Let’s take a moment…

After the frenzy of activity of the last few days, trying to keep up to date with rules and regulations as they were published, getting ready for lockdown and cleaning the house yesterday to start lockdown with a germ-free state, I am taking a moment (or this weekend ) to assess where we find ourselves at this moment.

During this week we have done many things for the last time for the foreseeable future – shopping at places we know will be closed, visits to family members and friends, walks/jogs around the neighbourhood. These were intentional experiences that were appreciated, greeted and gently left behind.

Then there were those things where we did not know we were doing them for the last time – because the market was cancelled the evening before, the library was closed to the public with staff still working inside, the next weekly face-to-face Sepedi conversation falls in the lock-down. There is a sense of irritation and unfairness around losing these experiences, it does not suit us that we had to unexpectedly leave these behind.

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A clean slate

Today, if possible, start your lock-down home off on a “clean germ slate”. Clean the surfaces you often touch – doorknobs, handles, drawer knobs, window fasteners, light switches, taps, counters, fridge and oven doors, stove top controls, electrical equipment, phones, remote controls, hairbrushes, tooth brushes, water jugs, dustbin lids etc.

And as you do this, think about the people you are going to be sharing your space with for the next few weeks. What is necessary to wipe the relational slate clean? What do you need to forgive so that it does not infect your interactions?

Wash the clothes you wore during the last few days, clean your shoes, wash kitchen towels, hand towels, bath towels, bedding, clean the floors.

And again, think about the people you are living with. Where do you need to repent, and ask them for forgiveness? What relational work do you need to do to socially draw close to those now physically closest to you?

Wash your body and hair thoroughly.

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What has happened to Diversity Dialogue?

In case you have been wondering what has happened to Diversity Dialogue, I have not disappeared, left the country or crept into a hole to hide in. I have put open Dialogues on hold for the first half of this year, with the purpose of becoming moderately fluent in Sepedi. I have tried for years to progress on this journey, but it so easily gets derailed by other important things. Now I have set myself a deadline, and need to dedicate a considerable chunk of time to it on a daily basis. This is one way that helps to find some time.

It seems to me a very good choice in how to use my time. I am passionate about social cohesion – people who are different understanding each other and becoming a more integrated team. This is why I started Diversity Dialogue…

There are usually about ten people at a dialogue once a month.

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Dialogues virtual and face-to-face

I have tried a few times to get involved in uncomfortable discussions online or in whatsapp groups, sometimes with people I know personally, sometimes with people I have not met face-to-face. I confess that it has generally not gone very well. Even in the groups where I have known the majority of people, I have been misunderstood and have misunderstood others. The conversation has landed us in unfamiliar territory, where the expectation we have of “being known” by others, of sharing a common history of face-to-face contact, has been hollowed out. We feel unfamiliar, even to ourselves, strangers communicating with other strangers.

As a result, I tend to “listen” online more than I “speak”. Lately I have noticed some unwelcome changes in myself as I “listen”.

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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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