“To be is to do” – Socrates

Whether we are aware of it or not we create the world we live in. In artistic terms each of us is continuously adding to the ever-changing universal canvas. Our mere existence has an impact on the environment and the way we live our lives exerts a certain pressure on the world causing it to shift in microcosmic ways as we get about our lives. Our daily parenting choices mould our children, the way we speak builds or breaks people; the choices we make concerning dignity, respect, humanity, tolerance and equality shape the world around us. We are powerful beyond our wildest imaginings.

This is at once humbling and extremely exciting for we have had placed in our hands the ability to influence our world either for good or for bad.

The question is, what kind of world am I helping to create? More specifically – what kind of South Africa am I helping to create?

This is a real bugger of a question because at a most basic level it suggests that – at least in part – what we see going on around us is of our own creation. Now before you hurl your newspaper/computer into the nearest recycling bin be aware that the world around us is made up of both good and bad – not just bad. So when considering how I am impacting the world around me I must reflect honestly on both of these aspects so that that I can challenge myself to become more of a creator for good.

But the most critical part of all this happens as we realise our power to change/create the world around us. When people get a taste of this reality they become passionate to do just that. Some of them may interpret this in an evil way others in a good way. But what is clear is that when this realisation strikes it becomes impossible to remain passive.

If we become passionate to influence the world for good it shows up in a number of ways in us including; little or no negativity; a ruthless avoidance of revenge; a passionate desire to see people reach their full potential; a passionate desire to see the country succeed; an uncompromising adherence to the law; compassion for self and others.

You may know of people who exhibit some of these values and behaviours. It is not that they have necessarily given up their lives to start soup kitchens or read to the aged (though these are wonderful things to do if you are so inclined). It is simply that they have taken the time to reflect on themselves and how they can contribute to the creation of a better world. Even in the reflection there is a degree of change because as we change so the environment around us changes.

I have been privileged to write this column for close on 5 years. During this time I have asked each of us to do just what I am describing above; reflect on how we can help to build our beloved country. I have suggested that we greet one another regardless of race, gender or religion; that we pick up litter on our verges and fix what is broken in our neighbourhoods; that we quit our negativity and acknowledge what is working in our country; that we stop using racist language. I have asked that we consider adoption or that we mentor a child.

Readers of this column have supplied nearly 600 impoverished school girls with a 3 year supply of washable sanitary pads enabling them to stay in school during their periods; you have given funds to help restock shops looted during the xenophobic attacks in Gauteng; you have mentored dozens of vulnerable kids throughout the Durban area. It has been an incredible journey.

And I am really excited to let you know that the journey continues with the launch of my book called The Flipside. It is a collection of my columns published here in The Mercury and has been generously sponsored by the Democracy Development Program. We will be launching the book soon and I would like to invite readers to that launch where you will receive a free, personalised copy of the book. All you have to do is e-mail in and tell me a story of what you are doing/have done – big or small – to help create a South Africa we can all be proud of. The first 20 respondents will be sent an official invitation. My e-mail address is justin@peaceagency.org.za

I look forward to meeting you at the launch.

This column is dedicated to the memory of 17 year old Anene Booysens: gang raped, mutilated and murdered.