A social compact story – as told by “Uncle” Norman
Mzwakhe Mbuli, also known as: “The People’s Poet, Tall Man, Mbulism, The Voice of Reason” – is a popular South African poet and mbaqanga singer. In 2007, The People’s Poet released a song titled: Abanabani. Some of us are of the view that this song title could have been written with a question mark… but I suspect if questioned, Mzwakhe would invoke the poetic license clause. Rightfully so, though – as the art of presenting socially conscious conundrums through poetic song writing is his thing…you know mos.
Abanabani simply states that – they (the children) don’t have anyone/they are alone…. or Abanabani kanjani asks – how can they (the children) be without anyone/be alone? In this canticle Mzwakhe asks – and in fact, so should we – Abanabani kanjani isizwe sisekhona? The fundamental question being posed is – How can the children have no-one, when there are still so many of us around? How can the children have no-one to account or care for them, when we are all still present?
This interrogation is equally and poignantly relayed by another poetic musician and Human Rights activist, Tracy Chapman, who in her song titled Why? Asks: “Why do the babies starve, when there’s enough food to feed the world? Why when there’re so many of us, are there people still alone?”
To broadly answer these questions, it would be most prudent for us to acknowledge that the confounding global problems of injustice, economic disparity, human hardship, and suffering – to name just a few – are central to people or children being abandoned and/or neglected. Added to these confounding problems is also the fact that under these extreme social conditions, broken food systems generally manifest themselves. In turn, we have come to learn that broken food systems hamper access to nutritious food. Sadly, even the increases in global food production have not resulted in better quality diets for children. This is because:
- Agricultural production focuses more on major cereal crops than on more nutritious food such as pulses, fruits, and vegetables.
- Nutrient-dense foods are in limited supply, inaccessible or unaffordable.
It is also recorded that child hunger is compounded by economic and gender inequalities – considering that globally women and girls are disproportionately affected by hunger, as about 60 percent of people who recorded to go hungry are female. Added to this gender disparity, is the reality that economically, children from poor and rural backgrounds suffer the most from hunger, including that the prevalence of stunting is twice as high among rural children as among urban children.
It is unfathomable that so many children continue to suffer both silently and blatantly in our presence. That these are the daily lived experiences of many children, even as we continue to advocate for children’s rights and wellbeing. Believing that together we can create a kinder and a better world for every child.
Lamentably, at times, we still find ourselves looking to governments, some non-governmental organisations and/or public health/child-care practitioners to “own the space”, as it is understood that it is their duty and/or calling to care for those children who have nothing and/or no one. It is high time we all accept that this awry standpoint – of can’t someone else, do it? – is highly problematic and socially undesirable.
It can therefore be argued that it is never too late for us re-examine our cognitive dissonance basis for system justification, that is so prevalent in our society. In essence this means that, even though there exists a novel, fundamental system justification motive that drives social behaviours, that it is clearly still in our power – and in our interest – to choose to create a kinder and a better world for every child – without having to delegate the responsibility of child well-being to those who are labelled as being duty-bound to care for them. This is only possible if we agree to acknowledge that, we often opt not to “rattle the cage” – because of our need for order and stability, and thus the resistance to change or alternatives, and consequently seeing the status quo as either good, legitimate, and even desirable.
So, if we all admit that it is neither good, legitimate nor desirable, for us to find ourselves saying abanabani, we can surely find a way to Save the Children and by the same token, save ourselves.
So, as part of our social compact, we should always be asking ourselves with absolute disbelief: abanabani kanjani sesikhona?