“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction…”

Freedom DayThe brain responds best to change. It is rapidly adapting and once it gets whatever it is craving, it no longer wants it anymore. Part 7 of Have you Heard from Johannesburg? seemed to illustrate this point perfectly. We have spent the past four weeks watching documentaries about the struggles of overcoming apartheid in hopes of turning South Africa into a Democratic nation… in hopes of achieving the slogan “One man, One vote.”

We have watched as powerful and passionate men like Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, and Nelson Mandela  were beaten, arrested, imprisoned, and murdered for the sole purpose of overcoming apartheid. We have learned about the many, many massacres, riots, and arrests that took place in hopes of creating a democratic nation. Why then, after the achievement of a democratic nation, something that the people of South Africa had been waiting so long for, why was it considered… for lack of a better word…anti climactic?

After thinking about it for a while, I have come up with two possible explanations. My first explanation was that after this long Freedom Daystruggle, people were unsure of where to go next. I think that people must have felt that they were fighting an impossible, never ending battle. Almost as if there was no light at the end of the tunnel… until there was… and then people did not know what to do next. I think when people are born into a struggle of this magnitude, it is hard to understand life any other way. People knew there was life better than what they had, and they knew that they were not being treated justly. However, I don’t think people were prepared for actually obtaining their goal. Once they had the possibility for this better life that they had always dreamt of, many people did not know where to begin. However, I may be just trying to see the good in people.

Oliver Tambo and Nelson mandelaThe more realistic (or pessimistic) part of me thinks that there is something inherent within human beings that prevents us from ever being truly satisfied. Casting a vote by dropping a piece of paper into the ballot box should have been a momentous occasion given the hardships endured to be able to do so.

April 27, 1994 represented the culmination and success of a long struggle –Why was it not then?

It’s truly upsetting to think that Oliver Tambo, who devoted his life to ending apartheid, died without getting to vote while people who gave up little, but supported his cause were able to reap the benefits of his sacrifices. More upsetting than that, however, is the fact that I don’t think some people thoroughly Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tamboappreciated the extent of the sacrifices these men made.

Seeing the first meeting between Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo after years of not speaking due to the injustices imposed on them by the South African government, was inspirational yet heart-wrenching. It was amazing to see the hard work and devotion of these men finally pay off. At the same time, there was an inherent sadness in it all, as the picture portrayed old, sick, withered men who had literally given up their lives. With this in mind, perhaps, the success of this movement was only truly fulfilling to those who were willing to give up everything they had for it, like Nelson Mandela who had spent the majority of his life in jail.

All in all, I do not mean to sound like a pessimist or judge other people for their feelings. I just mean to point out the irony in the whole situation and the innate piece in all of us that prevents us from ever being truly satisfied with things we have worked so hard for. I am sure, despite the anti climactic nature of the voting process, that there was an inherent sense of reward and success felt by all those who had been oppressed by the apartheid regime. However, that feeling of reward was short lived and in a way unappreciated.

While the people of South Africa had accomplished this one goal, there were many more struggles to come — South Africa is currently a Democratic nation, yet the country is segregated and inundated with poverty and disease. Furthermore, the effects of the apartheid regime on South Africans are still present due to the resentment many black South Africans feel towards white South Africans. What I am trying to say is, yes, they accomplished one goal… but at what cost? Considering the state of South Africa now, was all the risk and sacrifice worth the reward?


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