Poefrika wrote a brilliant and heartfelt account of The Soweto Uprising. I was moved to comment on his post, but my comment just got longer and longer, so I have decided to make it into a post.
Regular readers of this blog know that I very seldom write a post that is not poetry specific. But with this subject I couldn’t just walk away, and not write a post, because in Poefrika’s post, he at one point asks an important question. “So, whatchu gon’ do?”
The Mistrust of “The Stranger”
To mistrust the stranger – for all of us, at least to some extent, this is what we do. It feels natural to be this way, to be protective of our identity, and so on – I know that I am this way. I fear “Strange” strangers. I want to protect myself from them.
I am a natural person, who makes rational and self protective decisions about survival all the time. In fact survival is my primary predicate.
Most of my beliefs are based on abstractions, and distortions though, and this is something that I have learned to work through, to mistrust a bit my first impulse and further ask myself, is my survival really threatened, or do I feel threatened because I have not asked myself to understand the humanity, or the complex of nuances that make up a strangers motivations?
“So, whatchu gon’ do?”
I know what it means to be betrayed as one who was just out walking, as one who was curious or incitefull of change, as one who has been caught up in the mix of something, and then somehow has been signaled out by the fate of it, and visited with a fatal consequence.
And because I can do this I would never shoot Hastings Ndlovu! (Soweto Uprising)
Utopian daydreams are for the intellectually weak!
I have no fantasy Utopian ideas that we should just all get along, or that we will any time soon.
But that does not mean that I have no fantasy idea.
Here is my fantasy idea:
That we learn from mistakes, that to do so is evolutionary, and psychologically redemptive.
I have learned from the conquerors, I have no wish to be a conqueror.
I have learned from the hangings of others, I have no wish to hang others.
I have learned from the gassing of innocents, I have no wish to gas innocence.
I have learned from the beating of strangers, I have no wish to beat strangers.
To understand how to change we must learn that somewhere each of us is “The Stranger.”
If there is anything even remotely resembling salvation for us as a species, I think that it will come through the one ability that I hope is universal, and that is our very human experience of empathy -to know how it feels to be transgressed upon.
I am not writing about sympathy (the ability to feel sorry for someone else’s experience), sympathy is too dissociative to be of much use here. I mean the sort of empathy that is so fully associative that one can feel the noose tightening, or the air becoming thinner. The sort of empathy that leaves a bruise on the muscle of your heart.
I think most of us already have this ability for clan or country, and through a more profound effort, because it is sane to remember “The Other” this ability must be, and can be accorded to “The Stranger.”