It’s time to move beyond a search for success, it’s time to strive for significance
– Mamphela Ramphele
Why do we turn criminals into celebrities? An opinion piece written by Mosibudi Mangena (Cape Times, Wed 10 October 2012, pg 9) – hits the nail right on the head when he points out that in order to be a “star” in South Africa, for the media to follow you everywhere you go and have your pictures in the newspaper and your face and voice to get into every household in the country through television, you should try your hand at corruption, fraud, theft of public money, money laundering and associated pursuits.
We see this happening in our country daily. Streets are blocked off because of protests or demonstrations by various sectors of our communities. Nothing is said about patients in hospitals suffering because there is no money to buy much needed equipment and life-saving medication. Children are without text books, millions of people are unemployed, I could go on. The corruption and fraud at the heart of all these ills just does not matter.
Where has the shame gone, the writer of this article asks? I agree when the writer says “shame makes us human.” Not too long ago it used to be part of our social interaction and behaviour. Like the writer of this article, I remember the time when none of us wanted to shame ourselves, our families and our communities. We always worried about “what would people say?” Conscience and shame kept most of us in line more than the criminal justice system. We worried more about what our friends, family and society as a whole would say rather than worry about what the police would say.
We feared being arrested and going to jail. We feared the stigma of being branded a criminal or a thief. We did everything possible to stay out of jail or at least not to be caught if we did anything illegal. Our society has changed but unfortunately not for the better. What are we teaching our children? That being a criminal is cool? That being involved in criminal activities will elevate your status in society? Why should our children even bother to go to school when it is more profitable and cool to commit crime? The message in South Africa at the moment is that crime pays.
Coming back to my quote at the beginning of this blog, how do I move beyond a search for success and strive for significance?
I’ve been gainfully employed for just on 30 years now. Besides being unemployed for short periods of time during these 30 years, my average time at any company averaged at around 6 years before moving on to the next job (in my current position for the last 10 years).
Over the last 30 years I’ve completed my Matric through correspondence college, registered at Unisa for a degree and various short courses. I was unable to complete my degree 12 years ago so last year I re-registered with Unisa for another degree to replace the one I could not finish. At work, I’ve taken advantage of completing every short course available that would help me do better at work and advance my career and yet, I have received no recognition, no accolades, no “well done” for my efforts no matter how hard I worked. I’ve been overlooked so many times for higher level positions purely because I don’t have a degree (something I’m working hard to fix). In spite of all this and doing voluntary work, I’ve never been interviewed by the media for my life story, I’ve never been followed by the paparazzi – I’ve never had a rose (or any other flower) named after me. Without a degree, my 30 years working experience means absolutely nothing and is not recognised or acknowledged.
I’ve never been arrested (not even for political unrest), never been to jail, never stolen money (not even from my parents) so going into politics is not going to benefit me either.
The question therefore is: How do I become a celebrity, an international best seller? How do I get people hanging onto my every word watching my every move? How do I move beyond my search for success and strive for significance?
No, I don’t want to be a celebrity; I don’t want to be followed by the media and have my face and voice in every household through radio or TV coverage. What do I want?
I want the corruption, fraud and all related illegal activities to stop. I want “jobs for pals (and family)” to stop. I want recognition for my skills and tenacity, for trying to improve my skills and qualifications. I want to be called on for my “expert opinion” on subject matter learnt over the last 30 years of work. I want to be SEEN. At the moment I’m invisible. I need to move from being invisible to being visible. All my learning and working has not done anything for me.
I’m searching for my significance – how do I find my significance? Where do I find my significance? Will I recognise it when I see it? Will it come to me naked or will it have clothes on?
Significance – I’ve been searching for you and have yet to find you. Can you see me? Can you find me? Please don’t stop looking for me because I will not stop looking for you.