Living Here: My reflections on #FMF

I propose we rename June 16 We Shall Not Forget Day or Never Again Day. Youth Day sounds too much like Fathers Day, which suggests that breakfast in bed is a sufficient way to commemorate it.

In fact June 16 marks the day, 40 years ago, when school kids said to their parents: “We see your suffering.  We understand that just putting food on our table is taking all the energy you have got.  We see you are tired and your responsibilities are too great.  But we know you have suffered long enough.  Its time for change.  We are young and so feel we don’t have anything to lose so we will take this fight on for you.  We will face the bullets for you because we understand you cannot risk any more.”  And so they fought and died for their parents and changed the course of our history.

Once freedom had been won, we decided that we must look forward and forget our ugly past in the building of our new nation.

My recent training in Family Constellations Therapy has given me a new view on remembering and forgetting (see for more about Family Constellations).  This theory explains that things that have been excluded from our families/systems will exert an enormous influence on the system until they are acknowledged.  The people within the system will unconsciously try to compensate for that exclusion.  Often acting out in all sorts of destructive ways in an attempt to bring the system back into alignment.  “What we reject we become”.  But only acknowledging and including that which has been excluded will in fact restore balance and peace.

Family Constellations also talks about the loyalty of children to their parents and how often they will unconsciously (or consciously) take on the unfinished business of their parents.

And so we see that the children of the school children of the ’76 Soweto uprising are saying: “Parents, we honour your struggle.  We acknowledge the sacrifice you made for our freedom.  We will continue your fight for equality.  We recognise that equal access to equal education is the only way for this to be realised.  Your fight was not for nothing.  You are tired and have too much to lose.  We will take the fight on for you.” The students are reminding us of the unfinished business that is making a lived reality the values fought for by their parents.

For a white South African farmer its very uncomfortable to talk about apartheid, even more awkward to considering the fact that as a white person I am are still receiving preferential treatment because of the colour of my skin.

As a child growing up on a farm I had the experience (typical of most farm kids but exceptional in apartheid South Africa) where my main playmates and friends were children of the farm workers who were black.  We explored, played and grew together.  Until we got to school going age.  And then we went to separate schools and began to travel on distinctly different paths.  I remember back to 1986 where my political awakening was taking place at 13. I watched the townships burn and knew that my childhood friend boycotting school, fighting for equality, while I studied on undisturbed.  In the process she missed two critical years of school, separating us even further as we travelled towards adulthood.

20 years later the fact of our vastly different schooling experience plays a very significant role in the opportunities available to her and subsequently for her children.

As we watch (from the safety of our homes) the Universities in turmoil I feel an urgent need to ask white South Africans to take this opportunity to take a pause in our smug tut tutting about unruly students and consider our positions. We need to recognise our own role and consider the connection between relentless racism and the powerful rage being acted out by the students.

The idea that we need stop talking about Apartheid and move on is quite bizarre, considering that the Boer War still has relevance in our relationships and memories. I would think that the influence of Apartheid will continue for a good few more generations.

Often when we talk about race it obscures all other issues because it is so difficult to engage around racism without defensiveness or aggression.  But then someone uses racist language or actions and justifies all that is being said about whites being racist and we are unable to move on from these polarities.

It is critical right now for white people to acknowledge their privilege and its origins.  What you do with that is up to you -hold onto it tightly and guard it with your gun; give it all away or actively work towards a society where race is really no longer relevant.  When white people are honest about where our privilege originates a constructive conversation can begin but until then we can’t get anywhere.

Racism rests comfortably in the space of denial because when we deny the roots of our privilege we are under the illusion that we are in positions of power and wealth because of our own superior capacity.  We speak about “them” and entrench our special place.

(It is also interesting how in trying to forget and move on from apartheid the current government employs exactly the same tactics as its former oppressors… what we reject we become).

We are all called to see things as they are.  When we do this then we can be released from this stuck position we find ourselves in and new possibilities can be realised. We cannot change the past but face it with our eyes open.

P.S. This is the first in a series of attempts to engage constructively in the conversation that South Africans are needing to have at this moment in our history. As a South African, a farmer, a mother, a dramatherapist, these issues have deep relevance to me.  Looking forward to your comments.

P.P.S.  If you are interested in learning more about Family Constellations come to the workshop next year with Tanja Meyburgh on The Rest (20 – 22nd October 2017).  If you can’t wait that long come to Essence 1 -4 December to reflect on the powerful shifts that this year has thrown at us. Get in touch for more information on

Living Here: My reflections on #FMF

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We are half way between Cape Town and Johannesberg (about 8 hours in either direction) half an hour off the N9 highway. We are an hour from Graaff-Reinet and 25 minutes from Nieu Bethesda.

To Drive: Email us for directions and check on the current state of the road and how your car will fare on the dirt roads.

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