As I walk to work this morning I stumble upon a graffiti image of two trees with roots that are beginning to entwine. The caption is 'Living Apart/Entwined'. I am struck by the potency of this phrase as a metaphor for our country. A simple allegory for our beloved country in its present state of racial chaos. How apt, how sad and how true.
We live separately to the larger degree. Yet our roots are entwined.
Our psyches all marred and scarred from our awful past. We seem to be insisting on separateness and difference as we scream racial slurs at each other, harkening to dark days of our fettered past. Yet the truth is we are born of the same tree – South Africa, a complex layered tree that is rooted in all of us. Furthermore we are born of the same species – humanity, and yet one wouldn't say so with the way people treat each other.
How do we shift this metaphor to 'Living Together/Entwined'?
It is my belief that we need to do some gardening and access the humanity within ourselves first and then each other - meet it, greet it and cultivate it. Nourish it until reaching out to this part of each other becomes the norm. Until the fear of the 'other' falls away. Until this false perception that we are different at our core dissipates into thin air.
It seems to me that as a society we are being asked, begged, to pause long enough to listen and then longer to digest the feelings and experience of black students and professionals who reflect back to South African society the true issues we need to address within our communities and society at large.
Imagine South Africa as one root with many branches. How powerful we would be as a country and as a symbol for the rest of the globe.
In light of the significant facilitation of consciousness sparked by the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall campaign regarding racism and decolonisation, it is clear that we are living apart and entwined. Our lives are entangled with our apartheid past and our colonial past before that. Our lives are dishevelled with each other's responses or lack of responses to the emotional and psychic wounds and psychologies born from our past.
How my life moves forward in South Africa depends on the manner in which I engage with your life. And visa versa. We reflect each other and we need each other's versions of the South African story to integrate our society.
Neuroscientist Dr.Daniel Siegel, talks about integration as the pathway to health. To live with a chasm between one's inner life and one's outer reality is detrimental to one's physiological, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Simply put if there is sadness and depression inside and on the outside one appears buoyant and 'fine', the two will war until they come to a grinding halt and integration is put on the map as medicine. I think we've reached this point in our society.
The integration of black lived experience is being begged for nationwide by university students. Frustrations are being voiced. Some ears are open and other's are resisting, perhaps mostly from fear for themselves and lack of comprehension. For to listen, means to amalgamate new information that can potentially greatly, if not fundamentally, alter one's paradigm of being and behaving.
It seems to me that as a society we are being asked, begged, to pause long enough to listen and then longer to digest the feelings and experience of black students and professionals who reflect back to South African society the true issues we need to address within our communities and society at large. It is not easy to digest or to know what to do with, but digest it we must and this needs time, absorption time.
Anger is the guardian of sadness and is useful when it motivates the holder to make change. We are hearing urgent calls to listen. I sense fear in many white spaces, which will prevent an open listening. The 'attack' is not and indeed should not be on whites but on our shared past which needs to be turned over, interrogated, dissected, pulled apart, debated, shared...until a new paradigm for living with African and Western paradigms of being and thinking emerges. If we remain humane with each other, kind, open, humble, compassionate and stay connected to our shared humanity, we might birth a completely new era of wisdom, a golden age where truly different paradigms converge and build together. Imagine that. Imagine that.
Rather than ignore our past, we need to use it, to re-create ourselves differently and reclaim our humanity.
Mediating being human continues...