Start with a bit of empathy

2020-01-29 06:01

THE Dutch have a saying: “what you feel, is what you feel”, regardless of whether what you feel is exaggerated, without substance, a half truth or even baseless. You feel it nevertheless.

Behind it lies the understanding that when you enter a conversation, first and foremost you accept that what the person is saying is what they are actually feeling. You don’t enter into a dialogue thinking of the reasons why this person is wrong, and you are going to set them right. Rightly or wrongly, they would feel diminished or humiliated in some way.

Richard Muller, who has emigrated to New Zealand, on Twitter left no doubt over what he feels — unsafe, living in a corrupt state where those who steal from the public purse go unpunished, and tired of load shedding.

Likewise, former DA MP Lindiwe Mazibuko thinks that whites went to school for free, while blacks had to pay; that whites could access free health care, but her family could not; and the police were only there for the whites. That’s what she feels.

These are sentiments with which many South Africans can empathise.

The Dutch would say, if you want to enter this conversation, then the starting point is, that what Muller and Mazibuko feel, is what they feel. And let’s be honest, none of us are surprised.

Mazibuko’s family lived under one of the most repressive regimes that Africa has known. And Muller was living under a government that is so corrupt that our bank in the Netherlands is closing all accounts of those residing in South Africa. The risk of it being tainted is too high.

I can understand why Mazibuko and Muller feel the way they do.

They, and we, have lived and are living under appalling circumstances, grossly mistreated first by the National Party and now the ANC.

Let us make our starting point an empathic one, for them and all South Africans across the racial divide, and not try to dissect the exaggerated rhetoric that they both use.



• Letter shortened.


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