The inability of South Africans to leave the past twenty three years of politics behind and contemplate a possible move into the future – a future without the leadership of the ANC – is even scarier. A large portion of the population still fails to believe that the liberator of yesteryear is fully capable of becoming the present oppressor
One of the downfalls of humanity rests in the fact that we possess the tendency to fall back onto the familiarity of our past once the present becomes a little uncomfortable. No matter how atrociously our past has dealt with us, when it gets too hot in the kitchen, we always linger towards it – the past. As a result, we restrict our outlook on the potential of future prospects.
An example of this tendency is outlined in one of the stories narrated in the Holy Bible. It is told that the Israelites bemoaned the dire conditions they endured on the journey to their freedom by claiming that even their enslavement was better than the desert they were traveling through. They suffered the nostalgia of the fat that they accessed from the leftovers in the pots of their former enslavers when they ran out of food and water on their march to freedom. They knew that they were being rescued from the indignity of oppression, however, when the journey to liberation got a little rough – as it should at some point – the default yearning for the familiarity of the past kicked in.
Why did they hanker for the past? Why, instead of that, did they not carve a way forward by trying to find solutions that would propel them into a brighter future?
Why this dependence on the familiar – our past – even when, deep down, we know about the deep wounds that bear testimony to the pain that we have suffered back there?
This happens in our love relationships as well. When a current relationship is floundering, we rush to find what made us happy in our past love engagements. We suddenly find ourselves suffering from some form of nostalgia. Some take it even further – they act out their memories of yesteryear. They go back to their ex-lovers. Even though they’re fully aware of how abusive those relationships were, they still go back. They try to find solace in the familiarity of the past, irrespective of how cruel that past was to them.
Why are we so easily captured by our past?
In South African politics, this phenomenon is, once again, playing itself out in 2017. After 23 years of a democracy that is led by the African National Congress [ANC], some still fondly hold on to the atrocities of colonisation and apartheid. When the present gets tough or unpalatable, the past becomes their emotional anchor. That is scary. Have we forgotten that these atrocities are well proven crimes against humanity? They should never be celebrated nor suggested as acts of goodwill or progress. Never!
The inability of South Africans to leave the past twenty three years of politics behind and contemplate a possible move into the future – a future without the leadership of the ANC – is even scarier. A large portion of the population still fails to believe that the liberator of yesteryear is fully capable of becoming the present oppressor. There is an irrational notion that South Africans won’t posper under a structure of governance that is divorced from the current stewardship. As a result, loyalty to the political party overrides the demand for sound, accountable and service based governance. In this environment, our political dissimilarities are allowed to triumph. The politics have turned toxic. We dig our claws in, refuse to bugde, bite the bullet and tolerate further political abuse. We wear our consequent suffering as a badge of honour. We are, after all, the defenders of our hard earned freedoms, aren’t we? In the process, we become guilty of sacrifing the very same freedoms at the alter of maladministration, corruption and patronage. Also, we entrench the largely false notion that we are doomed if we were to establish ourselves outside of the anchors of yesteryear.
This is, once again, a clear demonstration of how our attachment to the past imprisons us, even when it has proven to be unkind to our wellbeing.
Why is it so difficult for us to unshackle ourselves from the chains of our past?
In my opinion, we are taking the “creatures of habit” issue way too far. As a result, we open ourselves up to a vicious cycle of abuse. We fail to forgive ourselves for instances of bad judgment and inadvertently self flagellate. That is why we have become convicts of our bad past.
I’m in no way advocating for us to forget the past. That would be condescending and a demonstration of wishful thinking. All that I’m saying is for us not to use our past as an emotional crutch. It should not be our default place of safety, our refuge, when things get tough.
We must strive to put an end to this bad tendency. Those with the resources and the know-how, must be willing to help out in this regard. If there ever was a case for taking “collective responsibility”, this was it.
We cannot allow ourselves to be victims of nostalgic imprisonment forever.