“And yet we know:
Hatred, even of meanness
Contorts the features.
Anger, even against injustice
Makes the voice hoarse. Oh we
Who wanted to prepare the ground for friendliness
Could not ourselves be friendly.”
– Bertold Brecht
What is it about Open Stellenbosch that bothers us?
Many agree that they have valid claims, and many want an inclusive environment. Asked directly, I wouldn’t vote for any option that I know would harm another individual who truly just wants to learn and better themselves.
Then what is it?
Why, when I see Open Stellenbosch, do I recoil slightly?
The answer lies in our own unique call to arms, Ubuntu. It lies in the teachings of the Buddha, of Christ. The answer lies in ourselves. The answer lies in our human-ness.
Ubuntu, directly translated, means ‘humanity towards others’, or ‘human-ness’. As humans, we respond to humanity. As we noted above, when faced with the issue directly, most would not shun the humanity of the members of Open Stellenbosch. When we are faced with the humanity of the Other, ideology suddenly seems much smaller. In this lies the key to understanding the negative reaction that Open Stellenbosch is receiving.
Let us turn briefly towards the idea of Delicate Activism. Delicate Activism springs from the realization that revolutionary movements often fail to achieve the goals they had in mind. In our country we can see a perfect example. The ANC fought for freedom, freedom from oppression, freedom of opportunity. Yet today we see that the unemployment rate is sky-high, townships have grown still larger, crime and sorrow are rife. Why is this? Are the ANC bad people? No. The ANC had admirable aims, but their trouble stems from the fact that they forwent the real work, the real liberation struggle.
Real liberation is internal. The scholars of Delicate Activism note that these revolutionary movements often fail not because they don’t win their battle, but rather because they cannot build a viable alternative after winning. What inevitably happens is they recreate the same system that they fought against, but flipped around. This is because they never broke down the internal patterns of oppression that were instilled in them by the previous systems. They fight on an external level, while internally they are still caught up in mental processes that have been shaped by an oppressive environment. They have been de-humanised, and until this is rectified oppression will not cease, regardless of who is in control.
So, what to do? The key lies within. As saints and sages have been telling us for ages, the real fight is in each of us. We recoil from Open Stellenbosch because they themselves, in their methods, do not represent the inclusive human-ness that we are striving towards. They use the rhetoric of black consciousness, which is exclusive, they use the methods of agitation, which has never helped build something beautiful. You do not change the world by fighting, you change the world by building something new. People like Martin Luther King Jr. understood this well, and because of this understanding he posed a true threat and was killed.
The root cause of our problems, in Stellenbosch and elsewhere in our wonderful country, is a lack of humanity. A lack of intimacy between people. A lack of connection. And this will not be solved by agitation or fighting, but by engaging creatively building the change we want to see. First by us ourselves becoming more human, dropping the rhetoric of us-versus-them, and then by us taking this attitude into the world and using it to awaken others.
This is not an attempt to curtail the revolution, or to maintain my privilege; this is real revolution, and visionaries from every culture have said as much. There is only one fight, the fight to reconnect with each other as humans. There is only one method, love. It might sound sentimental, but in a cynical world the truth often does.