Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back from Belgium and still going strong

Consciously, I resolved not to blog for a month. I was in Belgium ( and a day or two in the Netherlands, which was all too short) and promised myself not to make fast observations, but wanted to experience and listen. I wanted to gain perspective for us Africans, I wanted to learn as a South African. I also wanted to understand, at least a small glimpse of the North, Brussels being officially the political heart of Europe.

It was an unnerving experience, but also an experience brimming with potential. So, in my hangover, I might sound delusional and as some of the fellow campers, commented, maybe I also need time to 'verwerk' (process) these experiences. It would also be interesting to reflect again in, say one year, to compare my reflections.

As for now, what struck me, again, was the fact that we all, and me as a South African, view other people and their countries, in terms of our lenses (well, thats all we have right ?). Our experiences, our histories, often becomes the mold in which we cast people we don't know, the other. However, when you live with each other and experience new things together, reflect on it together, grow together, you realize how relative it all becomes. One realize that we need each other's glasses to start to under-stand. And maybe this is the point- to be able to find reconciliation and justice, we need to under-stand, stand under. From the top, we get a different view, an elevated view, a view manufactured by those in power, so we see what they want us to see; from under, we see the 'draadwerk' (wiring), the hardware. It is here that we can start to make adjustments- where the smallest change, tweak, to the 'drade' can stop the whole computer, or can make it to run better, faster or to do what we want it to do, take it to the place we believe where we should go. The key is to look beyond the software. I am not saying that I can see fully- the ephata experience, or that I fully understand the motherboard. In any case, I'm not so sure that it is possible. At least, what I know is that I can see better now, that I am motivated to see try to see better next time- this relates to my country, but also to where we fit in the bigger motherboard.

The challenges we face, here in SA with regards to race and language, the fear of even hatred for the stranger, the other, are not unique. This is at the heart of the Belgium political and social turmoil. There is a vulnerability that is all around,depending on where we stand and how we name it.

From another perspective, the effects of a materialist culture that drives the current global economy on families and young people- the loneliness, loss of family time, the rage, leading to suicide and dependence on substance, but also, the spiritual vacuum, in the quest for material wealth, are life and death challenges we all face. It might manifest itself in different ways, yet its the consequences of the same system that drives tyrants. Am I at the point of offering pearls of wisdom, as to how we will solve the problems of the world ? No. I'm still at the point where I need to listen more, engage more and under-stand. I would however want to thank the CAP movement, all of them, the host families, churches, activists, the works. It has been a learning curve for me and I will continue to chew on and be shaped by the time spend with each and everyone...
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