Deep water

An editorial in the Tablet, an international Catholic weekly published in the UK, comments on the absence of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland this year during the annual marching season (July); 'gradually the old hatreds seem to be diminishing.' The divisions in the province

go very deep but it seems slow but huge progress is being made in healing the rifts of centuries. And in South Africa people are reflecting on the amazing events that transformed their country from a rigidly divided society into one where freedom and democracy are enshrined in a new order. These are truly extraordinary achievements and in the gloom surrounding Lebanon it is good to know that people can come together and recognize their common humanity.
But they have had to go deep to reach this point of reconciliation. At one point in his mission Jesus tells his followers, ‘put out into deep water’ (Luke 5: 4). It may be a good fishing tactic but it also has symbolic meaning. Sometimes a person has to reach deep within to find the courage to reconcile. There is a passage in Antjie Krog’s book on the South African Truth Commission hearings, Country of My Skull, where an elite Afrikaner policeman, Col. Roelf Venter, one of the notorious Vlaklplaas Five, reaches into these depths:
‘Then I was not sorry because I thought it was right. Now I know that it was wrong and I regret my deeds.’ This sounds very ordinary, but according to psychiatrists Venter has made a very difficult and crucial leap with this statement – allowing for a space where change is possible: then it was right now it is wrong. What makes this a psychological breakthrough is that it is almost impossible to acknowledge that the central truth around which your life has been built is a lie. At the risk of the disintegration of your self-image, you would rather keep on denying any wrongdoing.
What makes this account so moving is that Krog, obviously a deeply sensitive and courageous Afrikaner herself, realizes that she has ‘more in common with the Vlakplaas Five’ than with those who tried to excuse themselves saying, ‘we never knew …’ Bitter conflicts show starkly the divisions in humanity and there are countless other lesser ones that are not so clear. There is a danger of glossing over these and leaving their resolution to others. ‘It is not my business.’ Yet it has been said many times, by many prophets and in many different ways: where some are in thrall all are in thrall. This comes home to us in Zimbabwe today. We are a divided society and we need to go deep to discover what is common to us all. Now we prefer old prejudices that shield us from looking into ourselves. But one day it will all be clear. Why not today?

Post published in: Opinions

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