spend their workday actually working; imagine that!
But when I speak about looking inward first, please understand that I am not talking about overlooking the flaws in our government or leadership; there’s certainly much room for improvement there. However, international news has revealed a common thread in countries around the globe – a shared commitment in various corners of the world to uplift living conditions for all, not just a select few.
Imagine dwelling in a country where leadership authentically prioritises the well-being of its residents. Envision a world where repaired potholes and water pipes aren’t mere patchwork but enduring solutions. In this utopian vision, qualified individuals safeguard the basic human rights and provide running water, secure neighbourhoods and safe roads.
In this society, everyone’s contribution converges towards collective betterment. Here’s the thing, this society will have to start with ‘us’ instead of ‘them’.
Yes, it’s early days; we are still within the warm embrace of January and an entire year of possibilities lie ahead, So let’s cling to this ember of hope – hope that our government, our compatriots, and every member of our communities will strive for progress rather than destruction – to fix, rather than break down, to push forward, rather than throw up our hands in surrender.
Personally, I am resolute in playing my part, persistently reminding myself to be grateful for the myriad blessings in my life and to count what genuinely counts.
Christian author Ellen White sums this thought up beautiful when she writes: “Whatever you may possess above your fellows places you in debt, to that degree, to all who are less favoured. Have we wealth, or even the comforts of life, then we are under the most solemn obligation to care for the suffering sick, the widow, and the fatherless exactly as we would desire them to care for us were our condition and theirs to be reversed.”
Meanwhile, self-help writer Edmond Mbiaka implores us, “Count your blessings with gratitude no matter how small or big they are, and stop letting your lacks blindfold you from noticing how blessed that you are.”
Admit it, these words resonate, dont they? They urge us to look past our grievances and acknowledge the abundance surrounding us.
It’s easy, comfortable, even a habit to keep our complaints and dissatisfaction front and centre in our minds, but why not let us embark on a gratitude revolution?
Let’s tally the moments of kindness, the exchanged smiles, the comfort of shelter, and the nourishment on our plates. Let’s redirect our focus from what’s lacking to what’s present, from despair to hope, and from blame to accountability.
In this way, as we navigate the uncertain terrain of the forthcoming months, we may find that our collective consciousness could steer us towards a society that exalts gratitude, treasures simple joys, and tirelessly works to ensure that every individual – irrespective of their circumstances – can count what genuinely counts … a life infused with dignity, compassion, and shared prosperity.
In this way we could show even the jaded, cynical Larry David why happiness is important.
Also, perhaps this contagion of positivity and attitude of paying it forward will permeate our leaders, inspiring them to join the movement for positive change that benefits all, and not only themselves.