The blur that was 2020 has left us, and not a moment too soon for many.
I feel it would be difficult to start this blog series without reflecting on the year gone by, 2020 and 2021 so far...
On the 27th March 2020, we were in hard lockdown and have been in and out of various levels for all this time. This as a result of a virus that captured the imagination and fear machine of the planet. Who would have anticipated, guessed, or even dreamed it up. I still wonder at the unbelievable coordination and agreements that must have happened to shut down the world...every plane grounded, every business hushed, every individual masked and holed up at home...who would have thought? 3 months was almost imaginable...
...yet here we are! 15 months later, still at odds with the natural flow of life, to lock down or not seems to be an ever-present question - still masked and sanitized, separation, conflict, and loss of dignity in being able to earn due to regulations, bankruptcy and frankly the power of human stupidity.
This was also a year of the ‘Great No Show’ for tourism and whilst we see the occasional foreign adventurer, in the main, no foreign tourism still. A disaster for many, especially the medium and small tourism operators and accommodation. The Insurance industry played a leading role in this Great No Show - with changes to policy wording and dodging the bullet using semantics and nuances to maintain their shareholder promises, refused to pay for business interruption. Their co-stars, local, provincial and national government who claimed to be taking care of us increased salaries, suddenly were able to achieve so much without us standing in queues at their offices and municipal rates & taxes and electricity price hikes in a time when revenue had hit the deck.
Sadly, too many people are living in fear and so many without reserves and resources. Of all these, the fear is probably the most devastating as it has the power to control our actions and freedom when manipulated by the wrong hands. I have witnessed separation and division as people become more fearful about the virus, about the vaccine, about being ill and dying. I have also been astounded at the number of ‘experts’ on the subject of the pandemic, biology, and health that have surfaced on social media platforms creating misinformation and more fear and untruths. I fully recognize the power of these mediums to exploit, manipulate and distort and how easily the majority are sucked into especially the negative hype without questioning its source.
On the bright side, for the most part, and certainly the people I have as friends and peers, the time proved to be a useful lens to look deeply at our lives. What works for us, what can we let go and what new can we bring into our life that makes us happy and adds real value. The necessity to go into the office each day seemed to disappear and corporations realised that home offices are functional. South Africans are traveling locally and I for one have met amazing people, our own interesting, upbeat, and successful people who see a future for our country and who want us all to live in peace and joy - together. I feel sure that if we start to change our perceptions and narratives this can happen. The information-sharing can as easily be to create solutions, love, and healing, a stronger message of the resilience of humans and how to change our lives to live in connection to all that is including the microbiome (microorganisms), alas this is drowned out by the negative mongering and false experts and which has become the national narrative. In terms of the vaccine - do what comforts you, brings ease and grace. Avoid spreading the hype around new outbreaks and problems, nip the misinformation and negativity in the bud. Keep your mind and your body healthy and strong, this is your best medicine.
I have also seen how the exclusion of our local towns and communities from the tourism sector has robbed tourists of the real connection to South Africa, how locals have suffered and how we must develop our spaces carefully, to maintain what the attractions are - our people, our nature. We are not another European coastline or a California in Africa - we have a rich culture, nature, and beauty of our own which we wish to share with the world in a traditional South African way.
I feel when we are open fully for business, we should open our hearts and our arms to first our own and then offer to share who we are, our flavour with the world as we are, on our terms, and for the betterment of all of us South Africans.
2020 is a fleeting memory, it is in the past, nothing we can do with it except learn and bring forth the things that made us stronger together. 2021 is here - mid-way through, unbelievably - we can only make changes and attend to our life and our business in the nowness of each day, let us make a difference starting with ourselves. Each one of us. We create through our thoughts and words, let our narrative speak to those things that enrich and expand us, that bring love and joy, that consider community and each other. The rest is just a distraction from our greater vision.