We need to challenge our attitudes and rewire our thought patterns

The horrific train smash which occurred near Kroonstad is a terrible reminder of the cavalier attitude that too many South African motorists seem to have towards the rules of the road.

The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) will in Monday release its preliminary findings into the train accident near Kroonstad‚ which resulted in the death of at least 18 people Picture: SUPPLIED

In fact, there seems to be a general disdain for rules throughout our society.

It is not too difficult to make a connection between the disregard for rules that manifests in general lawlessness and the behaviour demonstrated by those who purport to be the leaders of our society.

It is also not too difficult to make a connection between the poor regard for rules and the misuse of rules and the law during colonialism and apartheid.

We cannot and must not diminish this influence even though we should never make it a scapegoat.

The abuse of law during these periods created the initial disdain for law and order. At that time the law and rules and regulations were seen to be in collusion with illegitimate and immoral regimes.

That resulted in the rejection of rules and the law generally, as something to be ignored, sidestepped and often resisted.

It is very tragic that the ANC regime has never seen it fit to attempt to fix this attitude towards law and order over the past two decades.

Instead it seems to have taken the poor attitude towards rules and the law as a political tool, one to be kept in its arsenal for times when it conveniently chooses to ignore them.

It is not too difficult to notice this lawlessness exhibited, not only on our roads where many of our people perish unnecessarily, but also in the unacceptably high murder and crime rates.

What is even more tragic is that the disregard for rules and the law is not because people do not want to live peaceful, orderly and productive lives. Rather, it is because this attitude has been allowed to entrench itself in the minds of most of society without it being acknowledged and dealt with.

As a result, it is easy to miss even our own lawlessness when we race to beat an amber robot or to beat an oncoming train.

It is far too easy to ignore our own lawlessness when we try to overtake on double barrier lines simply because we do not see any oncoming traffic.

This not only shows a careless and a deeply disrespectful attitude towards the law, but also a poor grasp of the horrible results of such carelessness.

We often mistake this carelessness as being carefree.

We praise South Africans for being people who are generally happy and able to laugh in the face of horrible living conditions.

Yes, this is true to some extent; it has been central to the ability of many South Africans to bear a far less than ideal existence.

However, this happy-go-lucky attitude often translates into a dangerous and reckless attitude towards rules and laws.

And that in actual fact this finally morphs into having scant regard for life itself.

To make matters worse, many South Africans seem to accept premature death as inevitable.

This may be an unintended consequence of how we regard death as conditioned by our backgrounds and culture.

That most of us regard death as something that will send us to our ancestors, may also be a contributing factor to our quick acceptance of death.

Whilst this attitude may have been necessary to ensure that those who are left behind are not emotionally destroyed by the loss of loved ones, the effect of this thinking fails to be addressed.

The trouble is, if we accept death too quickly, we also accept incidents like this horrible train crash far too quickly – as mere “accidents” which could not be stopped rather than completely reckless acts that disregard human life.

Sometimes, we even think it is futile to punish those responsible for such horrific events since, “nothing will bring back the dead”.

This suggests that South Africa is awash with problematic attitudes that form the base of many or most of our actions.

We desperately need to look at these long-held attitudes, weigh them up and discard those which no longer produce the results we need for our country.

Even the scourge of racism which is often singled out, is a result of these long-held and sometimes barely perceptible attitudes.

In short, we need an overhaul of widely held attitudes in order to bring our thinking into line with our rules and laws.

Unless we do this right away, we will continue with our transgressions and compromise our health, our safety, our lives and our futures. We will decimate our institutions and perpetuate the bizarrely short-sighted mindset that results in unnecessary death and destruction.


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