Perception vs truth in SA: We beat ourselves up too much – Pennington

JOHANNESBURG — The year 2017 was a deeply negative one in South Africa, and many of us will want to forget it. But have we been too hard on ourselves amid all the drama? It’s a question that Steuart Pennington raises in this piece. – Gareth van Zyl

By Steuart Pennington*

2018 has arrived and there seems to be a fair amount of positive energy out there:

  • Cyril is the new President of the ANC, very few erudite commentators got that right, not Peter Bruce, not Mike Schussler, not Alec Hogg, not Clem Sunter! But then, who got Trump right?
  • The Rand has strengthened, the JSE has exceeded 60 000 points.
  • Parliament is debating Impeachment Procedures at the instruction of the Constitutional Court.
  • There seems to be some realism regarding University entrance criteria
  • The Proteas beat India in a thrilling Test match at Newlands (I reckon every cricket enthusiast worldwide must have on his bucket list watching a test at Newlands – how is the Table Mountain backdrop?).

It seems we have a slight uptick in confidence levels.

The Challenge for 2018 – aligning perception with reality

I fully get the “perception is reality” quote, and agree with what Roberto Bolaño has to say below:

So, what then do we see as SA’s ‘TRUTH’?

This month TIME published an inspiring edition edited by Bill Gates in which he says (as I have so often said ?) “It is in the nature of news coverage. Bad news arrives as drama, while good news is incremental—and not usually deemed newsworthy. A video of a building on fire generates lots of views, but not many people would click on the headline “Fewer buildings burned down this year.” It’s human nature to zero in on threats: evolution wired us to worry about the animals that want to eat us.”

The Economist featured a stylised snake in the grass made of the South African flag, with the headline “The corruption of South Africa” emblazoned above it.

Last month the ECONOMIST published “The corruption of South Africa” in which the editorial stated that “Under President Jacob Zuma the state is failing”.

What then is the gap between our Perceptions and our Truth?

Are we as Bill Gates urges, a nation of optimists or will we, in 2018, persist with beating up ourselves?

According to a recent IPSOS Survey of 38 countries we SOUTH AFRICANS have the biggest, the MOST INACCURATE, gap between perception and reality. As Roberto Bolaño says above, what we see ‘has little, if anything, to do with the truth’.

IPSOS, in conducting the survey, asked some eight questions with regard to a range of socio-political-economic issues, like: ‘has the murder rate fallen since 2000?’ (In that instance 85% of SA respondents answered incorrectly); ‘How many citizens own a cell phone?’ (65% of SA respondents answered incorrectly); ‘Are most of the inmates in SA jails illegal immigrants?’ (55% of SA respondents got that wrong).

Take the test yourself

Let’s make 2018 the year of aligning our perceptions with reality – make is our business to understand the TRUTH.

The table below demonstrates how bad we are at getting this right – YES ‘the worst in the world’ (jokes – perception), but actually, the worst out of the 38 countries surveyed (truth -reality).

At we will continue to promote the truth, research the facts and hopefully build a more informed, balanced narrative of this country that we live in.

HAPPY 2018!

  • Steuart Pennington, CEO, South Africa – The Good News
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