KfW BERLIN Future Forum, Facilitated Working Group (17:15)
13 November 2011
The ancient Romans used to say "nihil novi sub
sole", there is nothing new under the sun. I do not believe that
any issue is new, but changing circumstances bring to the fore
changes in priority and emphasis. For me, the issue which future
development will bring under greater pressure is that of
freedom. This is not a new issue. It is an everlasting issue,
but it will assume new characteristics and dimensions as our
societies become more complex, more regulated and more demanding
of the individual.
In South Africa, we have experienced a huge
increase in regulations and legislation as our country
leapfrogged from the isolation and backwardness of Apartheid,
into meeting the demands of a modern society. All this
regulation is undoubtedly necessary and beneficial.
It protects, helps and assists people.
However, it also limits what people can do.
History tells us that human nature is such
that if human freedom in compressed, anger and social unrest
develop. An ever more controlled society will need to have
steam-release valves which enable people to enjoy and appreciate
those spaces of individual freedom which make us feel human.
Our present society is placing great emphasis
on entertainment, which is acting as an analgesic, damping the
pain of an often unfulfilling life. Television, entertainment
and immediate gratification are available to people in a measure
never witnessed in history. However, like all other analgesics,
this too is bound to wear out as people get used to it and tend
to consume ever increasing quantities of it.
We need to ensure that a viable alternative
exists to promote and maintain real spaces of individual and
collective freedom within our society, beyond that which is
regulated, controlled, informed and shaped by the rules of
My other concern is also an everlasting one,
which will come into greater focus as the years go by. That is
the concern relating to social justice. Even though it has been
around since one man by force or stratagem forced another man to
work for him, this concern will become more relevant as people
gain ever greater amounts of information, social awareness and
independence of thought.
The societal justification given to explain
why one man should earn thousands of times more than another
will no longer be socially acceptable, as people realise that
working harder, being better educated or having had better
fortune can no longer justify such social disparities. The
foundations of our society will be questioned, as intrinsically
aimed at maintaining such disparities.
Against the backdrop of the failure and
discrediting of communist ideologies, the quest for greater
social justice is already moving towards questioning the role
played by the state.
Questions are arising across the world about
what appears to be a new social compact between states and
international money trusts, which control the issuance of the
money we use. Demands are arising across the Western world for
the reform of the monetary system, and greater control of the
financial sectors, which are now being seen as antithetic to the
interests of workers and industrialists alike.
Underpinning all this is the genuine and
respectable demand for an equitable distribution of what society
has to offer, so that an acceptable relationship can be
maintained between what one puts into society and what one is
entitled to get out of it for personal benefit. This issue will
not go away and is bound to increase over time.
It is difficult for politicians to tackle it
the way it deserves, as it would mean making enemies of the
financial and banking centres of the world, and all that the
very existence of our society seems to be based and predicated
on. It is difficult to imagine a world not controlled by
financial centres and banks, and one in which bank notes are
substituted with government notes.
It is not good politics for politicians to
advocate such radical changes, but I guess that one of the
benefits of having reached the age of 83 and having been in
politics for sixty years is that of having no concern about my
political future. Because of this, I dare to dream of such a
world and know that, unless the political class of the world
forges and pursues such a dream, the anger of people living in
an ever more regulated society, characterised by incurable
social and economic disparities, will undermine all that many
generations have fought for in the pursuit of freedom and
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe, 082 729 2510.