What is our heritage in a fractured society?
As we celebrate Heritage Day on the 24 September 2021, some important questions encourage thoughtful reflection. Given the recent politically motivated, hunger induced or impunity driven upheavals in our country, a discomfort with who we are as a people and as a nation; requires an urgent diagnosis, and more importantly, a treatment plan that includes curative and preventive interventions.
The diagnosis is clear. We have failed to embrace our diversity, the richness of our difference, while happily remaining unaccountable for our abominable apartheid past, and its toxic legacy 27 years later. The enduring socioeconomic inequality, structural violence and racist apartheid poison that festers in the hearts of South Africans, does not augur well for a healthy society and engendering well-being. A social and psychological remedy is needed. This urgent intervention requires agency, fearlessness, unity of purpose and a collective solidarity drawing on shared wisdom.
Our heritage is one of care, compassion and solidarity with the oppressed and marginalised. An adherence to social justice values, and a reclamation of the psyche that boldly claims forbidden spaces for thinking and social action in service of humanity. It is more than the trivialisation of our collective heritage, more than the ‘mix masala’ of our ethnicity or social backgrounds. And certainly more than that of a pathetically branded ‘heritage braai’, that denudes the connectedness and wisdom of our African birthright.
As PsySSA past president, Prof Saths Cooper recently remarked: South Africa can work, if we craft a viable, inclusive way forward that embraces people’s concerns. If we seriously wish to attend to this precarious situation with all its dramatic elements of conspiracy, intrigue, murder and organised chaos, then it’s time to raise our voices, not merely against, but for that change that we crave’.
Change demands action. Frederick Douglass, the freed slave and abolitionist reminds us of that change when he said that ‘power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will’.
Let us demand more from our society, its corroded leadership and of ourselves. Our voices belong in the struggles for dignity, decency and humanity. Let that be our heritage.