Martin Williams, DA councillor and former editor of The Citizen.
Gratitude is a useful attitude. American playwright Maya Angelou put it thus: “I work very hard, and I play very hard. I’m grateful for life. And I live it.”
Even while we are bombarded with negative news about the economy, downgrades, unemployment, electricity blackouts, political uncertainty, potholes, filthy streets and unkempt parks, there is much to be thankful for. Make your own list.
Returning to South Africa from a northern winter, I appreciate long, warm days beneath huge, open skies. Grateful, too, for each travel opportunity.
It is possible to travel without changing your outlook, if that is the way you are wired. There are people unmoved by wonders of the ancient or modern world, but 19th-century American writer Mark Twain, was correct to note: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Although I had been to London on several occasions, one difference this time was a determination to seek out the place where I had recently discovered that a family member died seven decades ago.
Through online research, we found the exact spot in Wembley, not far from the national stadium where the 1948 Summer Olympics were held, and where England defeated Germany in the 1966 Football World Cup.
Walking those streets in 2020, you can’t help but notice the cosmopolitan nature of Wembley, in the sense of including people from many different countries. Indeed, a subsequent Google search for “demographics Wembley London” produced a result reminiscent of apartheid classification.
“The White British population of Wembley Central (792 people, 5.3% of the population) in the 2011 census makes it the sixth least White British ward in London (seventh in the country). Other ethnicities include 7.0% Other White, 66.2% Asian (46.2% Indian), and 13.9% Black.”
So, a place where a significant part of my family lived has successfully managed the type of transition which SA race-baiters think is impossible.
For that knowledge, I am grateful.
London, archetypal bastion of colonialism and white monopoly capital, may be the most ethnically diverse, cosmopolitan (that word again) world-class city. And despite immense challenges over the centuries (plagues, the great fire of 1666, bombing during World War II, 21st -century terror attacks, etc), London works. That’s encouraging.
In SA, some of us think our problems are unprecedented and insurmountable. They aren’t. Reflection on difficulties faced by other people through the ages should put things in perspective.
As Roman African theologian St Augustine (354 to 430 AD) said: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
Travel can lift your mindset out of the negative South African media bubble. If you don’t have the opportunity right now, use your imagination. As the rock group, the Moody Blues, told us, thinking is the best way to travel.
Read, listen, watch. Even TV can be stimulating if you choose the right stuff. You’ll find that an attitude of gratitude is energising.
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