Weighing Ubuntu

2006   For Women’s Day

On a slip of paper, write out A person is a person through others  or  I am because we are.  Then take a pair of scissors and cut your phrase in two as follows:
A person is a person                  through others    
I am                  because we are.
Then get an old fashioned pair of scales, the balance type, put A person is a person/ I am on one scale and through others/ because we are on the other. If they balance out, everything is fine.  If the scale with a person is a person/I am goes flying up and through others/because we are comes crashing down, it means we are living in an unbalanced society and the individual has been sacrificed at the altar of the collective.
Usually ordinary women, the majority in any society, are the persons or the I’s that weigh nothing.  So we have to examine what is on the other scale to see why women have so little substance.  When we look, we usually find traditions and conventions.  

Obviously we need traditions but like everything that human beings invent nothing is perfect.  Like democracy, which is not perfect.  Democracy gives us equal rights; that means that murderers and rapists have equal rights too so we make laws that interfere with their equality, lock them up and rescind their rights.  Thus we change the meaning of democracy.  If we can change the meaning of democracy why do we protect traditions that weigh women down?  Traditions that come from a long time ago were made for different conditions.  The ordinary woman in South Africa today faces exploitation, abuse, robbery, rape and murder 24/7.  So how does the traditional woman of the past who kneels with downcast eyes, walks behind her husband, must be fertile, must produce boy children, must accept others’ authority over her like a child, cope when transported to 2006?

The answer lies in the first part of Ubuntu: a person is a person/ I am.  Not  ‘through other people/we are.’  Must a woman finding herself in the midst of others who are abusers, robbers, rapists and murderers, become the woman that these conditions demand?  To bring back the balance in society, she must stop colluding with her oppressors.  She must stop allowing them to take her for granted.  She cannot remain a child who takes orders.  She must become an adult who makes decisions, exerts her power, negotiates for what she believes in and takes control of her life.  If she continues to accept without question, the laws that men make to control her, she is being abused, will become an abuser and will allow her children to be abusers and abused.

She has to challenge old traditions and establish new ones; new traditions that allow her to be a person affirming I am.  In an overpopulated, HIV+ world, she must question the most fundamental beliefs; the traditions that keep women enslaved to their bodies; wifehood, motherhood, careers such as care givers, nurses, teachers, beauty and fashion queens, prostitutes and servants.

In 2006, the ordinary woman must acknowledge that she has a mind and a will to stop the abuse of her body.  Motho ke Motho ka Batho.