South Africans resort to violence first to solve problems. Just turn on the news and see the #feesmustfall movement for a contemporary example.
This is engrained in our collective culture and violence has been a part of South African history from just about every angle. It played a significant role in African tribal society, in white colonial settlement, in the Apartheid government's programmes of repression and also in the liberation struggle against Apartheid, and it continues to be the method of choice for resolving conflict and achieving certain goals in the family, in sexual relationships, in the school, in peer groups, as well as in the industrial relations and political spheres.
On a simpler level, who of us haven't cheered at a schoolyard brawl, or seen fists flying at a sports game (among the supporters more often than on the field).
It has been said many times, too often, that South Africa has a culture of violence.
This is an obviously alarming trend, and one that we should all stamp out.
How to create culture.
I sulture, any culture, is created through shared meaning. When we share meaning in language and in symbols we share a culture. For example we all know what 'braai' is, we all know what a 'shebeen' is, we all know what 'the flats' mean, we know what it means when someone hangs blue 'memorabilia' from their bakkie's towbar.
The reasoning is simple, and the practice very difficult. If one changes the language, expressions used, and the symbols and you can change or shift the culture.
How do we speak about women, children, other races?
Are our symbols inclusive or exclusive?
Are our symbolic hero's violent, or peaceful?
Are the origin stories, and the myths we tell, focused with violence or peace?
In short, and in my opinion, watch your tongue and watch what you place value and meaning in. Then we can shift culture, in our own homes and subsequently the wider country.
I suspect our love affair with violence is in large part due to our lack of self confidence, that we feel we need to assert ourselves, express ourselves when wronged, when our egos get bruised. Which in itself is not necessarily wrong I suppose, but picking up a brick every time?
Stop. Think. Choose.
Lastly, a simple mantra, I learnt from a child psychologist, STOP. THINK. CHOOSE.
To be mindful before we react, before we fire off that violent email, whatsapp message, or comment.
STOP. THINK. CHOOSE.
Thinking is what set us as humans apart, we have the ability to make a choice.
What will be the consequences of my actions?
Is this a kind thing to say, is it even necessary, goes the adage.
or just take three deep breaths, and walk away.
Read more on the complex problem and challenge of South Africa's Culture of Violence here
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
I am a flâneur, which basically means I spend a lot of time in coffee shops watching the world go by.