A Comfort Zone is a Dangerous Place!

2015-03-30 18:38

The past few weeks have been a source that has led to serious soul-searching among South Africans. Not only has there been a debacle over the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, but the exclusive nature of the Potchefstroom Campus of the Northwest University has also been a topic of heated debate. These issues cast a serious shadow on the reconciliation of South Africans as a nation. One wonders if there is any hope.

First and foremost as far as Cecil John Rhodes goes, one can only empathise with African students. Not only was Rhodes an imperialist, but he was also a racist of high calibre. While a lot of white South Africans defend him, they tend to forget the historical fact that Rhodes also discriminated fiercely against the Afrikaner.

What is the function of statues? Is it to document history? Not at all. The function of statues is to honour people. That is exactly where the problem lies. Rhodes was everything but an honourable man. His behaviour and his words defy everything that an honourable man should stand for. Yes he was a part of history. However we as South Africans should give serious thought to who we want to hail as heroes.

Furthermore, we should consider how we want to approach our future. We can’t afford to honour those who stood for something that goes against the core of our democracy. If we are to unite as a nation, we should pay our respects to those who can aid in the healing of our country.

Which brings me to Northwest University. It is clear that as a nation we need to transform on various levels. Universities are part and parcel of this transformation. We can’t afford to cling to the past, just because it makes us feel comfortable. We need to move forward.

I have been listening to various discussions about what is going on at Northwest University. At first I also felt that the whole thing was a storm in a teacup. However after listening to various parties and how they experience campus life, my view has somewhat been changed. It is clear to me that black South Africans feel alienated from campus life at the university. What’s even more shocking is that the interpreting services that cater for students’ language needs, are not up to scratch. A university is supposed to be a place of academic excellence. If students can’t get access to top-notch instructions in class, there is clearly a problem.

To be excluded from social life is one thing, but to pay a price on an academic level is a whole different ball game. Serious thought should be given to a culture where only certain students enjoy certain privileges while other students have to be satisfied with crumbs from the table.

However, there is also another side to this. Just as black South Africans feel alienated regarding certain aspects, white South Africans, more specifically Afrikaners are also complaining about being left out with regard to various issues. None of us in this country can afford to cling to our comfort zones, just because it is cosy and warm.

We need to step out, reach out to each other and accommodate one another. We need to be able to take chances and to risk our own space where we feel comfortable.

We need to cut each other some slack, for a comfort zone is everything but comfortable. In the long term it is precisely the place where we become captives of our own ideas and dogmas. Let’s all take a hard look at ourselves. Let’s run towards a future where we can unite as a nation, because let’s be honest. A comfort zone is a dangerous place!

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