We are a sick nation, says Tutu

2009-12-04 13:36

SOUTH Africa is a traumatised nation with deep scars in its psyche

which are not being acknowledged, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said on

Thursday.

“It is hard to help someone who doesn’t realise they are sick. We

are sick, some more than others. What makes a grown-up man rape a baby?”

Tutu was responding to questions about the state of South Africa

following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings, during a

roundtable discussion at the Beyond Reconciliation Conference at the University

of Cape Town.

The three-day conference aims to examine ways to deal with the

aftermath of mass trauma and political violence.

Tutu, who now chairs The Elders, the independent group of global

leaders that addresses issues of humanity and human suffering, lamented the

violent behaviour of South Africans who, he says, have not healed in the years

since the TRC.

He condemned the “totally gratuitous violence” taking place in

society and called for the adoption of the Ubuntu philosophy.

“Ubuntu says that my humanity, whether I like it or not, is bound

up in your humanity. If I strip you of your dignity, I am inexorably taking away

my own. So treating you with dignity is in my own interest of

self-preservation.”

He said he would have liked to be spending these years of his life

resting and reflecting on good work well done, but there was still a long way to

go.

He said he was “an old man who was hoping, at this point in

history, to be sitting on the sidelines with Madiba saying, ‘look how they are

getting along’.

But the sensitivity we thought we had is not showing. How do you

explain, in the face of such poverty, people going to buy a car that costs R1

million or staying in five-star hotels, claiming they didn’t know what the cost

was?”

But he was adamant that it had not been overly ambitious to strive

for reconciliation. Prof Deborah Posel, chair of sociology at Wits, asked

whether society could scale down expectations of absolute reconciliation to a

level of mutual civility, to which the Archbishop replied, “No”.

The conference was initiated as a result of discussions surrounding

the recurrent xenophobic attacks across the country, and is hearing from

representatives from countries across the world who are confronting processes of

reconciliation after a period of mass trauma.


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