As most South Africans do, I spent the last few months of 2023 talking to people about my plans for December. Many ideas were born only to die, like a trip to Mozambique that was briefly discussed with a few friends who all agreed that a rowdy New Year’s Eve was not desirable.

Another plan with a different group of friends was to go to a music festival in the Western Cape; and with my closest friends, the discussion was a long-standing tradition of spending the last week of the year, and the first one of the new year, in Hogsback in the Eastern Cape. It’s something we’ve been doing for a few years now, but for some reason, towards the end of 2023, I had this urge to maybe do other things with other friends, so I kept my options open.

However, as the final weeks of the year inched closer and, much to many of my friends’ dismay, I made the decision that I would remain in my beloved Johannesburg, mostly waking up only to eat, read, chill, swim, stream stuff and sip wine on my balcony. Bliss.

What does this have to do with “peach fuzz” — Pantone’s recently announced colour of the year for 2024? Well, as per the colour institute’s reasoning behind the choice: “We chose a colour radiant with warmth and modern elegance. A shade that resonates with compassion, offers a tactile embrace and effortlessly bridges the youthful, with the timeless.”

All of that resonates with me. My decision to not go on holiday outside the city is one I came to having concluded that I’m exhausted, and spending time with other people, or doing things I usually find fun — attending festivals, hiking and son on — would only make me feel worse. I needed to practise some self-compassion and, for once, do absolutely nothing, with no-one.

But beyond my own exhaustion and need for self-compassion, indeed what the past few weeks have shown us is that the world needs a lot of compassion, period!

The state we are in

We’ve seen an outpouring of compassion for the victims of the violence raging in the Middle East. In the US and indeed SA, as we both head into an election year, many of the things voters are worried about are a tacit demand for empathy. This is what some in the US electorate are calling for with regards to Gaza, the attack on women’s health via the gutting of Roe v Wade in the US and the ever-present threat of gun violence.

Compassion is what we, at home, are calling for as many of us express fatigue with a government that has failed to change lives, while many of its officials are regularly caught with their hands in the cookie jar. ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula’s attempt to walk back some of the Zuma-era corruption he tried to cover up do not help, and people are evidently, and understandably, tired.

We’re done with a seemingly uncaring political class, and this is what’s opening many up to the possibility of change, the prospect of which is also terrifying for a country that is barely two generations past-apartheid.

If I were an adviser to anyone running for office, I would tell them to speak more about compassion, and to demonstrate how we can get back to that in a real sense because it is what we need both from our leaders and their vision for the future.

How Pantone picks its colour of the year

Pantone’s colour of the year programme turns 25 this year and has become a widely influential cultural touchstone precisely because the choice often reflects the role of colour in our shared human experience. According to the institute’s vice-president, Laurie Pressman: “To arrive at the selection each year, our team of global colour experts comb through the world looking for new colour influences.”

“This can include the entertainment industry and films that are currently in production; travelling art collections and new artists; fashion, all areas of design, aspirational travel destinations, new lifestyles, play styles or enjoyable escapes; as well as socioeconomic conditions.”

Though the institute’s colour experts reside in different parts of the world, based on their research, they often arrive at a consensus and the colour is settled on based on the mood of the global cultural zeitgeist.

There’s never any guarantee that Pantone’s chosen colour will find its way into the mainstream through fashion, design and so on, and, to be fair, I personally don’t think they always get it right. However, as we head into 2024, peach fuzz feels accurate.

We all need a warm embrace

The velvety, gentle, peach tone “whose all-embracing spirit enriches mind, body and soul” comes at a time when the world seems to be caught in an endless stream of chaos in the form of endless and new wars, political polarisation, environmental disasters and economic hardships. More than ever, due to connectivity that has made the world smaller than it ever was, it’s impossible to ignore the noise or turn a blind eye. There can be no fence-sitting.

With so much going on, this awareness can either propel us into positive action, which would require compassion and tolerance; or lead us to doom. Would you not prefer the former?

In spite of everything that is making it difficult to feel much beyond anxiety, anger and frustration, peach fuzz has a hopeful vibe that calls for some respite.

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