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!

 

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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Colour-coded superiority and inferiority

On 3 November 2018 at Nokhupila, the topic chosen as a door-way to the conversation was “Colour-coded superiority and inferiority”. Significant voices in the dialogue included Fear, Anger, Pride and Denial.

  

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What blocks progress?

This topic drew the most votes at our Diversity Dialogue on 4 August 2018 – “We have such potential as a country. Why are we stuck?” A long list of reasons was identified: Inequality & poverty, Labelling & discrimination, Poor leadership with no integrity, Broken people, families & communities, Fear, A culture of destruction & rage, Greed, Denialism, Right wingers, White supremacy, Patriarchy, Despondent & desperate youth … it seemed overwhelming – there was a general feeling of paralysis and fear in the room.

Anger moved the system out of this trapped overwhelming feeling at the beginning of our time together and it became a lively dialogue. This was illustrated by the movement of the person in the “Despondency” voice to join the new voice of “Young black (disadvantaged) women” that emerged. Other changes included that the voice of “Patriarchy” was heard speaking from “Poor Leadership” and the individual in “A culture of destruction” became a “Fix it” voice.

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White supremacy

On 7 July at Christ Church Midrand, the topic chosen for our dialogue was “How to kill white supremacy” with the themes of “land restitution” and “dealing with anger” influencing the conversation.

Apartheid was described as “successful in meeting its goals”, because the structures it put in place largely remain and this outside structural racism has penetrated our insides. Our inner racism, even in those who don’t want to be racist, is pervasive. Often both white and black people think that white people are superior and black people inferior. Many black women feel they are at the bottom of the oppressive systemic racism pyramid. At the same time, black women spoke from the pain of being married to black men who feel trapped in their circumstances – they want to be strong for their women but feel they have to swallow racism to keep their jobs and survive financially.

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Struggling with Identity

This was a private Diversity Dialogue at Arcadia Christian Church with more than 25 people. The topic “The Struggle with Identity because of the Past” was chosen. As each voice made an opening statement it was evident that many voices expressed fear underlying their main points of view. “Shame”, “Fear”, “Stereotypes” and “Anger” were the main contributors to the conversation. Out of the voice of “History not dealt with”, a “Longing for accountability for the past” from all sides, “Disillusionment with reconciliation”, but also a strong “Hope in a new identity in Christ” emerged. “Being judged”, “Inner Brokenness”, and “Distrust” tended to observe rather than participate in the conversation.

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Dis-Union

(A poem from the book Dwelling in Dissonance)

Dream world

privileged world

everything ok world

people carrying on obliviously

with what they call normal life

in their urban utopia

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Events Calendar

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