Friday, 20 May 2022

In the end, it starts with us!

I started teaching in 1988. I spent the first term in a Grade 1 classroom, and for the rest of the year, I was in a special education classroom with learners aged 6 to 13.  Was this a problem for me? No. I understood inclusivity through the teachings of my parents long before the 1994 democratic government introduced it in schools

My father was in the Rhodesian and South African armies and was transferred every three years (except from 1975 to 1980 – our most extended stay in one place). We bounced between Harare and Bulawayo and, after returning to South Africa, bounced between Heidelberg and Potchefstroom. 

While I didn't grow up in South Africa, my Afrikaans parents made me aware of my home country. So, clearly, I knew I was an Afrikaans South African living in Rhodesia. Attending school from the age of three, and spending more time speaking English, I soon forgot how to speak my home language properly. Regardless, I never forgot my roots; I knew I was different. With this awareness, every experience in Rhodesia taught me to respect differences and support and promote equal opportunities for people to grow and excel in one way or another. For example, I enjoyed eating sadza and marog or chicken feet with our domestic worker outside her kaya (room) in Harare when I was about eight years old. When I was in primary school in Bulawayo, my friends and I sometimes played soccer with black army soldiers after four o'clock in the afternoon. We had to climb down a manhole and run along water pipes to enter the army grounds. They always waited for us. It made us feel liberated and we had respect for them. In my Home Economics practical cooking class, I was teamed up with an Indian girl, and I learned a lot from her and because of her.  

When we returned to South Africa in 1980, I couldn't write or read Afrikaans. My spoken attempt was rather amusing to Afrikaans people. From 1980 through 1984, my struggle was to learn how to read, write and speak the language. The breakthrough came when I decided to enrol at an Afrikaans educational institution in Potchefstroom to study teaching. Failure has never been an option for me. Hard work and commitment helped me to successfully pass four years of studying in Afrikaans for my teaching qualification. 

Moving from Rhodesia to South Africa was an incredible culture shock, but I immersed myself in the change and tried my best to adapt. But this is the thing about adapting to change. We encounter a new culture, whether we enter a new school, business, town, country, continent, religion, or community. From personal experience, it takes three to five years to adapt to a new culture, which means I never truly settled in any of the environments I experienced as a child or teenager. I was permanently on the move. Throughout my adult years, I mentally anticipated change long before the necessity for change was born. And quite often, I'm sure, I initiated the time for a change. But I was permanently aware of the possibility of change, and I embraced it. Not all the changes that occurred were welcomed, so I suffered many times. Needless to say, I was aware – more aware than those who didn't experience or understand change. Many people go to one primary and one high school and live in one house for eighteen years. 

I woke up this morning and thought about change and adapting to this new town that I'm now living in, which inspired the rambling of my mind. I've been here for almost three months and I'm shocked at how people in this area treat others. The corruption, the injustice, the naming and shaming, the complaining, the status orientation, the almost narcissistic love of self-opinion, and the prejudice of the people are unacceptable. But, we can say this about many, many people in many, many places. We only need to read the comments on social media to see how prejudiced and rude people can be.

All this made me think of a way forward. For South Africans, perhaps, we should go back and reflect on what Nelson Mandela said in his inauguration speech in 1994. 

That spiritual and physical oneness we all share with this common homeland explains the depth of the pain we all carried in our hearts as we saw our country tear itself apart in a terrible conflict, and as we saw it spurned, outlawed and isolated by the peoples of the world, precisely because it has become the universal base of the pernicious ideology and practice of racism and racial oppression.

We carry pain in our hearts because still our country is torn apart in terrible conflict. We were internationally spurned, outlawed and isolated because of apartheid. But today, we are nationally spurned, outlawed and isolated because of division within our own country by our own people. 

We thank all our distinguished international guests … We trust that you will continue to stand by us as we tackle the challenges of building peace, prosperity, non-sexism, non-racialism and democracy. 

Our own government cannot tackle the challenges of building peace, prosperity, non-sexism, non-racialism and democracy. How can we expect the world to support us? How can we expect our government to do so if we can't live in peace with the people around us? We even abuse strangers (social media)!

The time for the healing of the wounds has come

With change and moving on to something new, there must always be a time for healing. Keeping in mind that healing is a process, we must acknowledge that we all differ and heal in our own time. The democratic government promised liberation for those in the bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination. Do we feel liberated? Do we allow others to feel liberated? Since it's always just about us, and our opinion is all that matters, when do others get a chance to be themselves or give an opinion?

The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. 

Suppose the new government had a plan for all its people, e.g. the white people of South Africa (including me, who did not grow up in the South African apartheid system). How did any of their actions bridge the chasms that divide us? Here I can go on to write in length about division because we tend to look at the discrimination of race in South Africa. Yet, we forget that we discriminate daily within our own cultures. We discriminate on so many levels that prejudice has become our daily food. Are we acting in such a way that we bridge chasms that divide? 

The time to build is upon us

Here, in a country falling apart, I must first analyse the world "build" to understand what the democratic government has built for those who suffered in the past during apartheid. The bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, and discrimination continues with our government's education system. Is it better to have more uneducated sheep follow an ailing government than an educated nation?

Out of the experience of and extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud. Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity's belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for glorious life for all.

No one alive today owns the soil of the earth. The land belongs to God. By His Grace and Mercy, we are alive today. Let me talk about human disaster and pride! No one can tell me, born a white woman in South Africa, that I must leave the country and go back to the place from where my forefathers came because Africa doesn't belong to the white people. If I honestly had to do the maths, nearly three hundred years have passed since the day my forefathers landed on this continent. Or do I trace myself back to the day the Ark landed? What is this mentality of judging people according to their forefathers' actions? What is this mentality of ownership? Does this have something to do with ownership or power? The One who owns Africa is the One who has exclusive rights and control over it, and He will not ask me to leave the country where I was born. But people are arrogant and feel powerful through status! What constant need do people have to feel important and receive respect and admiration because of their identity, be it a surname, religion, nationality or financial wealth, etc.? If only we could be utterly unmoved by badges of hierarchy, of mitres and crooks and crowns. If only we could be satisfied with who we are and what we accomplish. We can still be competitive but in a healthy way. There's nothing wrong with striving to achieve more and better, but how we go about it and how we respond to our achievements make the difference. 

It's important to understand that we don't have to suffer first to be humble and live simply! We are challenged on a daily basis, but every challenge is an opportunity for growth! Growth should be seen as a journey to self-discovery and self-love. When we pay attention to our flaws and act upon them with the intention to improve, we benefit ourselves and society. When we learn to accept our imperfect selves, physically, and the path we walk through life, we benefit ourselves and society. And this is what we should focus on: Do good to benefit ourselves AND society! 

… each one of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld. Each time one of us touches the soil of this land, we feel a sense of personal renewal. The national mood changes as the seasons change. We are moved by a sense of joy and exhilaration when the grass turns green, and the flowers bloom.

When we are born in a place, we breathe in its air. Growing up in a place is our experience and forms the knowledge we have. We can immigrate, but we will never forget where we were born and raised. 

We succeeded to take our last steps to freedom in conditions of relative peace. We commit ourselves to the construction of a complete, just and lasting peace. We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the million of our people. 
We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity - a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.

We are not building a society that walks tall without fear in its heart. Everyone has the right to human dignity, but we don't treat people well.

We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom.

Let there be justice for all.
Let there be peace for all.
Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.

Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!
God bless Africa!

In the end, it begins with us, and it starts in the heart. Freedom begins where prejudice ends. Prejudice will never end because each one of us has an imperfect perception. We are prejudiced on political affiliation, sex, gender, gender identity, beliefs, values, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, culture, complexion, beauty, height, occupation, wealth, education, criminality, sport-team affiliation, music tastes or other personal characteristics.

Enough of the negativity! Enough with the demolition-ball activities. 

We can move forward if we reduce the hate and anger we carry within us and start building on love, forgiveness, and empathy.

The journey of my life has turned out exactly the way it should. Since I was born, every choice my parents or I made was based on imperfect prior knowledge and past experiences. At the time, we didn't know better, so we couldn't have made better decisions. I have tried to walk the straight and narrow path and do good throughout my life, and I did it imperfectly. I am grateful for what I have accomplished. I will continue to show empathy for my fellow man, but I seriously need to work harder on self-love.

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