OPINION: Looking in the light for things lost in the dark

One of my favourite stories is attributed to Sigmund Freud.

He tells of a man who had lost his pocket watch while walking in the street. It was night time, and so, under the light of a street lamp he searched and searched for it. His friend, who happened to be walking past, saw him, and asked him what he was looking for. When he explained that he had lost his valuable possession, the friend stopped to see if he could help him find it.

After some time and no success, his friend asked if he was certain that he had dropped it where they were looking. The answer he received was, "No. I didn't lose it here. I dropped it over there," while pointing to a dark alley. "So why are we looking here?" asked the helper, somewhat perplexed. "Because it's dark where I lost it. There is no point in looking there. It's much easier to look in the light."

This is not the story of Eskom.

But in many ways, it is the story of South Africa.

It is no exaggeration to say that the country is in crisis. The power utility is struggling to keep the lights on and have done little to address the problem in ten years.

The economy has floundered primarily as a result of the wholesale corruption at the hands of the ANC. Unemployment and poverty are rife and very clearly the consequences of government folly.

Public health is appalling and public education even worse. Crime is rampant and there is a groundswell of anger.

But the ANC has had the time to welcome Hamas to the country. The Johannesburg City Council has had time to debate the changing of a non-descript road – Sandton Drive – to one named after a Palestinian Hijacker; a divisive figure who hijacked a TWA flight and who supports the calls for the death of Jews.

As if that will do any good for the people of the country. As if there is any chance of finding the watch that South Africans have lost.

Under normal circumstances a government would signal what its priorities are. In the case of South Africa, I am certain that most of the country would agree that the above issues would be on that list. There might be a few that some would add, such as land reform. But on the most part I believe that everyone's list would appear pretty much the same.

The one that I am certain of, is that aside from an agenda driven few, the issue of Israel and the Palestinians would not be on that list. It would most likely not even be on the reserve list.

The question is why the ANC chooses repeatedly to engage in this and to take sides. In May of 2018 it proved its ignorance by demanding that Israel withdraw from Gaza (something Israel had done years before). Last week it welcomed Hamas and listened to details of human suffering "with tears in their eyes" without questioning how Hamas had just sentenced six civilians, including women, to death per "military court" for collaborating with Israel.

The ANC did not ask Hamas about their repeated abuse of the citizens of Gaza and their stated intention to destroy Israel.

South African media is no better. Sadly, when the ANC incorrectly demands Israel retreat from Gaza there is a bigger story that the media chooses to ignore. Why is it that the South African government is so ignorant of the facts that they are able to say something that embarrassing? That is the story. That is what should have been explored. A simple repeating of the government statement is not it at all. Just as when Hamas visits Parliament and the ANC doesn't challenge its human right abuses, why does the media not ask the questions that the government didn't?

That is after all their job.

But perhaps it's simply easier to look for the watch in the light.

It is certainly easier to report on the street renaming that honours a hijacker than to question what is the driving force of this initiative. It is easier for the ANC to focus on the conflict thousands of kilometres away, rather than to engage in the crises back home.

We all do it. We all look where it's light even though in our heart we know that as much we try, we will never find what we have lost where we are looking. It's simply so much easier to look under that lamp.  

Unless it's during Eskom's loadshedding. And then we are all pretty much in the dark. 

- Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of two books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM. 

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