The individual within the collective

A theme that came up repeatedly for me this month has to do with the power of the individual within the collective.

I was advised more than once by well-meaning friends and acquaintances of ways to beat the system by bypassing a player in the supply chain, or scoring a discount that I’m not strictly entitled to. All pretty small, inconsequential amounts ‘saved’, but when enough of us exploit these seemingly innocuous shortcuts, what we’re actually doing is depriving someone of their profit margin, and thereby endangering their livelihood and those of their dependants.

I’m writing this column as a new strain of COVID-19 invades our country, creating a third wave that threatens to overtake the previous peaks and once again overwhelm our health sector. It’s Sunday 27 June, and I’ve just watched our president announce a return to level four restrictions, which will result in the failure of many small businesses and the loss of even more jobs.

Those of us who have the resources to contribute to the economy should do so with awareness of our ability to make a difference. If there’s anything to be learned from these dark COVID days, it’s that we’re all in this together, interconnected and interdependant.

Likewise, when we ignore a cough or take off our mask in a crowded place because ‘we’re young/tough/immune/…’ we are risking the lives of all those with whom we come into contact, and participating in the spread of the pandemic that’s grounded us all.

Like Cathy Abraham’s art practise (read about it here) where individual iterations combine to create a complex and beautiful thing, the collective is the manifestation of the actions and intentions of a group of individuals, each with the power to influence the whole. And while we’re all dependant on the next person to do the right thing, the only behaviour we can control is our own, and it really does matter!

This issue is brimming with individuals working alone or in groups, who by quietly ‘doing their thing’ are contributing to the collective of the Cape Town Jewish community, and to all other communities of which they form a part.

The purpose of this publication is to provide a meeting place for our community, and to tell our story. I invite you to pay your subs, support our advertisers, and send us your stories, photographs and opinions for publication in future issues.

Let’s do this together!

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• Published in the PDF edition of the July 2021 issue.

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