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5 Lessons from 2020: a necessary reflection

As this year nears a close, many questions about it plague my mind.

Some of the questions are honestly not questions but ponderings with no end to them – inconclusive ponderings. When all is said and done, at the end of each year, taking stock is important. The questions and the realisations alike.

1. Difficult times show us the real face of life and the real face of people

In this column, we have explored the many ways in which violations have multiplied in this period. We saw the face of oppression, beyond those we imputed it on. In the personal, it showed up in our homes, as increased domestic violence incidences. We saw the ugly head of defilement in the context of incestuous setups rear its head, with many children falling victim to their family members. If there is a lesson from the year, it’s that perpetrators of oppression are not strange beasts in a dark alley in a strange abandoned place. When we were forced into our homes, away from the outside world, we saw the real faces of our abusers. Perhaps with this lesson, we will learn, not to speak of abuse as an abstract construct which “happens” to women. It is something that men do.

2. “Freedom is not free” and it should never be taken for granted There are those who pay the price for the freedom enjoyed by those who don’t even realise they are, themselves a free people. The phrase itself, borrowed from the celebration of the American military for their service to their land, is illustrative of the complexity of freedom as a construct. This reflection begs evden eve nakliyat the question of, if we say freedom is not free, does it even exist if it exists at the expense of others? As we watched our government cushion most, we saw many fall through the cracks of our social systems. Migrants, women, children, sex workers and LGBT persons bore the brunt of the lockdowns and States of Emergency. Those who fight for the freedoms of the othered communities themselves found themselves having to work extra time.

3. Attention is our new currency Over the last few months, we’ve paid attention to what matters most. Having programmed ourselves to believe everything and everyone is of equal importance; and understanding that we ourselves are never free if any amongst us remains under some form of oppression or other, this year has taught us to look closely to what is happening amongst us. Instantaneously stripped of the constant distractions and interruptions of our daily “normal”, we had time and greater capacity to reflect more. It became important to really reflect on what it is we

have done with our one wild and precious life…what we have paid attention to.

4. Choose your battles wisely A few months ago, artist and celebrity ATI was arrested for calling out our leadership for racial discrimination in the accordance of opportunities. He was vocal about the concerns of many youth: that the unemployment and under employment situation is dire. Many young people stood behind him. We had the understanding that some fights are not fought peacefully; and some movements need an uprising to be successfully impactful. A nationwide demand for the ruling party to deliver on their promises was soon prominent and noticeable. That was a fight we got behind. One we chose. The movement, after some time, died down, because it did not live beyond the then leader; and because many of us fear leading uprisings. We have seen how even those previously favoured by the system have not been spared by the axe when the time came. We learnt that there are ways not to speak. And as dangerous as that is, we have wisely observed as the situation has grown. The lesson has been, to choose battles wisely. But also to wait, as we are, for another opportunity to present itself for us to remind those who need the reminder that we don’t forget. And like buffalos, when the time presents it, we will shift with the current.

5. Control your anxiety before it controls you The pandemic brought us to the realisation that there will be many opportunities to worry, and harbour anxiety over various things. For many, this is the year in which our worlds have ended repeatedly. Many have lost their ways of living. Others have lost lives. Others have lost opportunities. In short, a season of loss easily becomes breeding ground for a heightened anxiety. If a mental health study were done of how we have been throughout the year, with the various peaks of COVID-19, the fear that our own futures are uncertain even when they seem promised, has been a cause for great concern. It has also been an opportunity to find healthier coping mechanisms, and a deeper understanding of the places in our lives where we do have control.

It has been a panic evoking year. But if you are reading this, you made it to the end of yet another year. Even if you made it in a million pieces, you have made it. This piece is an invitation to reflect and honestly say, we have made it. We live to try again another day. And let us remember, there are no others, for we are one!

There Are No Others

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