FINDING HOPE, FINDING TRUE NORTH
My heart longs for our beloved country South Africa to find its morality again. All these Commissions of Enquiries into corruption — are they hitting the target but missing the point? All the evidence I observe points me to one conclusion, our moral compass has shifted off true North. I hold no moral higher ground in writing this, only seeking a better way for us all to find our true North again, rebuilding our nation together.
“It’s just not right.”
There are a few moments in life when those words wash over our conscious and stirs a sense of injustice deeply rooted in our souls.
A young African Lesotho woman, who grew up in the Diepsloot township, decided to set up an after-school care facility there, to protect young vulnerable children while their parents are still at work. She does not have a means of income herself. We rejoiced with her when the charity was awarded some funds, until she was betrayed and almost half of it was stolen…
It’s just not right.
Recognise that feeling? We’ve probably all said it or felt is at some point in our lives. Yet there is a wide range of responses to our sense of justice varying from:
i) Fighting for the justice: the person that stole the money must go to jail;
ii) Ignoring the injustice: it happens all the time, nothing can be done; to
iii) Perverting the justice: but shame, they obviously really needed the money too and didn’t take everything.
It seems we have shifted as a society from fighting for justice during apartheid (i), to largely ignoring the injustices that still surround us (ii)— rising unemployment rates, orphaned children, poverty, abuse of vulnerable in our society. “As long it doesn’t affect me — it’s the problem of government, the church or NGOs.”
And it appears to me that we are now at a very disturbing place: we are perverting justice (iii). We justify our stealing and corruption — illegally buying movies and songs; fudging our tax returns; using company resources for our own personal gain. Because we are so disgrantled with the status quo and feel powerless to change it — we create our own sense of right and wrong.
We convince ourselves that: It’s not right that my child cant enjoy the latest Disney movie release. It’s not right that government takes so much of my money and I don’t get the service I deserve. It’s not right that I work so hard for my company and they don’t give me a better increase in my salary.
“How did we get here?”
Imagine a sailor on the vast ocean, with no sign posts, following the compass. After a day of travelling a few degrees off true North, he would not be far off his destination. However, after a month, the end of his journey would leave him docking at the wrong city. Thinking he followed his compass, realises he missed the target completely and asks:
“How did I get here?”
Many once respected leaders ask themselves the same thing. As in South Africa, so too in the world. Examples locally like Hansie Cronje and globally like Tiger Woods. But each managed to recalibrate their moral compasses.
Government doesn’t trust business. Business doesn’t trust government. Unions don’t trust government. Companies dont trust employees. Millennials don’t trust Generation X. Civillians dont trust Police. Police doesnt trust the Justice system. Congregations dont trust ministers. And so we start framing our own perverted sense of justice, to navigate all our mistrust.
I’ve observed over the course of my career that people’s moral compass shift ever so slightly, incrementally over a long period of time. So it goes unnoticed, it becomes the norm and common place behaviour accepted by ‘peers’. Good old “peer pressure”. It is so subtle. It is so dangerous.
Like a compass which looses its true North, magnetic pull. Unless, you deliberately recalibrate it, you will never know and blindly continue to follow North. The danger is this. Because its so subtle everyday, you dont notice you’re veering more off course everyday. Surely if you were heading due South, you would know and be able to self correct. But just a degree or two off course every day, still feels like the right direction, because the compass you are following is leading you correctly? Or is it?
The prolonged corrupted leadership SA has been under for so long, appears to have shifted something in our society’s moral compass. When the previous president, or our true North, creates so many comprised positions, for so many, for so long, those following may not even have realised the unintentional compromises they have made. And in the process it creates all manor of deep fractured trust sprewed across our nation. Because we all had a different incorrect North created from our own sense of managing the injustice.
Instead of our leadership visioneering a clear end target for our nation, the fractures meant each misled mission missed the end point.
From the North, South, East and West
I’m part of a very humble womans prayer and healing ministry — to call God’s woman from the North, South, East and West- to pray together. But before we as the team do any work, we search our hearts before God. We have to reset and recalibrate ourselves to Our Father God’s loving heart for this world and confess our wrong doings, choosing to do good.
As leadership we had to confess to our team all our failings, our blind spots and ask forgiveness for where we had caused offense. We had to start by recognising where we had veered off course. So others could willingly recalibrate their compasses, not to us, but the ultimate goal of God’s healing to the many woman across our nation.
To ensure you’re heading in the corect direction, once you’ve lost true North bearing, requires fixing the instrument. We have shifted our moral fibre and compromised in big and small ways so many times — we didn’t realise we ourselves may be broken. Certainly I have found myself often reflected the well known song by Michael Jackson: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways… Take a look at yourself and make that change.”
We justify our lost morality because our leaders “bend the truth” and “indulge in gifted luxuries” — so why shouldn’t we. Corporate executives “make a plan” to accommodate a request from the political powers that be. We see others being treated improperly and we do nothing about it. “Apathy” our biggest moral corrupter, with its side kick “entitlement”. It may not be illegal but deep inside you know “It is not right” or “I could have done something”.
There’s a book which captures the reality that this shifting morality is not only a South African issue, but an African one. Even global parallels are clear. “It’s our turn to eat: the story of a Kenyan whistle-blower” by Michela Wrong, tells the story of how the oppressed becomes the oppressor. Each time another senior leader in our nation is exposed for corruption, I think to myself: “Somewhere along the line they convinced themself that it was their turn to eat.”
So I challenge you fellow South Africans, let’s recalibrate our moral compasses. Let’s reset our hearts, minds and strength to rebuilding a stronger South Africa. From the North, South, East and West. It may be the lonely, less travelled road now and there will be unexpected challenges along the way. But may we journey together to a shared vision of a nation where everyone gets to eat. Staying off course presents worse challenges with a devastating outcomes. Lets reset our morality, pursue truth and justice, rebuild trust and find our hope restored.