Mamelani. Listen Up. Kom ons Luister… all of us.
If I had the mic for just a moment, and the audience was a country that I am yearning to see at peace and functional and prosperous – what would I want to say? In just 3 – 5 points?
This should be so easy and yet the noise in my head has made this complex. This is my start actually.
There is too much noise. We shout at each other: based on skin, class and gender. We assume agendas: religious, political and economic. We let the preconceived unspoken perceptions and understandings of the other – whoever the other is – control our interactions, whether on social media, in face to face (oh that there were more) dialogues with ‘the other’ and in the positions we take when we are with people who think and talk like us. My first thing I wish we would do is quieten so that we can hear each other without prejudice.
- Hear each other’s questions
- Hear each other’s frustrations & anger & hurt
- Hear each other’s hopes and dreams and desires
In quietening I have learnt about the pain and trauma people close to me have experienced – because of losing their family homes (these are my peers & not ‘some random people who must get over it’), because of family members being treated in ways that still carry deep wounds. We can’t change this part of our history but by acknowledging the pain of this and being willing to really listen and say “I am sorry that you had to go through that, it wasn’t right”, we might begin to see each other.
I have also witnessed people express that they didn’t know. And while some may say that there is NO excuse, people genuinely still live in ignorance of the stories of the other. I have seen grown men weep in response to movies like RED DUST (based on the TRC) who really didn’t know; whose narratives weren’t questioned.
In doing this I am fairly convinced that we would find each other and then actually have a chance of getting somewhere peacefully, functionally and in a way that prospers us as a nation.
It is 21 years since our first “free & fair elections” happened – in which a nation was taken across a bridge but the systems weren’t really. The longer I sit with this notion (the words of which are Frank Chikane’s not mine), the more I think about what does this mean for my life story – but also what does that mean for someone who is effectively free in theory but the structures keep them, in their life story, stuck on the other side of the proverbial bridge. 21 is often seen as a coming of age – My second wish is that as a country we come of age to a place where we can look at the bridge and figure out who sits where on it. Without it becoming a place where people defend& attack rather than listen to each other. Where we can all acknowledge that race, gender and class put us in different positions of power and privilege on this bridge – and that brings with it some responsibility to get the rest of us across the bridge too.
Maybe it’s time to challenge and acknowledge the objective and subjective realities that people, all of us, find ourselves in? This challenge isn’t about “guilting” anyone but rather acknowledging that it does exist.
Lastly, I would hope that each person adopts an attitude of every life matters – so that each person knows that they have worth: That the inherent dignity of each person is honoured. That this forms a ripple effect in our education policies, in our safety and security and health and welfare policies. That in speaking to people, rather than ‘them’ or ‘they’ regardless of who they are (rich, poor, coloured, indian, black or white), that we are able to see value in each other’s story. Even if it’s foreign to us. Even if it feels like it doesn’t fit with what we have experienced. I would hope that as we start counting all life as valuable, that our systems can be transformed, that our economic policies are ethical and that each of us can be heard.
[For more from Alexa, head on over to her blog over here: theoutrageousintrovert.wordpress.com]