Thank you so much Mzilankatha for taking the time to share your pain, to reveal your struggles and for exposing the hurtful actions done to you and you to others. Some men are wired for defensiveness, trying to say sorry or to repair the damage they have done is very hard. One of the things that make Christian faith to be unique, is the forgiveness of sins through penitence, the feeling of being sorry for something one has done.
We live in a time where the church and the secular, control and suppress how some narratives are told and how silence might be broken. Your story is an example of what it means to move a story from the margins to the centre of our understanding of God’s love and mercy where the powerless do not become powerful but empowered. As a priest I am aware of the so called ‘men of the cloth’ or ‘men of God’ who exploit their privileged position and violate a sacred trust because of self-gratifying proclivities, turning women to objects of desire. It is very easy to maintain an image respectability and normality with everyone else, through the dignity and power that gets to be ascribed to church leaders.
They take advantage and prey on people who are vulnerable and trusting, people who are longing for love, longing to belong in a sacredness of trust. They place themselves in positions of power and moral superiority and yet they are unable to face the painful reality of their own character. Even though they may be aware of their hurtful actions towards others, they cannot be remorseful because their joy comes from exercising power over others. We call them colleagues and friends, and yet staying good on their side means doing exactly what they want you to do at all times, then everything would be okay. But dare you exercise your free will, or stand up to them, you could be assured that you would face the full force of their anger and hatred. They cannot stand to lose, nor tolerate any injury to their grossly inflated egos.
It is very easy for somebody to pick up a placard that says ‘No to GBV!’ just to make one appear to have moral integrity of breaking the silence in the male culture about the ongoing tragedy of violence against women. And yet it is just double talk, wanting to feel good about their aggressive masculine pride. The danger living in duplicity is in the ambiguity of boundaries which makes it easy for the crooked and the sinister to strike like a serpent. The blurring of boundaries happens during the normalization of inappropriate and downright offensive acts packaged in “just a joke” or “just playing” attitude. We are confronted with the painless existence of people who inflict pain on others without any emotional response – no pain, no remorse, no guilt.
What I have learnt from Bhekisisa as he opened his ‘pandora box’ is that we should never underestimate the degree of suffering for anybody. Suffering is uniquely human and springs from a mind capable of turning raw pain into agony by asking why. Why is this happening to me? We need to take a closer look at societal institutions that keep on producing abusive men. The family structures, the religious beliefs, the social systems, the economic systems, the sports culture.
There are so many men who care deeply about violence against women and children, but caring deeply is not enough. We need courage and moral integrity to break the silence. We need to stand up and speak out until more and more men are brave enough to step forward to break the silence. We owe this to our young brothers, to our sons, who are growing in a culture that does not give them a choice but dictates how to live and how to behave, a culture that writes off and cancels those who do not affirm the creed of the ‘boys club’.
Thank you Bhekisisa for rising above these cultural boundaries and religious concerns to speak out.
Revd Sizwe Ngcobo