Though I am not a good dancer I love this comment of the great Russian-American anarchist Emma Goldman. A revolution without joy is a miserable thing. Democracies like ours are no exception – they can become obsessively politically correct leading to boredom. Democratic freedom needs to be celebrated.
In today’s Gospel (Mt 9:14-15) Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees to ‘lighten up!’, to get over their obsessions with fasting. So, too, and particularly in light of what I said yesterday (about the greed that has marked the last twenty-five years), we need to celebrate the joyous side of our democracy. The 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2010 Soccer World Cup both illustrate this.
1995 was pure Hollywood. (If you disagree go ask Clint Eastwood: he made a movie about it). Urged on by President Nelson Mandela (wearing you’ll recall the captain’s jersey), an underdog national team, of a sport that had very limited appeal, struggled through to a final against the best rugby team in the world, winning it in the last moments of the game. “We have 40 million South Africans behind us” said Springbok captain Francois Pienaar. And the country celebrated for days afterwards.
Though we didn’t win the Soccer World Cup in 2010, we were a magnanimous country. We welcomed visitors warmly, displaying their flags with our own. Whites who never before were interested in soccer came to matches – and joined in township parties afterwards. Even, it seems, the criminals among us decided to be patriotic and scaled down their activities.
The question I ask: why don’t we celebrate our nationhood, our unity in diversity, like this all the time? If democracy is to be more than an alternative to civil war, if elections are to be more than another ‘racial census’, we need to become truly one nation again.