A culture of retreating

A culture of retreating

COVID-19 cases have sprung yet again in China, and there are increasing Coronavirus statistics in South Africa since the reopening of schools. As similar to the ending of the day and the beginning of yet another, the advent of the pandemic brought about undeniable changes. We had to change the manner in which we did things and shift on to the new way of doing things. Maintaining social distance, constant cleaning and sanitising of hands, ensuring that one wears a mask in every public space, and taking note of every individual one comes across became the new norm.

These practices have now become a habit that was brought by the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we have to adhere. One of the main benefits gained from the lockdown that came as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak is the new habit of staying indoors when there is no need to go out. We had to retreat, even if it was in a manner we did not agree with in the early days of the pandemic. The benefit has been that we have the fewest number of Covid-19 cases in this country, but it does not mean we should rest on our laurels. There could be a spike in the number of cases exacerbated by the winter whose cold conditions are conducive to the virus’ incubation. There is need therefore to retreat.

A personally held view is that certain experiences are meant to be encountered due to their universal significance (that is, they move humanity towards one point of harmony). Others should only be experienced for the briefest of whiles and their passage only temporal for their experience should naturally be as such: pain should be felt only for a short while before it deters the other faculties of the human being to function appropriately.

The human creature’s mind is possessive of qualities garnered towards the attainment of greater good and, this God-ordained ethos is one to be jealously guarded over by all the other human beings concerned. However, the passage of time and history have revealed that there are members of our species that tend towards the negative and, these are individuals or groups or sects whose sole purpose in life seems to be the subversion of the other members of the human race to serve their own conceited self-interest based on class, race, creed, or belief.

If the latter breed of man were to rule the world for prolonged periods, then the human creature would soon descent into the debauched realm where slavery of many by one would be the order of the day. The acts of uprising by such groups or movements such as “Black Lives Matter” opposed to colonisation, police brutality and racism that have risen in the course of the COVID-19 are justified. They follow the tenets of such philosophers as John Dewey whose argument on democracy asserts that:
Belief in equality is an element of the democratic credo. It is not, however, belief in equality of natural endowment. Those who proclaimed the idea of equality did not suppose they were enunciating a psychological doctrine, but a legal and political one. All individuals are entitled to equality of treatment by law in its administration… in short, each one is equally an individual and entitled to equal opportunity of development of his own capacities, be they large or small in range.

The figures discussed herein this collage of words each had firm belief in a philosophy as this one or some other similar philosophy that all creatures are equal in the true sense of the word, and not in an equality based upon some Orwellian Animal Farm’s belief that some creatures are more equal than others. Including all human beings and their fellow brothers and sisters in discussion related to the pertinent issues that negatively affect the human race is what will finally teach the world the true meaning of revolution, that is, how to turn with the world in a harmonious manner. We need peace more than we need war, just as much as we need harmony better than strife if we are to live peacefully as citizens of the globe.
The philosophies on simplistic living that led to the uttering of the proverbial statement:

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind…
And Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Ghandi’s voice taught of a powerful kind of peaceful struggle based on silent protest and non-violence. Ghandi, described as initially exceedingly quiet and shy man later transformed into a resilient and powerful opponent of injustice and discrimination, in South Africa and India. He ultimately became the greatest influence on the basic tenets and philosophies of peaceful revolution across the entire world.

The masses, he seems to have known instinctively, carry within their midst the power to change the flow of events in time without the animalistic tendencies to violence and strife. The vestiges of Mahatma Ghandi’s life philosophy on peaceful resistance, satyagrah, carry in their gist the firm belief that one can resist oppression and discrimination without being violent. In brief, one can resist injustice only by refusing to follow an unjust law and also, such an individual should be willing to accept physical assaults on his person, or, the confiscation of his property without being angry, or, using foul language against the oppressor, and in any way taking advantage of the oppressor’s problems. His thoughts on peaceful resistance guided many of those black civil rights movements of the 1950’s and the 1960’s. There is need therefore to apply the same to avoid descending into a riotous type of attitude when expressing dissatisfaction at injustice in these latter days. 

The Satyagrah of Ghandi seems to be related to Nelson Mandela’s vision of Ubuntu and true reconciliation. In a South Africa whose social fabric had been torn to shreds by Apartheid, the country could only be mended by a spirit of unity that embraced all; according to Mandela. This meant that past foes and oppressors were, in the eyes of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, rightly brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and neighbours who deserved to be given another chance to be fellow human beings working in tandem to see to the progress of the country and the world.

When he burnt his Dompas or the Pass Book issued to the black ‘native’ majority in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was not only performing an act of rebellion against an unjust system of governance and rule; it was an act of self-assertion as taught by Frederick Douglass who focused on the issues of every man and woman having self-determination and self-identity as basic rights.

Mahatma Ghandi in his words held that one had the right to be identified as an equal. This could only through individuals being granted the opportunity to name themselves and to be treated on their own terms as long as they were within the boundaries of the governing system of the rule of law. And upon reading of the contents in the manuals of the events in South African history, one is met with the words of Ghandi in his rhetoric:
Whatever you do in other matters, you will have to ask our opinion about the laws that concern us. If you make laws to keep us suppressed in a wrongful manner and without taking us into confidence, these laws will merely adorn the statute books. We will never obey them. Award us for what punishment you like, we will put up with it. Send us to prison and we will live there as in a paradise.

What the system was not aware of for the longest time is that desperation breeds the type of human being prepared to die for a cause they believe in. Continued segregation and brutalisation by the policing authorities and unjustified incarceration were surely meant to end up in the acts of general uprising going on these days.

Many of us wonder what goes on in the mind of a man in his last moments of earthly existence; I carry the Mother Theresa inspired view that those moments are peaceful, if one sees that the dream they carried in their lifetime will come to be. An original member and honorary president of The Ghandi Society for Human Rights, Martin Luther King Jnr was a firm believer in the application of non-violence when it came to dealing with issues of civic justice and equality. His model based on gathering information about problems that affect society, equal educational opportunities for all, commitment to visions of progress, peaceful negotiation, peaceful action, and reconciliation, seems to have gone a long way in the attainment of the dream he portended in the mass march of 1963 where he declared, “I Have a Dream”:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character… one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!             

This dreamer, fatally shot and in his last moments of that fateful April the 4th morning of 1968, must have smiled because he began to see his dream expressed in the world music scene, the political scene, religion and other spheres of society. I guess that Mr King’s dream is what led a young Liverpudlian quarryman poet and a dreadlocked Rasta from Kingston’s Trenchtown to compose such beautiful melodies as the harmonic ‘Imagine,’ and the most-widely played love anthem ‘One Love’. After all, all of us are equal.

When John Lennon wrote “Imagine” in 1971, he did not know it would grow up to be an international anthem of peaceful revolution, and that the song would become the voice for a generation that would see significant changes come to the world in terms of individual, religious and political freedom. Like Martin Luther King Jnr and Mandela and Ghandi, John seems to have known that that the only things that can unite the world are the spirit of oneness, lack of difference in political and religious opinion, and abandonment of self-interest and greed for material possession. 

Some may call his philosophy naïve but, this man from Liverpool’s words have in a lot of ways come to pass in this day and age. For those that choose to ignore them due to their being deceived by their apparent apologetic nature all will be lost as the virus progresses. There is need therefore to adopt the stoic attitude of the words of Lennon in these hard days:  

You may call me a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
Someday all the world will join us
And the world will be one…
The global village has come to pass in political declarations, and its smallness has come to be seen with the advent of the Coronavirus. What the English poet imagined in 1971 has revealed itself to be a reality for those that are experiencing the brunt of the pandemic. The real danger lies in the misinterpretation of religious and political texts by those false prophets and pseudo-Covid-19 experts. It should not be forgotten that the world is for all to share equally and not for some to appropriate selfish interest and personal gain at the expense of the rest of the global community. The borders we have set as human beings on a planet given to us by God are what hamper our progress as a human race, it is time to think of the world as one borderless entity as the progress of the pandemic has proven. The spread of the virus has shown what the song chanted:    

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.

To a large extent, the spread of the virus changed the way we view the world and the way we view ourselves. We have realised the need to become more peaceable as human beings; it is therefore up to all of us to see to it that those who have not seen the light of the world do see it as they rightly should before the lull in the spread of the virus.

I believe that some good can still be gotten out of the Covid-19 pandemic. It comes in the form of the human being realising the value of the need to retreat when emotions threaten to take over that is of paramount importance if we are to survive as a race. Anger is foolish, even if it is justified: there is need to retreat to sanity even when one’s acts of violence are justified. The promise of tomorrow carries far better weight than giving in to the demands of the moment. Time has told and shown the truth of this a countless times.

Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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