South African light convinces me we can overcome the darkness. This country proves that it is not idealistic to expect our world to become enlightened. Transforming our ideas of success and elevating our consciousness is a realistic prospect.
Collective success and the salvation of our world may require real letting go and perceived risk, but we are capable of achieving it. Believing we can, and working towards it, is not idealistic.
Don’t forget the darkness
South Africa was a highly barricaded place. There were laws, structures and methods that separated people. The white government’s Urban Areas Act prevented blacks from occupying business premises in the cities. The Group Areas Act ensured that blacks only lived in certain areas of the country. The Population Registration Act compelled people to be classified according to their race. Very often, this was simply according to the whims of white bureaucrats.
When you were classified as black, every aspect of your lifestyle was constrained and monitored. As Nelson Mandela recalls in his autobiography, blacks were compelled to carry ‘Native passes’, and “were required to show their pass to any white policeman, civil servant or employer. Failure to do so could mean arrest, trial, a jail sentence or fine.”
Backing all the government acts was a white intelligence organisation, and a police force, that clamped down violently on anyone that disobeyed. A new Act was promulgated and aggressively enforced every time a movement arose that threatened to break the barricades.
Most whites quite happily went along with their privileged lifestyles, consuming a disproportionate share of South Africa’s resources. The ideology of Apartheid (the word means separateness) was so well drummed into the heads of the white electorate that very few could see any other perspective. And since blacks couldn’t vote, the ruling National Party, backed by its propaganda machine, stayed in power. A whole population, black and white, was trapped in dehumanising cycles of ignorance about the human beings on the other side of the barricade.
Believing the program
The vast majority of whites continued to believe Apartheid was right, and that there was no other way for South African society to be. Political affiliation became habitual, and habit became compulsion.
Habitual intellectual and emotional reactions justified their world, and blinded them to the injustices and oppressions imposed on blacks. The white intellect was conveniently attached to the misconception that blacks were naturally stupid and regressive. What whites were really doing was defending their world of quasi-success. There was a sense of honour and patriotism in protecting their exclusive way of life against blacks who, they thought, would infiltrate the superior culture of Europeans and drop standards. White emotions of fear and hate were fuelled by the belief that blacks were inherently dangerous and inclined to crime.
It would take many, many years for whites to let go of these habitual intellectual and emotional reactions. And the letting go did not occur without cost to those who struggled for it. But it did ultimately occur, relatively peacefully, in this former world of barricades at the southern tip of Africa.
Just like whites had to let go of deeply held ideologies and convictions, so blacks had to let go and discover new insights before peaceful and inspiring change could occur.
The first step, which started many decades before freedom, was for blacks to liberate themselves. Many black South Africans living in tribes under traditional chiefs felt that they owed allegiance and subservience to the white colonialists for the education and technological advancements these people from Europe brought with them.
Nelson Mandela’s Awakening
In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela tells the story of the first inklings of his awakening when he was sixteen years old. Although he was well educated for his age, he had been living an isolated, rural lifestyle untouched by the burgeoning racial problems in the wider South Africa. One day he heard a speech by an important chief. The chief spoke about something that rocked Mandela’s world.
He spoke about the enslavement of black South Africans, saying they were a conquered people – slaves in their own country. He eloquently and passionately urged the rural Xhosa people he was addressing, among them the young Nelson Mandela, to wake up to the reality that their perceptions of freedom and independence were empty and illusory. The audience became quieter and quieter. No one wanted to hear the words the chief spoke that day. Mandela felt angry. He tried to dismiss the chief’s remarks as abusive comments of an ignorant man who was unable to appreciate the value of the education and benefits that white people had brought to South Africa. At the time, Mandela saw whites not as oppressors, but as benefactors. Like so many other blacks, Mandela had to let go of his illusion of freedom and independence created around chieftaincy. And let go he did.
South Africans owe their transformation from darkness to light to this man’s spiritual intelligence. Through Nelson Mandela and people like him, involved in the liberation struggle, consciousness of the need to change was gradually awakened, first amongst blacks and then amongst whites.
Still it takes time
Although many efforts to raise consciousness were crushed before they could reach vast portions of the South African and international community, the spirit of the movers remained strong. Gradually the voices of change grew in prominence. As transformation filled collective consciousness, so more and more people experienced changed hearts, and the dynamic of major transformation of a society gathered momentum.
True transformation is as natural as evolution. When people let go it rolls on in alignment with the emergence and creativity of reality. But we should never forget the efforts of brave and insightful individuals, many of whom we’ll never know. They were the essential co-creators of the new South Africa.
Hope springs eternal
I am not so naïve as to believe that all racist attitudes in all South African hearts are healed, or that everything about South African society is utopian. There are still those who are unconscious of the birth of love that has been going on around them. There are those that are refocusing on race for political gain. And there are still those who are unable to let go of their delusional ideologies.
Then there are the vast majority who have chosen to work through the pain and the glory of letting go and discovering newness. These are the people that treat each other with love and respect on a daily basis, regardless of color or creed. They get on with their lives and survive regardless of life’s hardships. The ones who raise their objections peacefully and who wake every morning happy to see another African sunrise.