I was recently away for a few weeks and experienced the world outside South Africa.
I am aware that this is a privilege and I am mindful to not take it for granted. It afforded me a glance of other cultures, some aspects of which I experienced but found no interest in and other aspects of living and being I could relate to as a fellow human being, cohabiting this magnificent planet.
For example, I am and have always been deeply interested in and attracted to music, movement and dance. I believe that all cultures have an innate capacity to express their deeper selves through music and dance, and in most cases, there is a sense of joy, connectedness and openness, for those watching and those performing.
I had the opportunity to watch a professional group of Spanish dancers one night in Majorca, a little Spanish island. I was filled with awe and looked around and saw many other audience members also enthralled while the dancers immersed themselves in their passionate dance routine. And later again meeting people on the street and workers in varied locations, I noticed something about them that intrigued me. They had a deep sense of enjoyment of life, living, working and being. And I wondered about South Africa, “my people”, my home, why don’t we have this?
I have memories of relatively happy and peaceful times in South Africa. And I am talking about a time when I was growing up on the Cape Flats from the 70s to the 80s.
And yes, it was during the horrible apartheid years, which I have no romantic thoughts about at all; it was painful to be left feeling like you are worthless and less than a dog because your skin colour was brown or black.
Only there seems to have been less worry about one’s intrinsic safety and security, less worry about basic needs being met, such as food and water, medical services, sanitation, travelling to work and home and arriving there safely.
These basic needs of living have instead become constantly threatened. I hear many people, of all races, saying things like, they are thinking of a way out by leaving the country if they can afford it and even if not, they dream of it. They feel the government does not care, the police are doing nothing when they lay a charge against criminals, they feel afraid all the time, and the list goes on.
So I wonder, do we sit and complain or is there something that we can do about it? Is it each person for themself? Or is it possible that we can find ways to work out our issues and get on with the things of living and maybe even thriving while we are here, alive.
I have read various other writers discussing the current South African climate. They suggest that the dream of the “rainbow nation” is over and was nothing but a fantasy and I ask myself “really, is that what we are choosing?”
If so, then what are the options that South Africans have. Do we divide the land up into different sovereign states that govern themselves according to race or cultural group. If so, who gets the better, bigger parts of the pie, the richer lands, the areas with more resources, the parts that are central, the transport systems and who runs the food chain, etc.
I am not a politician and do not wish to be one; politics has always been a very complex aspect of human life. However, there are aspects of politics and social issues that have a direct impact on everyone, and it is our duty to think and talk about these issues and not turn a blind eye, as if it does not bother us because we assume we are okay.
We live in a world, more so now than before, where we cannot ignore how intrinsically connected we all are, and like any system, if one part is injured or affected, sooner or later it will impact on the rest of the system, no matter how seemingly far removed it may seem from the original problem. We can raise our fences, live in security estates and the like. Then what? Is this living? In my view, to live in isolation and fear of others is not a real life.
We hear politicians giving praises of how Nelson Mandela was a father of the “rainbow nation”. I honestly think the global icon tried his utmost to unite South Africans. The question still remains: What are politicians doing today to show any efforts of bringing people together? Instead, for too long they have been struggling to unite their own organisations because of political power and the benefits it comes with. Do they care about uniting South Africa?
I am mostly an optimist as I believe that a positive frame of mind can affect the way we feel and manage crises. I dream of South Africa finding its feet, maybe through a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission process or maybe through other means.
We can find ways to heal our wounded and angry hearts and minds and start to see each other as just humans, having been through an intensely traumatic era of oppression, having to find creative ways to express our hurts constructively and commit to forgiveness, and in so doing, connecting more authentically, human to human, heart to heart, without the need to armour ourselves any more.
Yes, this might be utopian with the current mess we find ourselves in, but we were in a similar mess in those horrible apartheid years, and somebody with courage and inner conviction stood up and said no more.
He, Nelson Mandela, risked his life for us all, among other things, but he also used his wisdom to not go the route of civil war, and this took enormous courage.
The scenes of intolerance, violence and senseless damage to public and private property are not the vision we had for South Africa when we fought for its political freedom, for social equality and peace.
This is not the South Africa Nelson Mandela had in mind when he said from the dock, 54 years ago: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Are we doing enough to find ways internally and externally to live together in harmony? I think we all need to go back to the drawing board and think about what it is we want for ourselves as a nation living together on the southern tip of the continent of Africa.
Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org Send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774.