SA needs healing

2008-05-09 00:00

Picture the following images: children of all colour and hue, class and language, laughing and playing together on the school playground; throngs of people visiting the Durban Botanic Gardens, a paradisiacal place of birdsong and green foliage, resonating with people of all races flocking to picnic, celebrate their weddings, walk and meditate upon the serene surroundings. Modern shopping centres glistening with goodies; fancy cars streaming along the well-maintained highways and byways, epitomising a First World society. People at work, people at university, people in the cities, people in the rural areas, people sitting in fast taxis, people talking, people laughing, people playing, people loving, people having babies, people dying, people fighting, people debating, people disagreeing, people being people.South Africa in its normalcy.

And then picture the following images: phenomenal disparity between rich and poor, high levels of HIV/Aids, highest rate of rape in the world, abuse of women and children, murder levels extremely high, alarming robbery and hijacking levels, alcohol and drug abuse, high levels of stress and anxiety.South Africa in its insanity.

What you have here is a recipe for madness, for how does a normal psyche reconcile such absurd contradictions without resorting to cognitive dissonance? South Africans are walking around with varying degrees of madness as they attempt to cope with, repress and suppress, the various images and experiences of insanity prevalent amid the pockets of normality.

And yet, what ought to be reiterated is that this phenomenon is nothing new. If anything, it is strangely familiar and very South African.

How many white South Africans during the apartheid era lived lives of sweet normality while all around them their black brothers and sisters experienced lives of brutal insanity — an insanity wrought upon them by the apartheid regime? White South Africans lived in pleasant houses with neatly trimmed gardens, drove decent cars, read newspapers and books, played tennis, went to the theatre and the opera. Those carrying out the regime’s orders — in the police and military forces — committed acts of brutality during the day only to go home and be “normal” fathers and husbands at night.

Black South Africans endured an array of insults on their humanity: ranging from poverty and malnutrition, to destroyed families (via migratory labour and pass laws), to blatant racism and denial of human dignity, unfair labour practices, detention, torture and assassination.

Those white South Africans who were part of the Struggle against apartheid joined their black comrades in detention without trial, intimidation, bugged phones and security police surveillance, torture and interrogation.

But it was black South Africans’ lives that were assaulted on a broad front and at all levels of existence: physically, emotionally and spiritually. And it is these scars that have impacted so tragically on the nation’s soul.

While there can be no condoning of any act of brutal violence, we cannot ignore the painful and tragic legacy of the past. And we cannot deny how it has affected the present if we are to halt the fatal trajectory into the future.

How to stop this brutal past from poisoning all that comes after it? How to heal the fractured and tormented psyches of a people who are capable of such gross human rights’ violations?

The combination of our historical legacy with a host of factors — the glorification of violence, objectification of women, blatant materialism and promotion of American society and values at the expense of local African ones, pornography, corruption, anger and frustration arising from unmet expectations and the unadulterated glorification of the very worst aspects of capitalism —all have merged into a fatal brew, ripe for explosion.

Just as the perpetrators of torture and assassination were perverted versions of human potential, so today the perpetrators of brutal violence are perverted and diminished human beings. They are not whole, sane and healthy. Most importantly, no one who commits such dastardly acts is a happy person.

Those who rape children are in essence raping that vulnerable and fragile child inside themselves, that fragile child who was never allowed the freedom to grow up in an environment of love and support. They may have been raped themselves. Or they may have witnessed their father or other men abusing women and children. They have learnt to be brutal. A healthy person is unequivocally incapable of raping a child.

A healthy person is incapable of brutally murdering someone for the sake of taking their cellphone. A healthy person would have no desire, not even be tempted, to beat up and pummel into a pulp their beloved wife or sweetheart.

Why then are so many South Africans so unhappy, so unhealthy psychically and so insane that they are able to commit acts that are debasing both to their own and their victim’s humanity?

Deep insight and compassion are called for. Analysis of the root causes of the different types of insanity is necessary and radical action must be taken.

What South Africa needs is healing. Healing in the homes, in the prisons and in the individual soul and psyche.

A reconstruction and development programme is sorely needed again, not only at the socio-economic level but also at a psycho-spiritual level.

Children who grow up with healthy loving parents (or parent or guardian) in a stable environment, (stable financially and emotionally) will not grow up to be criminals.

Because they have been recipients of healthy love, they will go into the world with a sense of self-love and appreciation. And with this self-worth comes personal pride and dignity. Such dignity enables people to be fully human. And in being fully human one is incapable of destroying another person.

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