IT WOULD be so wonderful if the public starts to "protest against falling standards" – as Patrick Cull suggested in Cull on Monday (January 7).
Indeed, "this immune syndrome is evident in many facets of our lives," Cull said. He then gave examples of most of us not reacting strongly about corruption and inefficiency in our daily live.
In another paper, he talks about remaining silent about the rape that happens every 20 seconds in South Africa.
This is disturbing. Why is it so?
Did we lose our capacity to choose, act and react?
Is it due to a heavy top down system, developed over decades wherein the government – driven mainly by various large economic interests – tells you what to do and what not to do?
The fact is that the new "democratic dispensation" has accepted this "structural deficiency" and even embraced it for the past 18 years. It is therefore highly unrealistic for the latter to talk about "people deciding for their own future and taking part in critical developments" as all these are decided above the majority's heads.
The collapse of the dairy farm at Bushy Park, Port Elizabeth, is a typical example of this structural deficiency, which allows centrally planned short term-development to wipe out small sustainable local productions.
Cull mentioned "we need people in all walks of life to become activists". Indeed, this is important – and there are presently too few of them.
Where are all these activists against the apartheid regime?
Why don't they regroup against this terrible curse?
These old activists do try but seem to be having difficulties redefining themselves and focusing on critical issues.
So many questions and so many contradictions at the national level, which I am afraid might lead to more unrest by deeply unhappy people, increasingly marginalised by the system. Anyway, that does not mean I think we should not become local activists.
It is believed that it is also a big drop in the standards of planning. Can we continue drafting these Integrated Development Plans every few years without knowing clearly what the big picture is, what the local threats are and where we want to be in 30 years' time?
Isn't it like going ahead in a large forest without having an overview that shows us the cliff ahead?
Such critical issues as continued top-down development, inequality, poverty, unemployment, peak oil prices and climate changes will certainly bite us in the near future, if not attended to. It is therefore quite unwise (some would say irresponsible) to continue planning without reflecting on these issues and set a vision that is informed by our reflection.
As mentioned several times in this same newspaper, the local authorities have started two years' ago, a process for defining a vision for the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. The whole process collapsed for various reasons of their own. It is up to us to revive the process if we feel this is important.
This vision, which would tackle lack of standards in most sectors (including planning), as well as economic apartheid, could be a new focus for the old activists. In fact, our organisation (Transition Network) has been looking for such activists for some time.
The question is also to see if the media (wherein Mr Cull works) would show the "activism way" by filling the gaps by recording, documenting and networking on a continuous basis peoples' concerns and fights.
This would be very helpful.
PL Lemercier, Renewable Energy Centre and Transition Network,, Greenshields Park, PE