Almost 50 years ago former Beatle, John Lennon recorded his beautiful song, Imagine, in which he envisioned ‘all the people sharing all the world’ with ‘no need for greed or hunger – a brotherhood of man.’ Nine years later, in 1980, he was gunned down outside his apartment building in New York by a crazy, violent man. So what does that say about his dream? Most will dismiss it as nothing more than that, an insubstantial, pot-inspired dream – after all, the world currently appears to be on the brink of going to hell in a hand-basket.
The oceans are choking on plastic; fires, floods and hurricanes run rampant across the globe as a result of global warming; there is greater poverty than ever before; xenophobia hounds millions of people fleeing persecution and famine; there is religious intolerance; children are being killed or recruited as soldiers in on-going wars; centuries-old artworks are gratuitously vandalised. And so it goes, on and on, the mess we are making of the world.
And closer to home, in South Africa, there is plenty to make us terminally depressed. If it’s not violent crime, then it’s the huge discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots; the economy is in the doldrums and the many judicial commissions and enquiries are exposing a litany of the worst possible aspects of human behaviour. Education is below-standard, jobs non-existent, the country is dying of thirst, Eskom pitches us into a black hole of darkness whenever it sees fit and, all in all, there seems little to no light at the end of the tunnel, or anywhere else for that matter.
And yet… and yet… here in the Overstrand, in this little corner of the country, despite the violent protests, the poverty, the fires, the pollution and the poaching there is a beauty of human endeavour and compassion that is truly life-affirming. In the past 16 months or so that I have been writing for The Village NEWS, I have been immensely privileged to have met and written about many very special individuals who are quietly and unobtrusively making a difference to the way this extended community lives its life.
I think, for example, of the young entrepreneurs who, instead of waiting for handouts, have decided to carve a niche for themselves and with little or no capital, but a wealth of determination and hard work, are making a living and acting as role models for others in their community. There are two brothers, Pardon and Obey, making beautiful children’s furniture in Zwelihle; Trevor putting his passion for growing organic vegetables into his garden at the RDP House in Zwelihle and who, together with two friends, spontaneously volunteered to spend a week helping to clear away the debris after the fire at Camphill; and William with his coffee shop in Kleinmond, who decided to collect clothing and other essentials for the victims of cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe and travelled there at his own expense to deliver the proceeds of his drive in person.
Then there are the retired people in Hermanus who, instead of sitting on their verandahs drinking coffee or whiling the hours away playing golf or bridge, have thrown their skills and energy into creating opportunities for employment or social and educational upliftment in the area. I think of someone like Theo de Meyer, who turned the old airfield into a youth and child development centre, or all those who have banded together to turn the dream of a Hermanus Varsity into a reality, or the #itsmyshop project and the new Siyakha entrepreneurial development initiative.
There are artists, like those working with the various communities to create a magnificent giant tapestry depicting the history and life of this area and in the process bridging the divide between diverse groups. A multitude of organisations are doing exciting work to improve the quality of education, making this one of the highest-achieving educational districts in the country.
Not only is Walker Bay now recognised as one of the principal wine-growing regions of the Western Cape, with estate owners playing an important role in uplifting the lives of all members of the community, but it has become a recognised centre of the arts and art development, producing a crop of inspiring young artists and musicians. And, of course, despite its reputation as the abalone poaching capital of South Africa, there is a strong conservation ethos here with many people doing amazing work for the preservation of our unique fynbos, as well as both marine and land animals.
Then, only a few months ago, we saw people bonding together in an outpouring of generosity to support the victims of the fire and the firefighters, and we saw the firefighters themselves go way beyond the call of duty to assist affected communities. All these have been truly inspiring stories.
Something about positive or creative energy enables it to regenerate itself until it produces its own momentum, a positive wave of rolling mass action, one might say. Once it reaches a tipping point, I believe it has the power to override negative or destructive energy, because this is the principle upon which the marvellously intricate web of creation is built. Complaining, killing, burning down buildings, or building up walls of anger, separation or fear are antithetical to this kind of energy and in the long run, produce nothing of any use to anybody.
Perhaps personal and social transformation like this can only play itself out in a smallish community where, ultimately, the welfare of one is dependent on the welfare of all. I have discovered that in this relatively confined space there is the most amazingly diverse collection of fired-up individuals. With their shared passion and determination, it would not be surprising if they were to realise Lennon’s dream that the world will finally live as one – in the Overstrand at least!