By HOWARD FELDMAN
Think that positivity is a strapline for stupidity as the lights go out across South Africa? Wrong…
Loadshedding and the frustrations that walk alongside it aren’t a joke. No South Africans are laughing as they face zero power and the economy wilts under the pressure of Eskom’s failures. But as the lights blink out across suburb and city there is one thing that every person should not do – emigrate in the dark. Why? Because when the lights come on in South Africa, you have people sitting next to you. The people who had the camping stove ready to make coffee, who made dinner by the braai by the light of the Console jar, who already had the board games on the table and the wine in the camping fridge. When the lights come on overseas, will someone be sitting beside you?
Finding positivity while carrying the weight of loadshedding alongside the concerns of education, economy and the cost of living isn’t easy. It also doesn’t have to be about looking desperately for something nice to say. Positivity is as simple as making sure that your needs are met and that your worries are faced with a dose of realism. Hate that loadshedding stops you from being connected to the internet? Purchase the right technology to keep you connected in the dark. Dislike the idea of waking up to no coffee? Get that gas cylinder set up and sit back with a coffee-fuelled sunrise. Yes, these moments would be far easier if you could flick a switch, but have you considered what these, and other problems, are doing for you?
Discomfort isn’t necessarily bad. Growing up with and experiencing adversity can potentially give you the ability to think out the box, to cope in complex situations and to live a life that’s fierce and free of fear. This approach doesn’t mean that you should accept corruption and mismanagement or live in denial of the problems that face South Africa. You can still be positive and recognise what is going on around you. The trick isn’t to find rainbows and fluffy kittens at every corner, but to ensure that your most basic and important comforts are met. Get that gas cylinder and that inverter and that cup of coffee. Prioritise what makes you happy, even when the lights go out.
Look, you can’t be blamed for being negative and annoyed. Especially when you get your invoice three days after the last load was shed. Every one of us understands exactly what steps took us to this destination and how many steps are needed to take us to a new one. However, every country has its own problems. Emigrating to new shores may see you enjoying oodles of energy on a whim, but there will be other challenges that you’ll have even less control over. No country is without its issues, the real question you should be asking is what issues you are prepared to live with.
But before you throw your clothes into a bag, in the dark, consider waiting. Consider how adversity is shaping you into someone who can handle anything. Consider how a more positive outlook doesn’t mean overlooking the issues but rather finding ways of rising above them. And, perhaps most importantly, wait for that sunrise. Wait for the morning when you walk outside with your coffee and watch the African sun burn across the sky in colours that only belong to this continent and then ask yourself if it is really time to go. Turn and look around you. The people standing beside you, the ones on WhatsApp sharing your outrage, the ones that argue about corruption by the water cooler. They speak your language and they won’t be overseas.
Howard Feldman is the author of Smile, Dammit – a book about optimism and hope. For more information and book orders, go to: howardfeldman.co.za/author/.