We cannot afford to continue to ignore the unfinished business of healing our nation and dealing with the frozen trauma.
This was one of the viewpoints of Prof Christo Thesnaar from the Department of Practical Theology and Missiology in the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University (SU) on Wednesday (12 Jun 2019). He delivered his inaugural lecture on the topic Divine discomfort: A relational encounter with multi-generational and multi-layered trauma.
Thesnaar said South Africa is reaping the fruits of frozen and multi-generational and multi-layered trauma that has started to erupt in the country. He added that we have failed to deal with the trauma of the past.
“Domestic and intimate partner violence, violent crime, substance dependency, xenophobia, etc., all bear witness to a frozen trauma that has started to erupt. Persistent poverty, inequality and unemployment are clear indicators that we have neglected to attend to our frozen trauma."
“In the lead-up to the 25th anniversary of the political settlement in South Africa, we have seen an increase in anger, violence and vengeance on all levels of our society regarding basic service delivery, poverty, education, economic freedom, and so forth.
“It is safe to say that for the most part of the 25 years, the state of the trauma in our country has been mainly suppressed by the transition process, the first democratic election, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process and the many political promises."
According to Thesnaar, the lack of implementation of the TRC recommendations by government, civil society and religious groupings and the failure to facilitate the past trauma have contributed to the eruption of the trauma.
“The failure to address socio-economic settlement in terms of economic justice, land reform, housing and employment, to name a few, has specifically contributed to the frozen trauma and the subsequent eruption thereof."
Thesnaar added that even though we went through a transformation (political change and new Constitution) and healing process (facilitated by the TRC) 25 years ago, there was no guarantee that it would be sufficient to deal with the decades of frozen trauma.
He said the lack of urgency by all role players to transform South Africa has increased divisions between rich and poor, different race groups, and leadership and the people.
“Poverty in the midst of opulence is inclined to wound a person, family, community and even a nation more than one can imagine. In this regard, unequal societies such as ours tend to generate more rage and outrage that turn inwards as well as to those intimate to the one that is traumatised."
Thesnaar said as a society we will need to embrace the values of ubuntu and mutual recognition to deal with the multi-generational and multi-layered trauma.
- Main photo: A squatter camp in South Africa. (Credit: Wikimedia)
- Photo 1: Profs Reggie Nel, Dean of SU's Faculty of Theology, Christo Thesnaar and Stan du Plessis, SU's Chief Operating Officer at the inaugural lecture. Photographer: Anton Jordaan