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This article was written by futurefact for The Media.

This month the magazine is featuring The Most Awards so what better time than to look at those aspects of our country that are worth applauding?  We spend a great deal of time noticing the problems, worrying about the issues and generally being somewhat negative about many factors beyond our control as mere citizens in our society.  

So where are the hidden gems or those that are worthy of acknowledgement?

Chief among these is the phenomenon of class mobility that is alive and well here whereas in many parts of the world it is static. We have seen considerable movement along the social scale and there is no doubt that a belief in opportunities for upward mobility fuels optimism and growth in our society.  More than half believe their standard of living is better than that of their parents at the same stage of life, and even more (67%) believe their children’s standard of living will be better than their own. Fully 8 in 10 believe that it is possible to start out poor in this country, work hard and become rich and 49% acknowledge that their family is doing better financially than previously.   There is a palpable excitement about living in a time of change (76%).  These are all positives that can drive change in our social fabric.  

Awarding SA

A second strong factor prevailing in our society is the openness of the political arena, with almost 8 in 10 saying they can openly speak their minds on political issues (and do so) and 90% saying we have the right to a free media.  There is a great deal of trust and confidence in journalists and in satirists, far more than for political parties. In fact the louder the volume of anti media noise from government, the stronger the trust accrued in the media from the public who are absolutely convinced about the importance of the media playing a watchdog role in regard to corruption on the part of business or government. Democratic values are strong with the majority liking the idea of a strong opposition in parliament.  There is also a substantial belief that our democratic foundations are strong and will endure (81%) with 71% believing they have personally benefitted a lot from South Africa being a democracy.  In addition, our political affiliations are more fluid than before and this bodes well for democratic processes to exert their effect in prompting change to the benefit of citizens.  

Media's watchdog role

On the financial front, there is evidence of prudence among the population:  The majority are aware of the need to save money to invest in the future, and in fact most of them say they are making sacrifices now in order to do so.  Just over half say their family is managing to save some money, almost as many saying they have more spending money than before and 73% claiming they save money before buying the things they want.  Around 20% are trying to secure themselves against the depreciating rand by investing money overseas but the majority have no intention of leaving the country as they believe their quality of life here is better than it would be elsewhere. An interesting phenomenon is the fact that owing to class mobility, we have a substantial first generation middle class that is facing many challenges in trying to ‘catch up’ to their peers from the more established middle class. But even though some will inevitably be pitched back into the working class, others with prudent financial values will flower and go on to achieving success for themselves and their families.

These are only three of the major factors that show we shouldn’t lose sight of the good things that are happening. It is true we have a society with multiple problems and seemingly insurmountable issues that get us down at times, but there are many good things to balance the bad.  And that is what people are asking for in their media – a balanced perspective of the good and the bad, that the media should not be as negatively oriented as they are seen to be.  After all, we have increasing internet connectivity, a trust in our democracy, in our judiciary and constitution, and real evidence of social mobility that brings more financial security to families.  Our democratic values are resilient and many of us reflect an optimism that will fuel the necessary developmental changes in our society in times to come.  Let’s applaud all that.  

futurefact has been surveying the attitudes and beliefs of South Africans since 1998. The findings presented above are from the futurefact survey conducted in late 2014, based on a probability sample of 3,048 adults aged 18 years and over, living in communities of more than 500 people throughout South Africa and representing 22,8 million adults living in 9,4 million households. If you would like to find out more about futurefact and its extensive attitudinal databases please contact Jos Kuper 082 904 9939 or check out www. futurefact.co.za