Inclusivity and Dissonant Voices – The Case of Stellenbosch

Our once sleepy (politically speaking, at least) town has been overcome by political awareness. Opinions differ, but one thing is clear, there are voices in our town who do not feel heard.

For some, it’s easy, almost second nature, to dismiss these voices off-hand. But even if you don’t agree with the words being spoken, it’s time to recognise that these voices come from somewhere real. Your opinion might be that Stellenbosch should remain Afrikaans, or you might believe that every University should be standardised into the English language, but the fact remains that there is real dissonance.

Dismissing someone who feels unheard will necessarily cause the situation to escalate, and as students of social change have long since found, an unheard dissonant voice will resort to more and more explicit forms of protest. So if we see Open Stellenbosch disrupting a public space, or singing struggle songs, while we could rightly feel that these methods are counter-productive, we should be careful not to ignore the fact that they represent a real feeling of alienation.

A dissonant voice is often only the symptom of larger societal dynamics, and as such it’s quite useless to berate them, or to try to beat them down. If someone feels unheard, they need to be heard before the situation can be addressed. We can’t solve the problem if there isn’t a parallel attempt to engage everyone involved on an emotional level.

20 year olds will be 20 year olds, and to expect them to at every turn take the high road is not only unrealistic, but also unfair.

So what to do? How to we create an inclusive environment in which real discussion can begin?

The answer, as always, remains elusive.

Join us tonight (Wednesday 23 September) at 18.00 for a program by a travelling spiritual master on the topic of inclusivity, to see if the spiritual perspective can shed some light on the situation.

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