Thursday, August 12, 2010

Can we keep the flag flying?

My flag blew off my car last week. My sister's flew off her car this week. Whether they blew away or were taken down, those symbols of patriotism that adorned thousands of vehicles and hundreds of buildings are mostly gone. So is the enthusiasm and goodwill that they brought with them.

Euphoric South Africa seems to be reverting quickly to cynical SA. The calls to "keep flying the flag" and to "lead SA" battle to be heard over the country's top-cop's corruption conviction and violent crime that is back on our streets. It is no surprise that many of us have started muttering things like, "Where are all those cops we saw during the World Cup?" and "We should've known they couldn't keep it up".

Now the finger-pointing starts. We bemoan the "useless" government that impressed the world short-term, but can't protect or service its citizens long-term.

We have just started the month of Elul, when we start gearing up for Rosh Hashanah. Elul is a time for honest self-assessment, a stock-taking for the soul. Unless you assess yourself truthfully, you can't realistically plan for a better next year.

In a perfect world, our country's government would "do Elul" and become introspective for the next thirty days. But, before we criticise, let's actually do some soul-searching and see if we could stand up to the scrutiny that we put our leaders through.

Over the Elul/Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur period, we will do our best to be model citizens. We will spend extra time at Shul, treat people better than usual and resolve to do things differently in the coming year. Hopefully, we will get caught up in the inspiration and spirit of the holiday season.

But, once it's all over, can we maintain the inspiration? Can we feel the tingle we get at Kol Nidrei on a regular Monday?

It would be unrealistic to imagine that any of us can carry the high spirits of Yom Tov for an extended period. We accept our own limitations, yet we condemn them in others.

If you want Yom Tov to be meaningful, then prepare to feel inspired and prepare to make realistic changes in the long-run. Be honest. Accept that euphoria must expire and that success is a series of small, consistent improvements. That's true for ourselves and it's true for the country we live in. Small, consistent improvements- we can all make them.

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