by Trevor Gothan

2009-12-18 13:06

In their “Day of Reconciliation” speeches, de Lille and Zuma seemed to achieve the opposite effect. Either they were only reconciling themselves with their party faithful, or they don’t yet know that “a man convinced against his will is a man of the same opinion still”.

I believe that true reconciliation requires very honest seeking and bestowing of forgiveness and is thus a deeply personal and individual exercise. It cannot be imposed on, but only encouraged in others, preferably not by politicians. They are rarely “honest” and prefer sowing selective division for personal gain.

This simple example of a husband/wife altercation may demonstrate my point:

“You’ve got mud on your boots again! The bedroom carpet is filthy!” cries the wife.
“Sorry. I did wipe them when I came in.” explains hubby.
“You couldn’t have! And I spent hours cleaning the carpet just yesterday!”
“I said I’m sorry, darn it!”
“OK, but check your boots properly next time!”

My questions are:
1. Is hubby truly sorry about the mud, or just that he has been nagged yet again after a hard day at work, which the family seems to take for granted nowadays?
2. Has his wife really forgiven him for increasing her workload, which her spouse seems to eternally undervalue and belittle?

The answer to both is probably “No”. Forgiveness was not really sought and none was truly given. Maybe mud was not the real issue, just a trigger for some attention, which is probably preferable to being ignored?

There was no attempt by either to fully understand the other’s perspective, frustration or any underlying issues, not directly verbalized. Proper reconciliation would require a level of honest admission about our own faults that make us very vulnerable. This requires some effort, even in a good marriage, and is far more difficult to do with strangers we may not be able to trust. To imagine one would do this on a public platform is laughable at the very least.

That’s why the TRC exercise, as necessary as it was, could never achieve a true reconciliation at a personal level; only at a political one. It was only the beginning of a long process that we all need to engage in honestly and individually. It’s not a mass media thing and we cannot deal with it on a generalized level (e.g. all whites must do this or all blacks must do that). We have each got to transform ourselves, before we can transform our society.

The answer is not a simple one. It probably lies more in the realms of social psychology than politics. I believe that spending a few hours on the Day of Reconciliation in an encounter, or T-group with fellow citizens I don’t yet understand, would achieve far more than beating a drum at some political rally surrounded only by those who agree with me. Perhaps the social psychologists among us could make some recommendations.

The philosopher Baruch Spinoza once wrote that “The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free”.

I want to be free! Not a prisoner of the expectations of my countrymen which I do not fully comprehend!