Thursday, 16 April 2009

winter, elections and philosophy

The weather has changed in Cape Town. Since yesterday, Autumn started showing its face, with a cool wind sweeping the False Bay. Today the sky is no longer blue and the mountains are barely visible on the other side of the bay. The view from where I write remains the same amazing view that delighted me often when I wrote my Master's dissertation back in 2004-05. I have mixed feelings in respect to South Africa and Cape Town. It's indeed beautiful, one of the most beautiful places in the world, or at least of the places I've visited. But South Africa resembles so much my native country Brazil in all its inequalities, violence, macho and conservative regulations that I have this mixed feelings about preferring my own country's social illnesses. Not sure though.

I realized that when I went to the old University of Cape Town this week, to discuss the possibility of engaging myself in a doctorate program, and found myself saying that "no", I was not intending to take the step towards being a citizen of South Africa. After all, why not?

Thinking that has so much to do with reflecting on what democracy truly is. Democracy - the rule by the people - can end up not being FOR the people, in the social concept of what people are. My rights end up when yours start. Everybody's rights. Social versus individual rights.

All this conversation about rights is a complicated one. I'm tackling this issue just now, while I write my evaluation report for Oxfam, a wonderful organization, whose values I can share: a fairer world; end of poverty and injustice; human rights.
South Africans will vote in national elections on the 22nd of April, the day Pedro Álvaro Cabral is said to have arrived and "discovered" Brazil, as such, 509 years ago. The Portuguese influenced a lot of the culture here in Africa as well. Angola, Guiné Bissau, Mozambique, and for some time many other natural harbors, such as Zanzibar and the Cape itself.

South Africans will elect Jacob Zuma on the 22nd. I do not know what South Africans think about it, but I find it a real waste of money to hold elections if the results are so certain and known. I guess the country needs a certain separation between the State and the ruling party to make it worthy to hold elections. The same applies in Mozambique, Tanzania and ... well, many other places. THE party controls everything (or tries hard to control everything): the judiciary, the electoral commission, the press, the tax authorities, the trade unions, the women's movement, the youth whatever name one gives it. In South Africa, it's not so much the case, but it's getting more and more the case.

Well, philosophically speaking, yes, of course, we must have regular elections. YES. What does that mean though? Amartya Sen proposes development as CHOICE. Without a choice, what are we voting for? What sort of human rights can one hold when there are no choices? One world, a global world, whose world?