In thinking a little further about the whole Yebo Yethu thing a thought struck me – I know it doesn’t happen often, and when it does happen its not always that profound but just try stick with me on this one…
I’ve been doing a huge amount of thinking and research into the whole subject of community and even doing the odd talk on the subject recently. This has all been in the context of ecclesiology – my study of the church – which, for obvious reasons, is quite high on my priority list at the moment. An issue that I continually bump into is the rampant individualism of the modernist west and how it has saturated our lives, thought patterns and the structures in which we work, live and have our being. But thinking about the Yebo Yethu issue got me thinking about Black Economic Empowerement (BEE) in general in South Africa. I wonder, just wonder, if the reason that so many white people can’t stomach BEE is partly because they’re wrapped up in an individualist worldview.
So a white, individualist might look at something like Yebo Yethu and conclude that it is discriminatory in nature because it doesn’t allow HIM/HER, the individual, to invest in Vodacom shares. The collectivist (whatever colour he/she is) on the other hand looks at Yebo Yethu and sees that THEY, the collective group of non-whites who make up the majority of the country and who have often in the past had limited opportunity and know how in the area of investment, are being given a chance to invest and learn more about investment. A collectivist could then look at the whole situation and conclude that South Africa as a nation (white/black/coloured/indian etc) will benefit from this programme. Now obviously there would be a number of caveats I’d have to include – so for example if these programmes were attempting to build up the nation at the extreme exclusion of a minority group then I think it would also have a problem, but as I see it whites in this country still have plenty of investment opportunites – so I don’t think the exclusion can be described as extreme. And I do think that ultimately it is for the good of the collective.
So my my thought is: I wonder, just wonder, if western individualism is stopping us from building this country into the country it should be. Maybe I’m just a naiive optimist who hasn’t in any way, to date, incurred loss due to BEE or affirmative action – or maybe I’m right. What do you think?