Anger management should be more that a trite and dismissive buzzword in popular thinking. It should be an empowering and constructive tool in building a future for every South African. A response to Sipho Hlongwane’s recent column.
I am the first to harp on about the responsibilities of white South Africans to make right (I do this very vocally on my Talk-radio 702 nation-building slot on Fridays) and I feel that unless there is revolutionary restitution economically, we have no future – not for black, not for white, not for anybody.
However, there is a trend of political scapegoating, aimed at white South Africans, coloured South Africans (thanks for that Jimmy Manyi) and foreign nationals living in our country. In these instances, anger is the main player. It is large and loud and makes sure everybody knows it’s there.
In a marriage, one partner’s anger can completely suffocate all good in the marriage. Anger alienates partners from one another and puts the guilty party in a position where nothing they do is enough to ameliorate the others’ anger (remember Germany’s burden of reparations after the World World I?) In South Africa, I like to think we’re all married, because our futures are interlinked, one race’s actions impact deeply on all the other races.
Recently, I’ve been at the receiving end of the anger. Certain of my personal attempts at restitution have been met, not with an acknowledgement, but with a sense of expectation and entitlement. And at times, vitriolic anger. Instead of my actions bringing about the desired restitution, we as South Africans were estranged even further.
Now you may say, there is no need to acknowledge or say thank you when someone (read: whites) gives back what they have stolen in the first place. Yes, I agree with that, and I try to understand the pain that feeds this type of anger. But when anger is used as a tool for revenge, instead of healing, we shouldn’t be encouraging people to get more in touch with their anger. Remember, this is a marriage, so revenge against one party has consequences for us all.
Let’s rather encourage people to deal with their anger – blacks and whites. Let’s rather encourage people to find the good in each other (yes, there is good in all of us). Goodness draws people together. What we need is a revolution of kindness, not a revolution of anger.
When anger and violence rule the nation, then we’ve lost all control and, in fact, stability, let alone national and economic progress will elude us. A city with broken down walls is like a man who cannot control his anger. It is impossible to build any kind of future.
When you recognise attempts to make right, however feeble they are, it encourages further positive behaviour and empowers people to believe that they can choose a better life to thieving. Imagine what could happen, if the movement for good could spread to the masses and black South Africans would have to tell white South Africans, “stop, you’ve given back enough”.
My conviction about this country is similar to the “Walk Together” scenario of the Dinokeng Scenarios. In South Africa, there is only one future that is sustainable – and that’s a future of black and white together. Don’t ask me why – it’s just the way I see God has intended it to be. He (feminists please feel free to replace “He” with “She”) loves diversity and multiculturalism and where we’ve tried to do it another way, the results have been disastrous (just look at Germany in WWII, Zimbabwe and our apartheid past).
So yes, black South Africans need to feel their anger, but there is ample anger to go around already. Let’s stop encouraging people to get in touch with their anger, let’s encourage them to deal with the trauma and pain to which that anger points (anger is not a primary emotion, but always a symptom and result of one of the other primary emotions). If anger becomes an excuse for greed and entitlement, then people remain victims and there will be no inheritance for SA’s youth.
White South Africans aren’t repentant enough, I agree, and they aren’t doing their bit nearly fast enough (I myself am doing what I can about that), but as marriage counsellors attest, you cannot use anger to get the other person to change, unless, of course, you don’t care about the relationship’s future. It’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance and in turn I would say, it’s the kindness of others that leads us to repentance too.
True forgiveness is about taking your future into your own hands, about realising that you’re the captain of your own soul, that no one else is responsible for your destiny. Nelson Mandela understood this, and this belief guided his soul through his imprisonment. Jesus also said, “No one takes my life from me, I lay it down of my own accord” – a shocking statement when you think that he was handed over to his captors.
Anger won’t bring true freedom or empowerment, actually, dealing with anger through forgiveness will. And, believe it or not, forgiveness doesn’t mean that the other party gets away with murder, but it empowers the forgiver to take the future into their own hands.
Let’s make sure people understand that anger doesn’t empower you – dealing with it does. DM
Julie Cunningham is Talk Radio 702's resident nation builder, a journalist and guest speaker. She's been a producer at most of South Africa and London's TV news organisations, but left before it became boring. When she's not building communities, or mentoring younger South Africans, she's talking to organisations and individuals about active citizenship and South Africa's future possibilities. She's dabbled in science and psychology and will talk to anybody about anything.