With South Africa being placed in another lockdown period and us pondering what the future holds, I cannot help but think about what the past was like too. And with this thought I started contemplating the state of our Nation. It’s not a happy thought. Poverty is rife in South Africa, we live under constant threat of crime and we are really not sure what the future holds. Yet we go about our daily business trying to make this day work, in whatever way we think is possible.
More and more NPOS’s are springing up and more and more activists are starting to say enough is enough. Academics are writing papers and committees are investigating and calling together the brightest minds in the country to seek solutions for the conditions we are in. And at the corner house, I can hear the shouting and screaming and door slamming of yet another couple having an argument.
Whilst the politicians are active with whatever it is that politicians do and whilst we are being told we have one of the world’s most advanced constitutions and our human rights are of paramount importance, it seems that our human dignity is not. As individuals we are buckling under the pressure of being South African and it brings out both the worst and the best in us.
There are so many individuals whether they fall on the side of the “haves”or the “have-nots” who are giving their all to try and ensure that communities are being fed and that the abused are being protected. But on the other hand it seems that there are simply more and more just giving up the fight or in some instances taking up a fight, any fight, irrespective of who the opponent needs to be.
We seem to be a society that has turned on each other and we seem to be looking at the state for solutions that should possibly be coming from us as individuals. The individual, the family unit, irrespective of the make-up of that unit is the foundation of human dignity, it is surely here where we learn how to integrate socially, how to show love and sadness, how to show support and draw the line, but in a family under stress and duress, where financial problems, food shortage and violence is the order of the day, it is simply so much more understandable that people will turn to escapism of some sort, a habit or addiction and finally a dependence on a substance or behaviour that allows us even if just for a few minutes to feel some sort of euphoria.
And later, a few minutes or hours, or even a day or so, that euphoria is shattered by the negative impact of the behaviour or addiction as we as individuals with our extreme pain and false euphoria do the unthinkable, we turn on everyone around us, as at that moment only we matter. We are fighting a war of emotions and using the physical presence of any person to show our strength, our weakness and our despair.
Why is it that some can carry the same pain and remain self disciplined enough not to resort to crime and violence and others cannot? What is it that spurs a small percentage of perpetrators of violence and crime to action whilst the rest of us sitting with similar despair and pain simply don’t go there, to the darker side of humanity?
I don’t have those answers and I suspect those that do will indicate that there is no ONE answer, that the answers and solutions we seek are going to be numerous, but I think that most people who have worked in the GBV sector specifically related to Domestic Violence for example will agree that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. Most of us recognise the impact of childhood violence on future generation abusers, we also know that criminals are more likely to act on their instincts once they have done so before or have witnessed the short term gains. The question I have is how can we as individuals who care, use the good in our humanity on a daily basis to create a different way of being for those kids caught in this cycle?
And with all of these musings, I am reminded of a podcast I listened to called True Crime South Africa, narrated by Nicole Engelbrecht and I am referring specifically to the episode: Zibeth Hansen: Prison Psychologist. In fact in this podcast Nicole specifically asks Zibeth about the predictors of criminal behaviour and Zibeth uses the very words that the best predictor of future behaviour is most probably past behaviour. Zibeth also refers to the fact that by the time she gets to meet a perpetrator who has been incarcerated, in the majority of cases this individual has been failed by the system, the community and possibly even their families on numerous occasions.
Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means excusing criminal behaviour as after all there are many criminals from all walks of society as are there many law abiding citizens from all walks of society. What I am saying is that maybe right now those neighbours shouting and slamming doors at the corner home are running the risk of creating an example for a child, an example that they and the child they no doubt love very much, may live to regret. And again, don’t get me wrong, there are many instances where criminals are born out of families who have done nothing but give their all in the best way they knew how, so one incident of a stressed and exhausted parent ranting and raving does not make the home an abusive environment.
It’s just with the knowledge that we often do the best we can with what we know, until we know better, then we need to do better, it becomes imperative that we as individuals throw the questions out there and that we as a nation start manifesting the future we want for all of society. And in my thinking it could be as easy as starting at home. Learning how to have difficult conversations and then expanding this behaviour to incorporate our neighbours, friends and those in our neighbouring communities.
It’s basically the fabric of society that needs mending and this is not up to law makers in my thinking, this is the concept that acts of respect and kindness will beget acts of respect and kindness, in the same way as violence begets violence. So maybe, after all, it is Up To Me?