Reading through the morning papers I realise that barbarism seems to be perceived as an outdated concept referring to pre-modern times. We are not like that anymore, the printed words portray. A few traces still, but no, it is the 21st century.
We don’t live life according to brutish non-rules and blatant self-indulgence. Bursting through jungle trees with animalistic screaming to terrify the “strange others”, the opponents, for them to know that you are there for their blood, their women, their cattle, their land.
Yes, our ancestors did just that in many explicit and in time more subtle ways, to get to the cattle and the land of others. Women to be gathered on the side. There is a psychology about that too… for another day’s discussion.
Our ancestors, not only the white ones, the darker brothers too, used every angle to get to whatever they wanted. Disguised, but truly selfish to the bone.
Dear reader, I have revealing news. You will not believe me, but I vouch for it – barbarism is still with us. Let me stop the disgust to follow.
It is a whitey’s callow bemoaning of personal discontent because times have changed, some will say. Let me then state it for the record: barbarism is an animal that lingers in all of us. One’s conscience knows about times and contexts where one behaved in some barbaric way. No one is without guilt.
No one can claim not to know a personal form of barbarism. Any protest against this, needs a psychologist to bring the truth to the fore.
I don’t want to be barbaric in the future too. What about you? I want to be altruistic. I want to be empathetic. I want to have a lifestyle that does not prevent others from enjoying a similar one, as well.
I don’t want greed and base immaturity to be the leading force in our leaders, in ourselves. Greed and immaturity will ruin the future. It will leave us to be reacting barbarians forever.
Such profanity, leaving people with personal angst, almost does not leave us with a reasonable choice. It is such a detestable concept.
So, I ask you to sit down at the breakfast table, at the corner office’s gleaming desk, on the pavement waiting for a train, to consider this – how do we stop barbarism? On a political level? On a business level? On a community level?
How do we stop the many evil ways that are striving to find ways to overpower women, to steal cattle, to take land from others, without taking personal circumstances, ethics or morals into account.
And the other way round, people who benefited from the ruthless discarding of other humans, how do they redeem such a history?
Life is messy. To go forward and to become humane, to leave the lingering traces of barbarism behind, is the fundamental quest. It is also the only quest if we want to become really human.
I have this feeling in the gut of my stomach. The politicians will not do it for us. I do not perceive anything else than home-grown fires that are greedily defended without any consideration for different perspectives, ideologies and different answers to the complexity of life. The business people just want to make money. Adam Smith told them that is okay.
There is still is a lingering barbaric thread that runs through society. Through me too. I am sick of it. I want ordinary people to realise that they should not relinquish their power to politicians, business executives, powerful people, who pat themselves on the back, before they shrewdly manoeuvre to pacify the masses.
We need to stop the rot. We need to jail barbarism. We need to become empathetic, kind, wedded to righteousness. We need to care for every human being that we encounter every day. Not selectively. We need to change reality to see the glint of hope returning to people’s eyes. And then we must continue to be there, heart and soul, for their tomorrows. So doing, we will become human.
And then, perhaps, all or more politicians, and perhaps all or more business people will look into the mirrors too.
Perhaps then they will leave their egos and greed behind to take the longing of society into their hearts and souls. And to let that resonate in a real and practical focus on the structures, needs and the lives of all people in society.
Everyone should be regarded as precious.
Perhaps then the morning papers will present us with rivers of words portraying humanity starting to walk tall.
Van der Walt has degrees in philosophy and theology