Well today is Heritage Day, but is so wet here that I cant bring myself to make a braai. Its quite interesting actually that the idea of having a braai on Heritage day has caught on. Because, if I were to question people I meet in South Africa everyday and ask them about their heritage, they will most often speak about their specific national, tribal or language identity. In some cases the individual may also have some kind of clan or family heritage that they like to speak about. Heritage, for so many of us has been about trying to answer the question “How are you different from other people?” Well I am not sure that’s the only way to think of it. There are so many things that we in fact have as a common Heritage. That’s why I like the idea of “Braai” day, because no matter who you are, your ancestors at some stage cooked meat over an open fire. This is an in and inescapable truth and a comforting ritual that we are all still drawn to in some way. We are all drawn to music, we are all drawn to conversation and laughter and we are all drawn to being outside and breathing fresh air. This is our common heritage and this is what we should be celebrating. In my life these are the things that I celebrate. The minuscule and scientific differences between us are not of such a great fascination to me. Rather I see as academic, the differences between Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whiskey, I see as academic the differences between Rooseterkoek and I’rostile. I see as academic the difference between Pot Roast Chicken and Umleqwa or Umqa and Pap.
I would also argue that it is our common heritage to interact with each other in a civilised way in order to exchange with each other goods and services, In fact, on our way out to the farm this morning Hlubi and I stopped in at the Lake Farm Centre for Intellectually Challenged Adults. They were having their annual fair. Unfortunately a little washed out, but there were still enough people to form a queue at the coffee and cake table and to buy out the boerewors rolls. We huddled indoors looking through the bric-a-brac or choosing the fresh fruit and veg on sale from local farms. It just came to me how different and pleasant this experience of trade is. It feels honest. It feels caring. Dealing with ordinary pleasant people like you and me. Not sexy, Not Flashy. Just ordinary and pleasant.So different from the malls and superstores where I am constantly on my guard, un-relaxed, conscious that this big huge business, is a very clever machine and it is trying its best to drain my wallet and suck my blood. There is no relaxing in such an environment.
But at Lake Farm this morning I wondered: “Is the act of buying and selling our daily needs in a pleasant and civilised environment which we own and control not a common Heritage that we should reclaim for ourselves?”. Really, its only in the last 50 years or so that the act of consuming has been turned in to massive industry that it is. Can you think of a shopping mall that even existed in the seventies? I cant, but maybe there was one somewhere far away. The point is that Heritage is something that has come a long way from the past and belongs to us. We need to defend against those gifts being taken away from us. The corporations taking those gifts away from us are mindless and soulless. I don’t mean this as an insult. It is an observation. Remember, while corporations were all at some stage founded by people, they are not people, they are code, like a computer virus, a piece of programming. They employ humans yes, but they are not human. Corporations are machines and they are out of control. They have no “off”switch. Any single human who tries to switch off Walmart or Macdonalds will be ejected by the machine. Discarded, disciplined, imprisoned…
Am I digressing?
Is it not our heritage to have clean water and breathable air? Is it not our heritage to have clean food, free toxic commercial chemicals? Is it not our heritage to be free from toil and drudgery? Yes, I know some will say that it is also our heritage to be riddled with lepracy and dying from bubonic plague, But have the scare mongers not been too successful in convincing us all that we have had to accept drudgery, toil and environmental collapse in order to achieve the technological advances that have brought us the anti-biotic?
No, I think we can confidently lay claim to a heritage of freedom. We are more knowledgeable now as a species than we have ever been before. If freedom is the freedom from drudgery, poverty and environmental collapse, then yes, it can be achieved if we set to it as a project, as if we had to get a man on the moon or build a Hadron Collider or rid Iraq of Saddam Hussain. It can be done.
Freedom is our Heritage. It belongs to us.