Thursday, June 25, 2009

When modesty means creating one's own legacy

I was reading Nikiwe Bikitsha’s article in this weekend’s Mail & Guardian’s newspaper. My week is not complete without a copy of the M&G, there is some serious journalism going on there. Hers is one of the columns I like reading because I think she is seriously sexy upstairs. She was on about her family history and how her great grandfather was just great and what legacies he left. She ended up by saying she has been inspired to also leave a great legacy. Her great grandfather by the way assisted in ensuring that the missionaries succeed in “civilizing” this “Dark Continent”.

Coupled to her column was a whole section about the top 300 young South Africans and a Prince Mashele’s column about the youth of today and what they would answer in future if asked where were they when these top 300 young South Africans were rocking the boat. I must confess I did not read his article and don’t see the need to read it. I also passed a cursory glance at these top dogs to see if there’s somebody I know or to check that maybe my name might appear there (in my dreams of course). I most of the time read my M&G from cover to cover but I did not pay much attention to those 300 bright souls and their conquests…jealousy perhaps!!, and I will not pay any further attention to that section of the paper (more envy, maybe?).

But all this really gave me some existential moments. Why is recognition so important? Why do we have to concern ourselves with legacies when once you are dead you are dead? When Jesus wakes us all up from the dead what is going to happen to those who just were because they were? Why are we so obsessed with reward, be it now or in the afterlife? Why can’t we just be good beings just for its sake? Goodness is a good thing, right? You should not do good because you have been promised a reward, right? One should do good because it is a good thing, isn’t it?

But then there is this pervasive culture of wanting recognition for the good that one does, be it a blessing from god or the receipt of some medal or some bestowing of some honour or some legacy. This might not be a bad thing but in this now world material possession is the best form of recognition you can get. You have to be a Bill Gates or Warren Buffet before you can think about giving to the poor, and the poor and everybody else have to respect you. You have to be respected and respect is earned through having a name, like a Mandela, a Bikitsha and so on and your path to stardom will be easy. Some people earned recognition through their hard work and it has become important to jealously guard the name they have made for themselves and their offsprings should never let them down….legacy!! I should give Mr. Buffet some recognition because according to him any other Buffet or his relations must make their own names if they want to and he is not going to use his name or wealth to prop them up except for the bare minimum required of a parent.

Do we really have to celebrate stupidity because some of the well known people, be it because of their money or because he happened to be at the right place at the right time were or are incredibly stupid. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see on one of these famous people/celebrities/trendsetters an epitaph that reads “herein lies an incredibly stupid person”. If truth be told this world has been led and continues to be led by incredibly stupid people. Now that would be a true testament to that person’s legacy and to us as a people, because sometimes our stupidity comes out through these leaders. Just look at the USA, Germany, Italy, South Africa, and Soviet Union for examples of stupid leaders who have left and will leave legacies behind.

Is it really necessary to teach our generation and those to come about heroes or should we just be teaching kids about the inherence of being good for its sake.

1 comment:

  1. I thought of your post today because I went to a talk at Fort Hare about the Dinokeng Scenarios (those 3 scenarios for the future of SA). And part of me wanted to be one of the important people - you know, the organisers, the ones all dressed up, facilitating, flying in to do the talk then jet setting off wherever else. The ones answering the questions while we listen.

    Lol :)

    It made me think of your post - my need for recognition! (By the way - I had almost exactly the same response to the 300 young South Africans as you! I read one or two then moved on... pretend disinterest... envy!)

    But I completely agree with you that we should really be getting out motivation from ourselves - not the need for recognition.

    Thats why I so admire Albert Luthuli - there was a guy who did the right thing because it was the right thing. Eventually he ended up being an important person, but he didn't start out trying to become an important person. He just started out serving people.