Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sages, Small men and Standers-by.

Halleluya! Yesterday marked the end of my long walk to graduation... and what a journey this has been! As I walked down the aisle to pick up my graduation certificate, something in me leapt and screamed, “ is finished!”

The crowning moment of the graduation ceremony was when a Wits alumnus, (with the presence of those filthy-rich and powerful matriarchs cast in the South American soaps. You know... the kind that run companies whose turnovers could run a small third-world economy and have change to spare...) took to the stage to deliver her low-toned speech. Anyway, by the time Maria Theresa Heinz-Kerry, (Head of the Heinz Endowments, a trust that has given over $57 million to charity)was done speaking, you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium as she dropped gem after gem of her wisdom and experience, “as a fellow traveller in the journey of life”.

Jo, when I grow up I want to be her speech-writer!

She said two types of people made history in the world: the sages and the small men. The 'sages' are the Mandelas of this world (and other ordinary folk), who are persuaded by the power of their own convictions to stand for up for something. This lot is willing to put their lives on the line to see change in society. On the flip side, there are the 'small men' (still ordinary folk), who are driven by self-interest or at best, are perpetuators of the status quo at the expense of others.

Then, she pointed out that there is a third category of people. These pitiable souls are the 'by-standers', - regular folk, who, consumed by indifference and/or ignorance, watch as events unfold and do nothing. This sorry lot does not even make it on the pages of history.

In short, we have a choice as to which side of the divide we will stand.

By the time she was done speaking, I was panting... not so much from my earnest fast-tracked scribbling, but from the soul-searching gymnastics that were bringing to my full view the glaring gaps in my own life that need fixing, fast!