Maverick Life


Human connection and emotion reveal that good and evil lie within us all

Human connection and emotion reveal that good and evil lie within us all
The Middle East crisis mirrors the intricacies of opposing forces, urging for understanding and empathy over divisive narratives, argues the author. (Illustration: MIdjourney AI)

Human existence is an intricate fabric with strands pulling this way and that. Like interwoven yarns, we must find compassion by realising we are part of a whole.

In our world of contrasts, a world in which light and shadow exist in a natural embrace, we must reconsider the age-old question of whether opposites attract or repel.

Beyond the realm of physical laws, magnets can serve as a metaphor for forces that bring things together or shove them apart, the way Samson did the pillars of the temple in Judges 16:21-31, in the Christian holy book.

And therein resides a deeper question about the nature of our connections as humans.

For example, is it possible to prize both the yin and the yang? Is it possible to find life, in both clashing and agreeing, with any authenticity? When one loves something, is it rational to conclude that one also hates its opposite?

Consider the truth of human emotion and belief, intertwined with threads of both light and dark, kindness and cruelty, love and hate… Consider it against the backdrop of verifiable facts.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Anger, sadness, boredom, anxiety – emotions that feel bad can be useful

Across that intricate fabric we are made of, can one not appreciate the unique quality each thread brings to the whole? The threads pull in opposite directions, most times. Must we choose one or the other or can we, with the insight of our Homo sapiens intellect, recognise the value of the whole?

The Middle East is as complex as a Persian carpet. It also reflects exactly what my pep talk here is about.

At the heart of the Israeli and Gazan conflict, what should we look for to drive our sensibility and aid our reflection? The warp and weft that make up the history and tapestry of that region make it difficult to think straight, especially in this electronic and internet age.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East crisis news hub

The web is rife with memes spouting insults this way and that; with links to articles that each side thinks will convince a reader or smear their nemesis. Yes, there are nemeses and these exist well beyond the Middle East. America is in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with both feet and with both arms that are its political parties: left and right. Evidently, other Middle Eastern peoples are smack within that conflict as well.

I plead for understanding — for recognising actual decency, on one hand, and real wickedness, on the other hand, because these often exist within the same person or the same community. We mustn’t be swayed solely by narratives that divide but also by those that seek common ground. Only then will understanding and empathy win the day.

Religious affiliation doesn’t make it simple, but then religion has never made anything simple. Religion must be set aside when dealing with the affairs of humans. Religion is a personal matter and has no place in public space.

“When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private,” says Matthew 6:6, in case you disagree with my view about religion being a private matter. Besides, whose religion would we abide by?

On top of all that, many people are nonbelievers!

Read more in Daily Maverick: Don’t fall for political, ideological, religious or cultural groupthink – and shed toxic beliefs

These considerations require us to sift through layer after layer of who we are and what we think is best for all of us. They require us to discern fact from fiction.

Our beliefs, certainly tainted by religion, by superstition and by prejudice, often cloud our vision.

We have lost what our genetic heritage has taught us, even if greed and sheer survival instinct can switch off this gift of clemency and altruism that nature has given us. Indeed, evolutionary scientists have confirmed that we have evolved the ability to be kind to others, the survival payoff being reciprocity and mutual benefit.

I therefore call for a new perspective, one that transcends the manacles of unfounded judgment and bias.

Let the days of decisions rooted in ignorance and intolerance fade into the annals of history, the way in which burning “witches” at the stake and sending people whose colour is different from yours to the back of the bus dis­appeared.

Too many choices in the world’s history have been dictated by the ghouls of religious dogma, by enmity or friendship based on ethnicity, and by bias based on gender and sexual prejudice. Most of these, I’m afraid, are byproducts of religious belief.

Consider compromise and peacemaking.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for example, demonstrated how a society deeply divided by racial injustices, even for a very long time, could begin a process of healing through truth-telling, empathy and the acknowledgement of shared suffering.

Similarly, the Good Friday Agreement showed the world that even the most entrenched conflicts, like that in Northern Ireland, could find resolution in mutual understanding and compromise.

Everyone can do it. The first step is to shed religious influence and dump prejudice and intolerance. Easier said than done, I know. But there’s no other way.

It is estimated that at the end of February 2024, more than 30,000 Palestinians had been killed, and more than 70,000 injured, most of them women and children.

In contemporary times, the global challenges we’re faced with, like climate change and viral outbreaks, underscore this obligation for cooperation across borders and cultures and faiths. Such calamities do not respect national, ideological or other boundaries, and therefore require a unified reaction informed by empathy and by a recognition of our interconnectedness.

I try hard to love what I consider good in people and hate what I consider bad in them, and we all own both. In what I call for, which is the embrace of light and shadow and each shade in between, the acknowledgement of value in both the yin and the yang (opposite but intersected) is perhaps some hope for our collective evolution on this planet.

We’re indeed different, yet only through a balanced vision will we be able to advance — not as fragments, but united in diversity and strengthened by a shared destiny. In our difference, we’re more similar than we think. Sub-Saharan Africans are farthest genetically from, among others, Australian Aboriginals, despite skin colour.

“The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 confirmed humans are 99.9% identical at the DNA level and there is no genetic basis for race,” scientists reported.

Outwardly different but one inside.

Like a carpet, with its different interwoven yarns, we are more outstanding that way. DM

Rethabile Masilo is a Mosotho poet from Lesotho who lives in Paris, France.

Ars poetica

By Rethabile Masilo

During an empty period one still expects words,

accepts them like a betrayal and lives them.

There will be questions with no answers

for the day will be funereal. But when they kill a kid

and you receive babble from a three-year-old,

name that time Babel. Let his mother’s wails

frown on you, then add her cries to the child’s.

Get turned into a fist at first, in apartheid jails.

Pielkop! Then become a dog. Kaffir! Gaan fok jouself!

In exile, beg yourself for release from the dungeon

where you put yourself, hoping to starve and die.

When you don’t, let a book write itself with language

from the cruel parts of The King James Bible.

Rise with it, unafraid to face what it tells the world.

Read from it like an echo inside every ear, in order

that you may grow a scab over all your wounds.


The forest is dark

By Kobus Moolman

The forest is dark,

Even in the middle of the day.

The sun does not reach the heart of the forest

from above,

nor from any of its sides.

The only light that does reach the core of the forest

comes up from below,

from the deep and musty earth.

And this light is always dark.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • James Webster says:

    It’s rather rich that this author, who uses the “Christian” holy book, the Bible, to justify her underlying antisemitism, quotes from it ( erroneously as is to be expected ) without realising that many morals in it, and the verses she quotes, originate in The Old Testament, a JEWISH holy book, not only a Christian one. Her hypocrisy or ignorance ( take your pick ) goes further than this, all too convenient, omission, but extends to her using JUDEO-Christian ethics, to justify her primitive, partisan and quite frankly, irrelevant rant about the JUST war Israel is prosecuting against a bunch of godless heathens who heinously slaughtered and raped innocent Israelis in an unprovoked attack. Given her nonexistent grasp of the philosophy in the Bible, it comes as no surprise that she, again conveniently, omits to mention how Old Testament justice demands an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth ( and in her case, a weak partisan mind for a weak partisan mind ). The problem in the world is not race, it’s the fact that specific cultures are associated with specific races. Woke modern hand waving insists that all cultures are equal, which is absolute rot, because clearly, given the leadership, philosophies and concepts that certain cultures both created and espouse, specific cultures are demonstrably superior to others, the protestations of the inferior cultures notwithstanding. As is says in the Bible, “by their fruits shallst ye know them” !

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      It is unfortunate that the author chose to bring the ‘bible’ (or any other religious text for that matter) into this discussion. However your response is typical of the Zionist (Israeli variety not to be conflated with the Biden et al variety) brand, in trying to conflate Zionism with anti-semitism. Thanks to professors Chomsky and Shlaim, and more recently Gideon Levy et al (all ‘self hating’ jews no doubt!), that trope has been laid asunder … I thought … but I was wrong ! Your concluding statement confirms the observation of Levy that most Jews regard themselves as God’s ‘chosen people’ … wherein lies the rub.

    • John Stephens says:

      James – talk about being biased! You are so clearly biased and totally unbalanced that you cannot even begin to understand the humanity that underlies this article. You don’t know the Bible, quite obviously, so leave the snotty nosed air of superiority. You are not superior in knowlege or anything else.
      The Old Testament does not equal the Torah. Ask any Rabbi. The Bible has been put together at different times by different people each with their own agenda. It thus reflects a lot of contradictory and digressive storytelling.
      You may well be too opiniated to learn something, but try and shed your religious intolerance and discover your real humanity. It is still there underneath all the religious nonsense you’ve been indoctrinated to believe.

    • Rethabile Masilo says:

      Hello James. This is what you are saying: “Her hypocrisy or ignorance ( take your pick ) goes further than this, all too convenient, omission, but extends to her using JUDEO-Christian ethics, to justify her primitive, partisan and quite frankly, irrelevant rant about the JUST war Israel is prosecuting against a bunch of godless heathens who heinously slaughtered and raped innocent Israelis in an unprovoked attack.”

      I’m actually trying to include, not omit; hence the image of a carpet with its warp/weft. I repeat this several times in the article. I mention thet we’re all the same. I also mention that the main dividing factor among us is religion. It is as if the warp of a Persian carpet believed it should go in one direction, and the weft believed it should go in the opposite direction, and the carpet was being torn apart.

      If there’s hypocrisy in my words, or omission, I’ll take the blame. Please point them out without the insults, for these cloud your thoughts and probably obscure what it is you’re trying to say.

      I am used to be labelled all sorts of things. That doesn’t deter me. I have been called anti-semitic and blood-libellous a few times. I think this is because people who do so have committed the grave error of confounding Judaism with Zionism, probably on purpose, in a bid to intimidate their interlocutor. But that doesn’t work anymore. If I criticise Iran it does not mean that I am Islamophobic.

    • Luke S says:

      Can you not see how blatantly you are expressing your siding with the exact problem that the author is trying to demonstrate is the root cause of most of our biggest problems? Incorrectly calling devout Moslems as “godless heathens”, and saying that “some cultures are superior to others”? Were you not paying attention during apartheid, when the same excuses and propaganda were used, almost word for word? And then on top of that, with zero justification, calling the author antisemitic, just to solidify your racism? I am shocked. And very very sad.

    • Luke S says:

      I believe (but I maybe wrong, however, it’s apt) Confucius once said “Before embarking on a journey of revenge, dig two graves”.
      Oct 7 did not come out of a vacuum, nor was it due to a conflict of religion. To ignore everything that happened before that is extremely short-sighted. Out of all the racist, genocidal, oppressive actions taken by some governments over the millennia, when the oppressed, displaced and murdered are willing to compromise, i.e. accept the middle ground (two state solution), it is a gift. The answer is not to keep up the oppression and murder, but to say “Thank you”, count us all very lucky to be humans, with humanity and ubuntu, and live in peace.

  • Dawn Sproson says:

    Every year in South Africa, almost the same number, as those killed in the Gaza conflict, are killed in South Africa. We can show the world how to put this right; not by legal interference in another’s fight, but by committed, authentic soul searching by each of us, from the most powerful to the least to unleash the unstoppable power of love in each of us, that has led the way for a million years to what we are today. In our fragile glass house let us take care of each other.

  • Elsiezinseer says:

    No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
    John Donne (1572-1631)

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