#CEOsleepout:No amount of money raised or things given away will fix the dissonance caused

There is so much being said both for and against ‪#‎CEOsleepout‬‪#‎4leaders4change‬ and the funny thing is that the same complaints and compliments are being repeated from last year. Why did the organisers not listen a little closer to the very loud objections and helpful suggestions given?

I will not in any way minimize the advantages that the event brings especially the vast amount of money raised and the wonderful generosity of companies and individuals combined. Those in need will get clothing, the homeless have been given sleeping bags and the named beneficiaries of the initiative will no longer have to run fund raising, but will be able to make a real difference in their respective areas.

The important thing to remember however is that it is not about the money and the giving and receiving it is about the social commentary, the implied messages and more importantly the long term impact of this event and this conversation …. the #CEOsleepout is divisive.

Standing divided is the last thing we need in this country and no amount of money raised or things given away will fix it.

The tweet that spoke right to my heart from @uMandlakazi said “It’s not a clever ploy to get you riled up.”

This speaks right to the heart of the problem created by the #CEOsleepout – whether you’re on the ‘for’ or ‘against’ side of #4leaders4change doesn’t matter, what matters is that there is disagreement, discontent, and disillusionment created.

Whilst this event wasn’t started in SA and understanding that it has become a worldwide initiative, we need to remember that South Africa is different to anywhere else in the world. We have racial, financial, cultural and educational divides that we are all constantly reminded of daily. We don’t need a CEO sleepout to remind us of the poverty and unemployment in our country. Just travel from one place to another and the reminder is there at every robot or street corner.

What I hear very loudly from the naysayers is that there is little understanding and respect given to those who struggle to make it through each day on our streets throughout South Africa. The complaints and frustration come in many forms and different words but the overarching message is this – we need to see and acknowledge the pain and suffering felt everyday instead of host an elaborate event once a year and think that the fixing is done.

I don’t proclaim to have all the answers, but I do know some deep truths that have been ignored despite many outspoken people having said them in years gone by:-

1. Be respectful to one another – and what this means is making the effort to fully understand the circumstances under which others live. Acknowledge that a person’s social standing and economic status in no way minimises their need for dignity, respect and consideration. “We’re doing something to help them” doesn’t negate or override the need to take “them” into account and respect “them” and their feelings.

2. See one another as we are – and not how we think it is. Unless we as South Africans really try to understand one another’s perspectives and make the effort to hear and see we will always have division. Stop and listen to the complaints just as willingly as hearing the compliments and then make an effort to address the needs and build solidarity and cohesion rather than host something that causes division and conflict.

3. Making a difference is not about ‪#‎MandelaDay‬ or the #CEOsleepout it is about the consistent effort to offer of your time, skills and money to a cause which can make good use of what you bring.

Giving out small change at the robots isn’t making a difference. Helping a youngster learn new skills or giving someone you wouldn’t normally give a job a chance, or helping an elderly person stay economically independent is not only more useful to them, it feeds the unity and connection in our already very divided society.

I have noticed the charged and ugly commentary from both supporters and naysayers of this event and see the real deep feelings of hurt, anger, resentment and frustration coming out across our nation in response to a single event. It is actually not about the single event it is about the underlying disillusionment that bubbles to the surface in nasty jibes and cutting retorts.

Maybe there is a more unifying way of doing something that has as much impact but also brings unity and understanding instead of fuelling dissonance.


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