Fire (Social) Wood (Spiritual)

Blame alone is not enough to address the violence.

I am immensely sad at the violence taking place in our country right now.

Many of the responses too have left me saddened. When what’s needed is help, all round, so much poison has come up. Much of the response has simply been blame, spoken or written in anger, without any compassion for those involved.

The ANC, the IFP, blacks, liberals, Mbeki, a 3rd force, the enrichment of the few 14 years after the end of apartheid. You name it, it’s probably been blamed.

But blame is no good if it’s left at that. It helps to see, fundamentally, why this violence is happening, without the safe distance of blaming something or someone else. Poverty is a cause, but not in the usually ascribed material sense. Giving the attackers nice cars, cigars, or Wii’s won’t really help. Nor will giving them free electricity, or water. There’s a poverty of consciousness. Describing this as the legacy of apartheid is true in many senses, but it’s not enough, and not useful. The term itself has become a kind of blame, an abdication of responsibility. It’s a legacy of much more than that – a legacy of materialism, a legacy of greed, a legacy of fear, a legacy of victimhood, a legacy of a lack of love.

Violence arises not because of some innate evil, it comes from fear, and at the moment of action, a twisted and distorted way of looking at the world. The attackers are fearful, and in their fear and frustration they blame the other, which, for now, is the foreigner. They do not have the tools to be able to love, to be able to take control of their own lives in a positive way, without blame, without victimhood.

Rene Burger’s response to being raped was an example of turning a horrific experience into something positive. She has shown great strength in dealing with the situation. She is fortunate to have the tools to do that. The countless attackers across the country sadly don’t have the tools to turn their situation into something positive, and that is the great tragedy.

While others focus on the police and army response, fundamentally, the only way to overcome this is to love those responsible for the violence. So easy to say, and so, so difficult to do when the perpetrator is tied up in the deeds they’ve done. But only by understanding their fears, showing them love, and helping them by demonstrating healthier ways of interacting, can the future victims he helped. It’s so much easier to lash out and condemn the person as well as the deed, but nothing will change if this is all that happens.

Some communities have been engaged with, and met to discuss the violence, though this has also backfired, with it being a trigger for the violence in some cases.

Not condemning the people committing the violence is very different from not condemning the violence. The attacks are despicable, and must be actively and publicly condemned, making it clear we find it unacceptable. That too has been done by so many leaders across the spectrum, even if some of the statements were diluted by point-scoring, rather than a pure attempt to help with the situation.

In the meantime, the victims of this violence need support even more desperately. I live in Observatory, Cape Town, and just down the road from me eighty people are sheltering in the Methodist Church. They’re in desperate need of baby formula, nappies, food and blankets. If you live nearby and can help, call Phil on 072 214 6818. Elsewhere, in many other places around the country, many others have lost what little material security they have, and are in equally desperate need of help. Let those of us who can help do so in any way we can.

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