We are in danger of forgetting


There is a period between the worst of times and the best of times in which there is a lull…. The relief of having escaped a horrible circumstance tempts us to ease back for a while and eventually the memory of how bad things used to be fades.

We start to convince ourselves that things are fine now because we use the worst circumstance as a reference point instead of using the best of circumstances as an aspirational goal to work towards.

We comfort ourselves that things are better than they used to be and teach ourselves to be content rather than focus ahead on the best we can aspire for.

Between the worst of times and the best of times we fall into the trap of forgetting. We forget what used to matter because our discomfort has been eased a bit and we feel we can afford to take a breather.

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We forget the tears we shed to get this far, we forget the voices that spoke up and grew hoarse and we forget the sacrifices made by others on our behalf because things are not so bad anymore …because we have known worse we are more prepared to settle.

Over the last two months I have tried to understand why all the things that have mattered to me since teenage-hood matter and why I should bother following the course that I chose.

The older I become the more accommodative I am… of the world and its injustices, of people and their weaknesses, and of circumstances and their imperfections.

I am more ready to concede that my point of view is not the only version of reality and with each concession; I grow less certain of the battles that I choose to wage.

What guarantee is there that my most deeply held convictions are more valid than those of others if my own truth is not essentially the truth of others?

If I believe that the opinions of others are as valid as my own, then what right do I have to wish that my opinions be given primacy over those of others?

If I am right and know myself to be right at what point is it okay to point out the error of another?

I have always worked on the premise that things in life are black or white but now that I am older, I find there are varying shades of grey… and grey is as legitimate a color as any.

In some things it just can’t be black or white, sometimes you have to settle for the middle ground – for the grey.

I have discovered that my desire to stick with black or white…with the extremes was derived from a fear that compromise would mean defeat or that compromise would mean that I had become some kind of turncoat.

I have learned that sometimes you can stand for something without needing to stand against another.

I used to define the things that mattered to me by identifying the things that didn’t matter consequently making the things that matter to me dependent upon those that don’t matter. I have learned that the things that matter to me can and should be able to stand up to scrutiny without being juxtaposed to anything else.

One thing that has always mattered to me is the pursuit of justice – especially social justice. I say pursuit because I recognize it as an aspirational endeavor, as a goal that may not be realized in my lifetime but I work towards it hoping that in pursuing it I may become a better person for having bothered.

Sometimes I am scared that I will become complacent and forget why it mattered. Forget that the rights I enjoy and take for granted today were hard-won by women who came before me. Forget that the privileges I take as my God-given due were once denied to those born with female genitalia. And when we start to forget, we start to think that the battle is won, we start to think that victory is certain and that the status of women within their societies is assured.

But if nothing else, these 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence serve as a rude awakening and reminder that progress in terms of achieving equality in the public sphere does not guarantee equality in the private sphere.

We must not forget that women live the most crucial aspects of their lives in the private, not public domain – in their homes and not their offices; in their bedrooms and not their boardrooms…. And it is in these spaces that they are most vulnerable and that our advocacy efforts cannot effectively penetrate.

As we celebrate progressive laws and policies that advance the interests of women, elevate their status and protect their rights – we must not forget that without peace in their homes, women cannot thrive in their societies nor effectively execute their duties and responsibilities in the public domain.

Sleeping with the enemy


...the calm before the storm...

...how sure are you that you're not sleeping with the enemy?

Recently a colleague became the butt of a few newsroom jokes after we discovered that the bulk of the stories he had written this year were largely comprised of brutal murders and horrifying acts of domestic violence and assault.

Among the tidbits of advice that were generously proffered was a cheeky suggestion that he compile all his stories for the year and write a best-selling horror novel which, it was said, would likely rival Stephen King’s fear factory of literature.

Typically, I couldn’t just let the matter rest but went on to the library and went through his gory stories one by one and read one narrative after another of gruesome killings involving married couples.

One thought that kept crossing my mind was that all of the dead spouses would probably have never thought that when they died, the person they married would be the cause and that they had literally spent all their married life ‘sleeping with the enemy’.

My first recollection of the marriage institution as a potential deathtrap is nearly a decade old and involves the tragic deaths of former soccer chairman after his wife set their home on fire following a domestic dispute.

I remember thinking at the time that it would have been better if they had had a divorce rather than staying in a situation that had potentially become dangerous and life-threatening.

I site this example only as a way of establishing how disturbing I have always found these incidents of spousal murder to be and not to be critical of a couple I know virtually nothing about.

Having said this, I find it unsettling how blood is shed almost willy-nilly within the domestic sphere and have wondered what really could be done to curb these tragic and horrifying incidents.

I have often found that the average wife is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters with the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain.

I have also found that it is this kind of wife that society embraces, eulogizes and celebrates, our mothers feeding us the tedious dictum of being ‘patient, enduring and long-suffering’ – kuyabekezelwa emendweni.

While circumstances vary, it is almost predictable that the stoical wife may one day be pushed too far – beyond her control, snap and do the unimaginable, a person can only take so much pain.

This is not to excuse such behavior but it is to say that in all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things we have long taken for granted, things like a wife’s ability, willingness and capacity to endure cruelty, abuse and neglect.

I think there are many who will dismiss this article arguing that it is premised on incidents that are rare, few and far between – but those readers would be gravely mistaken because crimes of passion are frighteningly on the increase and our coverage of them represents only a tip of the iceberg.

I am one of those people who believe that a woman must know when to call it a day and for those who want some pointers – call it a day the very day he sends you to hospital with a cracked rib or two.

Crossing over the boundaries we’ve been taught to live within is a tough business. But I’m getting used to the idea they’re not so formidable.

Any man who knows he has been cruel to his wife must know that every act of cruelty, of malice, of neglect and abuse is being laid up in her heart and one day when you least expect it – she’ll turn on you and lash out in retaliation.

At the risk of sounding clichéd, I have to state that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

I recall a book I studied and critiqued in my final year at varsity entitled ‘A Tragedy of Lives: Zimbabwean women in prison’ which was a collection of testimonials by female inmates held at Chikurubi.

I remember my friends and I took special interest in the chapter that had testimonies of women who had murdered someone and found much to our shock that more than ninety percent of them were in jail for killing their husbands!

Usually the act itself was neither premeditated nor intentional but it was usually the culmination of years of frustration, pain, anger and despair endured by these women in relationships that were unfulfilling, oppressive and abusive.

Why did they not leave? We asked ourselves at the time but the answer is one we only uncovered now as we came of age ourselves – they couldn’t act in manner contrary to what they had been socialized into.

So they stayed, endured, cracked and killed.

As the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign commences these blood chilling acts of domestic violence require us to stem the tide of bloodshed and Commit. Act. Demand. We CAN end violence against women!

Parting shot: The moment a man claims a right to control the will of a fellow being by physical force, he is at heart a slaveholder. ~Henry C. Wright