The Potential of Optimism

In a 2017 Ipsos MORI detailed survey of 26,489 people across 28 countries, South Africans scored high in pessimism and low in their knowledge of actual facts they based their pessimism on.[1] Most South Africans can share personal stories of expressing and experiencing this pessimism.

Max Roser explains “This pessimism about what is possible for the world matters politically. Those who don’t expect that things get better in the first place will be less likely to demand actions that can bring positive developments about. The few optimists on the other hand will want to see the necessary changes for the improvements they are expecting.” [2]

There is a definite need for optimism in South Africa if we want to see some progress in our ongoing battles with inequality, poverty, gender-based violence and crime.

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Responding, not reacting

On the subject of the Grantleigh artwork, let’s think a little about the storm of activity in response to the art exhibition; perhaps we can work out something useful about how to approach similar incidents in the future. We know there will be opportunities to apply our learning 🙂 I would like to suggest using the phrase “ThinkThruTalkThru” as a bit of a motto …

Let’s think: One of the things we should be asking ourselves is why exactly are we as Christians upset? Can we name the particular reason underneath our outrage, and underneath that, until we come to the core? Can we bring it before God honestly and ask – Is this an important truth or an idol we hold dear? Are we prepared for God to change us in this uncomfortable process? Are we taking a statement about society personally? Could we be taking something at face-value when it is meant as an abstract metaphor? Is there anything we can learn or apply from this trigger – what part of the message can we affirm? What part do we disagree with?

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Killing in Schools

On 13 July, ten people gathered at Johannesburg Bible College in Soweto to dialogue around the topic of “Killing in schools”. Other themes included violence in home and society, rights and freedom vs. responsibility, and government’s failure – mainly in the education system, the unintended societal results of changes and laws, and the unintended results of institutions taking over responsibilities that were relational before.

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Family

On 18 May in Auckland Park, the topic chosen was “Family”. The dominant theme was the continuing influence of inequality

on our relationships within families. The underlying power struggle between inequality due to race (with different

shades represented within a family) and inequality due to gender (with a strong patriarchal dominance) was evident,

with strong voices representing both.

Looking back on the dialogue together, the following observations were made:

  • The system is oppressive.
  • I have a greater understanding of my own pain.
  • Black women found it more difficult to represent anger and moved to expressing pain.
  • People tend to shift from pain to anger. Anger is vocalised pain. If not vocalised, pain is internalised.
  • Pain can assist us in finding a solution.

A big thank you to those who bravely sat in the uncomfortable voices of pain and anger and committed to growing for all of us!

 

Join the troops for Cover Wars!

Annarie Paterson designed a stunning cover for my poetry book Dwelling in Dissonance. (The poems in this book are largely based on dialogues.) This cover is in the authorshout Cover Wars competition this week. I would really like to win this, but I need a large supportive community to help!

The book cover with the most votes becomes the book of the week at authorshout.com and is promoted on their website, emails and shout outs. This is publicity I would really value.

I am beginning to understand why it is called cover wars! I am up against an American author who has written a few books already, so this is a bit of a David against Goliath battle.

Please join this community effort! Follow the link, check it out and if you agree that Dwelling in Dissonance is the best, scroll all the way down to the bottom to vote for it …  You can vote multiple times – once every 24 hours. The competition ends on Sunday at 2pm SA time. (8am EST) If you could share with friends too, that would be very much appreciated.

 

http://authorshout.com/cover-wars/

 

Why is the current political climate so quiet ahead of the 2019 elections?

In Hatfield  on 6 April 2019, the people in the room voted for the dialogue topic “Why is the current political climate so silent ahead of the 2019 elections?”

The  challenges or concerns of the group included struggling against paralysis, feeling helpless or guilty, and a recurring questioning of ourselves “Are we making a difference? Am I being set up for failure?”

 

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Missing Men

In Randburg on 16 March, the topic chosen was “Missing Men”.

It feels like this was a “holy ground” dialogue, and any words are going to do it a disservice …

There is so much pain around missing men. The picture that comes to mind, is of an onion, one layer gets peeled away at a time. We feel the effects of exposing this pain and underneath is yet another layer. The pain of the women and children they left. The pain of the missing men themselves – historical and as a result of their own actions, mixed with guilt and shame. The pain of those who are standing in the gap they left – who are having a positive impact but will never be able to replace the missing men in the hearts of their children. The relational and inter-generational pain that this vortex of pain produces. The questions that each person sits with – Am I enough? Am I seen?

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Identity

On 16 February at the dialogue at Martin’s house, we had a diverse group of participants with the majority being men. After listening to and engaging with a talk about the Gospel and Blackness, the topic chosen was an “Appropriate sense of my own identity within my culture”.

During the dialogue it was apparent that our primary identifyer seems to be gender. It emerged that there is a lot of confusion around gender roles, dealing with stereotypes, how to adapt our roles so that it works within a partnership and our economic setting, how to still be accepted within our larger culture and not be othered as we experiment with our roles.

There were so many profound statements made – perhaps you will identify with one of the following …

  • With the changes in technology and male-female roles there have been seismic shifts in our identity. We are trying to figure these things out. 50 years ago the idea of a man staying at home with the kids was not accepted in any culture. Now we have to adapt, but there is a lot of fear of the unknown. Why should I let go of what I know even if it is bad? I don’t think we should be pulling each other down but empower women upwards. We do not want to perpetuate the system of alternating the person that is on top, but we want to create a new system.
  • I am beyond frustrated – they bunched us up here together, the angry black girls, and that is what happens in the world. Just put them there – I feel othered.
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Who owns the land?

On Saturday 26 January, the topic chosen for our Diversity Dialogue was “Who owns the land?”

The dialogue began on an intellectual level with much reference to facts and articles written about the land issue. It became apparent that the facts were interpreted differently according to the framework people were coming from. People tend to expose themselves to the information that confirms their bias. As we continued, the underlying optimism or pessimism of people became apparent, with the majority sounding more pessimistic.

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How do we manage inconsideration in community and how do we improve?

Inconsideration was the topic chosen by the group on 8 December 2018.

Here are some comments made at the end of the dialogue – perhaps not always answers to the question, but certainly food for thought …

  • “I believe that bullies get supported, no-one wants to escalate the situation and to avoid conflict, so we support the bully. If that’s the way we do things interpersonally, we are not going to change the broader picture in our country.”
  • “Most fear is coming from men. If men are secure in their position, they will be more considerate to women.”
  • “We need to change selfishness, where people are concerned with themselves and don’t do anything even when they hear screaming.”
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