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MUZI KUZWAYO: It is those who risk it all who lead change

Sep 09 2018 06:21
Muzi Kuzwayo

Muzi Kuzwayo

‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,” wrote the Roman poet Horace.

It is sweet and honourable to die for the fatherland.

Horace’s career blossomed at the time when Rome changed from being a republic to being an empire.

He was an officer in the republican army that was defeated in the Battle of Phillippi, but switched sides and became the propaganda man for the new regime under Augustus.

A millennium, nine hundred and three score plus a quarter of a dozen years later, another war poet, Wilfred Owen, changed the meaning of Horace’s poem forever.

“My friend, you would not tell with such high zest,

“To children ardent for some desperate glory,

“The old lie: Dulce et decorum est

“pro patria mori.”

The poem tells the story of a young man dying in the front lines, where a chemical bomb has been fired.

“If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood,

“Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

“Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud.”

Since the beginning of time, young men and women have been led to their early deaths. First their mouldable brains are bent to worship modern idols such as the national flag, then they are given uniforms and rifles and commanded to march forward, often never to return.

Even in our own country, many people who were conscripted to defend apartheid claim that they did not know.

They simply swallowed the vile cud of hatred that was regurgitated by those who were far from the front lines.

Last week some Americans cut their socks and others burnt their sneakers because, as far as they were concerned, Nike disrespected the American flag.

On social media, one even declared that he would be wearing Adidas from now on. Wait until he discovers that Adidas is German.

Nike celebrated its 30th anniversary of the Just Do It campaign by choosing Colin Kaepernick as its face. Kaepernick is an American football star who in 2016 protested against the indiscriminate and wholesale murder of black people by the US police. At the beginning of matches he would kneel during the national anthem.

Right-wingers say that is disrespect – funny because so many of them go down on their knees when they pray, so kneeling during the singing of the national anthem should be the greatest form of humility.

Some accuse Nike of disrespecting the military veterans, people who believe in their cause so much that they are willing to go and die half the world away from America in Afghanistan and Iraq.

These young people die because they have been sold the old lie of dulce et decorum est.

One veteran who I met told me that he hadn’t even heard of the country they were invading until briefing.

National Football League (NFL) teams have shunned Kaepernick as a result of his beliefs. And now he is suing the NFL for collusion.

Nike chose to side with him. The brand continued to sponsor him and last week launched an ad campaign with the tagline: “Believe in something. Even if it means risking everything,” narrated by Kaepernick. According to Bloomberg, Nike received more than $43 million of airplay.

The queen of tennis, Serena Williams, tweeted that she was especially proud of being affiliated with Nike.

Basketball champion Lebron James said he stands with Nike and Kaepernick all day, everyday.

And all of this excitement was even before the television commercial was released.

History tells us that it is the turncoats, the vociferously obedient slaves, who beat the war drums the loudest.

But we should not listen to them because it is those who are willing to risk everything who change the world.

* Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency.

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muzi kuzwayo  |  change  |  leadership


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