Arthur Goldstuck
Arthur Goldstuck

Rest in peace, Sheldon, and let us rage

One murder is one murder too many, said South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, at Wednesday’s funeral of Sheldon Cohen, who was shot at Balfour Park in Johannesburg on Monday night. In the past year, three of my friends have been killed by criminals. That it is three murders too many is only the beginning of the anger I feel.

Vastly different in origin and their role in society, these three people all in their own ways represented humanity at its best:

Michael Rosenthal, a gentle giant who managed a filling station near Soweto for many years without ever feeling he was in danger, was shot for his old car in suburban Johannesburg in front of his loved ones. For weeks, he fought for his life in hospital, and his death made no headlines, but was no less devastating to countless people who had been touched by his many unique strengths;

Lucky Dube, known and loved by music lovers throughout the world, was shot for a car in front of his children in the southern suburbs of Johannesburg (a tribute to him appears here);

Sheldon Cohen, who touched the lives of so many South Africans as a family man, community leader, businessman, investor and mentor, was shot for a cellular phone as he waited for his son to finish a soccer game.

The three had one thing in common: they were among the most humane individuals I knew. The eulogy at Sheldon’s funeral included the comment that he was blessed with the gift of abundance, referring to his attitude that there was always more he could do and give. He was a firm believer in the future of South Africa. As was Lucky. As was Michael.

But there was one other thing all three had in common: they had vast dreams for themselves, and for the future. The past was a foundation on which to build a brighter future.

Ironically, Sheldon had begun to explore the online world of social networking shortly before his death. He had first taken me under his wing as my editor on the campus newspaper, Wits Student; years later, we would briefly collaborate when he became a investor during the first internet boom — some of the start-ups he backed are still out there; and then last week, after he had joined the LinkedIn online network, I checked in with him to find out if he had a new mission in life.

He replied: “I am trying to extract that book that I have always had in me. I am making some art and playing around with some investments. And I am working hard on my personal evolution in all dimensions. So far … fantastic!”

His achievements had been enormous — much has been written about them elsewhere — but he still had a passionate desire to become a better person. That impulse to keep learning, growing and improving, and to love life itself, is a powerful legacy he has left, and is some comfort.

But the destruction of dreams such as he had leaves us with no comfort. And in every murder we see dreams destroyed. Not only of the victim, but also of the family, the relatives, the friends, the admirers and all those who share a dream of a country in harmony.

Sheldon, rest in peace, but let those left behind rage at your passing.

The fools who killed you and Michael and Lucky are destroyers of dreams, and we rage against them. Our leaders, who so readily accuse us of disloyalty and worse when we demand action, are traitors to our cause of a better South Africa, and we rage against them. The government, which is bound by the Constitution of the country to protect us but cannot, is a collaborator in the destruction of our dreams, and we rage against them.

That the loss of such promise, such vision, such forces for improvement of our society, can occur so easily, so randomly and so regularly, shouts out to us how fragile our dreams have become. We must rage against that noise, before it drowns out the dreams that remain.