“Rules are made to be broken” – that’s a philosophy followed widely in South Africa. Time and time again, we are victims of the culture that the law applies to everyone except “me” – the “me” being the one transgressing.

Most visible perhaps, is our behaviour on the roads. Speed limits, red lights, lane discipline, road-worthiness, loading restrictions, alcohol consumption – our blatant disregard for them kills 40 or more people per DAY and injures hundreds of thousands each year. According to the Minister of Transport, the cost to the economy is R306 billion annually. And while we are “on the road”, police vehicles, whether they are the local patrol or VIP protection, are among the worst offenders.

Not so visible but often worse by a considerable degree is the 10 000 rapes per WEEK perpetuated by ignorant, selfish, immoral men on defenceless women and children in South Africa.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The selfish, “me first” attitude we display on the roads is exhibited in countless ways throughout our “community”. Too many of us believe that it is our “right” to take the short cut, to have the biggest portion, to be the “chief”, to ignore others. Too many of us think it is OK to pay a bribe to get what we want – and to take a bribe for (not) doing our job. “My” rights, “my” convenience are paramount – “I” have no obligations or duties.

We go to our place of employment, but we don’t go to “work”. We sign contracts and agreements but don’t abide by them. We expect services to be delivered but don’t pay on time (if at all). We want our neighbours to tolerate from us what we will not tolerate from them. We support the Constitution, Equal Rights and BEE – as long as “we” do not have to compromise. We criticise but may not be criticised. We can arrive late but may not be kept waiting.

Strikes are no longer about withdrawing labour as part of a negotiation process. They are an excuse for criminal destruction and violence.  Employment in the public sector is not about making communities work but about abuse of power and privilege at the expense of the community. Working in commerce is not about honest trade but how to finagle the system.

This is not a South African problem. This is not about race or religion. It is a global malaise – and it has been around for as long as communities had to find ways to combine talents in order to gain the resources required for survival.

Unless the community shares a belief system that their sustainability is founded on fairness and understanding, on giving before receiving, on respect for all – it is inevitable that power will corrupt. Across the planet, we see evidence of this every day.

The only way to combat this unfortunate phenomenon is to educate, communicate and donate. We should not only seek leaders to guide us on this path – we should BE the leaders.

Adrian Schofield 11 January 2013