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Don’t mourn, organize



by Oscar Allen

When the people of South Africa were fighting against apartheid, they had to bury their sons and daughters – young and old everyday. They were a butchered people, but they adopted a battle cry that helped to turn their constant grief into a mobilizing and bonding passion. “Don’t mourn, organize!” took to a different level, their daily diet of bullet riddled skull bashed, massacred mangled and terrorized bodies of cherished and beloved sisters and brothers.{{more}} Many of these who were assassinated as a matter of state policy had been targeted because they represented the best hopes for a future of justice, love and warm relations. What the pain filled survivors of apartheid violence became for the most part was not a vengeful weeping community crying out ‘blood for blood’. In the funeral litany chorus ‘Don’t Mourn, Organise!’ they paid true tribute to their loving and beloved dead for they were reaching out to a justice which would be also an emancipation beyond apartheid, beyond colonialism, beyond slaughter and villainy, beyond xenophobia.

In the South African battle cry, there is a redemptive principle at work, there is a call to appreciate the immediate hurt and acknowledge an ongoing pain as well, but more so a call to commit to fight to liberate a new future without the old causes to hurt and the drive to kill and divide.

“Don’t Mourn, Organize!” crafted in blood and chanted in pain is a gift that we should accept more deliberately from the liberation struggles of the late 20th century. Just as how others were invited to turn swords into plough hooks, we can apply this battle principle, this software weapon – to our own struggles for the wholesome community. Our daily community experience and the media give us reason to mourn and more generally to moan. The call goes out from here: “Don’t Moan, Organize!”

In every newspaper over the past few months, new and regular writers have noted particular cases of dis-ease in our community and made proposals relating to state/police violence, criminal violence, gender and sexual abuse, delinquent leaders, poor parenting, school disorder, youth sexuality, the passion for things on television, drugs and guns…. Most recently, Kenyatta Lewis chided the church – more gently than did John Smith, his referral – for its laid back approach to social issues. I want to support the general approach of commentators and to introduce a point of view or perspective which I share with a few others.

When I say that our society has had a violent history, I want us to take that fact seriously. We must not take ourselves out of the brutalization picture. The “new and unimaginable” behaviours and brutality that we encounter these days are manufactured right here in out society. True, we may have one or two synergic inputs from “outside”, but we have a homemade foundation for our social dis-ease. Denial does not help, nor does despair. The central point that I am making is that since we are part of the insurgent have-not but gotta get it-violent-delinquency complex, we also have a capacity to empathize with our more-or-less dis-eased brothers and sisters. Their unimaginable bestialities and weaknesses are entirely “thinkable” to us and by us. Think about it. Our first step to organize any effective liberation from our social delinquency therefore is to empathise with and analyse our social reality and its impact on us and others.

No, we are not gazing at out own navel passively, because our history makes us able to empathise and analyse, and to go further, to reconstruct justice and liberate mercy and connect or abolish divisions of class and fractures of the imagination. Unfortunately, or fortunately, this is not a process that policy makers can lead and put in the budget, or organize in a broad consultation, or equip the police with! The “Spiritual Charter” that the NDP offers omitted the first step, to look into our social condition from the standpoint of delinquent dis-eased and question our position and implication in where they stand. Empathy and analysis and reconstruction are to become a street movement which makes all of us equal. It is not unlike the movement in Galilee that proclaimed: “The Kingdom of God is near.”