“TOGETHER RECLAIMING OUR HUMANITY THROUGH THE CHARTER OF POSITIVE VALUES”
“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task, who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauties, nor failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given the best he had; whose life is an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.” (Robert Louis Stevenson - Celebrated English poet,)
We have begun MRM Month as a nation whose unity – which we have been working on since 1994 – has been strongly cemented by the successful 2010 Soccer World Cup that the country has recently hosted. Our famed ubuntu-botho and our celebrated spirit of caring, shone through and were seen all around the world. Indeed, through this beautiful game we could proudly say we rediscovered ourselves and reclaimed some of our humanity.
Lest we forget, however, these are not new characteristics to us. We are essentially a human and humane nation, a caring people. That is why when the world expected civil war and a bloodbath to settle our political differences after the release of Madiba, the opposite happened. We taught the world that dialogue and communication are the fundamental tools and principles upon which nations are built.
That is not to say we have to forget the damage caused by apartheid to our psyches. The greatest sin of apartheid was to turn some of our people into beasts; apartheid animalized us and killed some parts of our humanity. It gave rise to a foreign culture and spirit of selfishness rationalized as individualism.
Over the years we have been reclaiming our heritage of unity and oneness. We may be individuals, but more than that we are communities. We may be single beings, but we belong to families. We may be viewed one by one in some respects, but we are a collective. We are children of the same soil and the same environment. We are children of a common heritage of struggle and commitment to a shared future.
The visionary singer, John Lennon, eloquently captured the essence of our unity in our oneness when he said:
We are all water from
That's why it's so easy to meet
We are all water in this vast,
Someday we'll evaporate
Our theme for MRM Month in 2010 is “Together Reclaiming our Humanity through the Charter of Positive Values”. Togetherness begins with a sense of unity, and humanity presupposes oneness. Humanity can only take place in a context where people exist side by side as one.
Both the togetherness and the humanity we are talking about can only take place if there are things that bring us together. They can only be realized if there are ties which bind us. Every nation requires some glue to hold it together and to define it as a nation – a single society of shared dreams and values.
In our situation that glue is the Charter of Positive Values, a document which gives us values which we can all share as a nation. Based on our Constitution, the Charter provides us with a set of principles which transcend all our cultural, racial, spiritual and religious differences. It presents us with universal tenets which know no creed or colour.
Indeed, the values that the Charter advances and foregrounds are values which build, values which highlight our humanity. In searching for, and reclaiming, our humanity, we can do no better than begin with a document which is founded upon the very principle of humanity; a document which advocates human dignity and equality; freedom, the rule of law and democracy; the material well-being of people and economic justice for all; sound family and community values; honesty, integrity and loyalty; harmony in culture, belief and conscience; respect and concern for all people; justice, fairness and peaceful co-existence; and the protection of the environment.
We celebrate this year’s MRM Month with a document whose relevance goes beyond time and place. The Charter of Positive Values goes beyond this month and well into the future. It goes beyond Mafikeng, where MRM Month was officially opened, into all corners of our country. It is a national document which should adorn the walls of all offices both in the private and the public sectors. It should be in reception areas in every school, clinic and other public institutions. It should be on mantelpieces in every house and every store. Indeed, let us display it broadly because it humanises us and broadcasts that humanity. It makes us one and promotes the kind of social cohesion which has seen us create, from the ashes of apartheid and oppression, a society consciously committed to and practically striving for a better life for all.
The Charter of Positive Values speaks a language we are all familiar with, the language of care and compassion for one another as fellow human beings. This is a language we forgot along the path of suffering under the yoke of apartheid and oppression. It is a language whose remembrance is a reaffirmation of who we really are – for our history before slavery, colonisation and apartheid tells a story of a people who respected one another.
In going back to the Charter as a guide for our lives both now and in the future we are responding to the wise words of Martin Luther King Jr that, “If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.”
It is only on the basis of the morality that the Charter promotes that we shall rediscover our humanity. The values that the Charter promotes are values which appeal to the nobility of our hearts and the sacredness of our spirits. They are values that build, not destroy; values of life, not death; values of love; not hatred; values of peace, not war; and values of joy, not sorrow. If we embrace them in their full character, we shall have reclaimed our humanity and turned our back on a period in our lives when we saw one another through racially prejudiced and jaundiced eyes.
In reclaiming our humanity through the Charter of Positive Values we shall have rediscovered our capacity to see ourselves in our fellow human beings. We shall recover our ability to share with the poor, hold the hands of the destitute, protect the weak and defend the defenceless. We shall relearn the value of every person to us and our communities, and so appreciate, afresh, the sacredness of humanity, making us abhor all forms of violence, especially against the most vulnerable members of our society – such as children, women and the aged. Abraham Lincoln put this challenge of nation-building and serving humanity in memorable words when, in a different context, he said:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
As a nation which has recently achieved freedom and democracy after a war against apartheid and oppression, we do indeed, as Lincoln says, have to bind up the nation’s wounds. The Charter of Positive Values is one of the bandages through which we have to do that.
In rebuilding our nation through the values espoused in the Charter let us remember the centrality of our children and the youth. It is our children and the youth who have to take our nation to a future of love and peace. It is they who have to build a future based on ethics and positive values. For that reason let every social institution – from the home to the school and the church – ensure that the principles documented in our Charter of Positive Values are inculcated in our children and our youth.
It is because of his awareness of the importance of values in building young people, and therefore nations, that Barack Obama said, “I've got two daughters... nine years old and six years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals.” On the same topic BC Forbes said, “Upon our children – how they are taught – rests the fate – or fortune – of tomorrow's world.”
What we should teach our children is that they live not for themselves but for others, and that in living for others you are building your family, your community, your nation, and your society. We have to teach our children that true joy lies not in the pursuit of material things but in the act of giving. We must recall times when our young people volunteered their services and helped keep their community streets and environs clean.
Let us review our institutions of popular culture and remind them that their mandate is nation-building and not the promotion of values that destroy our nation and our youth. Without being fundamentalist let us insist on restraint and the prioritisation of the common good rather than selfish self-gratification through music, soapies and programmes which promote selfishness and a culture based on individual indulgence.
Let us be receptive to Horace Mann’s advice that:
Doing nothing for others is the undoing of one’s self. We must be purposely kind and generous, or we miss the best part of existence. The heart that goes out of itself, gets large and full of joy. This is the great secret of the inner life. We do ourselves the most good doing something for others.
The Soccer World Cup has reminded us of the idea of thinking about others as much as we think about ourselves. It has reminded us that we can care for others in the same way that we care for ourselves. Indeed, it has reminded us that the world does not begin and end in our homes, our communities, and our country. It has reminded us that because we live as part of the sea of humanity we are but small waves with a role to play in creating the overall current of life. The Soccer World Cup has reminded us of our responsibilities in building not only the image but the very materiality of our country. It has given us a valuable opportunity to live, and make alive, the teachings of our Charter of Positive Values and the Moral Regeneration Movement. I refer, in particular, to those values which imply a commitment to a sound work ethic, the kind evoked by Theodore Parker when he says:
Let us do our duty in our shop or our kitchen, in the market, the street, the office, the school, the home, just as faithfully as if we stood in the front rank of some great battle, and knew that victory for mankind depended on our bravery, strength, and skill. When we do that, the humblest of us will be serving in that great army which achieves the welfare of the world.
That service, wherever we are, and however humble our jobs, is what is presented here today as the lesson we have to learn from our Charter of Positive Values if we are to reclaim our humanity, and it is the message we send to our nation during our celebration of and commitment to MRM Month.
MRM will have an opportunity to publicly demonstrate both that commitment to working for one another and serving our nation on the occasion of Mandela Day when we are all asked to give sixty-seven minutes of our time to doing something for others, especially the needy.
That is the ultimate expression of morality and positive values. Welcome to MRM Month and may it be all that we intend it to be, and may we all be blessed with the spirit of service and giving.