Friday, 19 June 2009

Aluta continua, June 16th and insatiable, restless freedom

Dr Mamphela Ramphele: "Freedom is indivisible. One cannot be free as a black person and yet still be bound by traditionalism as a woman. Nor can we fully enjoy our freedom if some sectors of our society are not free"
The child is not dead
not at Langa not at Nyanga
not at Orlando not at Shrapeville
not at the police station in Philippi
where he lies with a bullet through his brain

The child is the shadow of the soldiers
on guard with rifles Saracens and batons
the child is present at all gatherings and law-giving
the child peers through house windows and into the hearts of mothers
the child who wanted just to play in the sun at Nyanga is everywhere
the child grown to a man treks all over Africa
the child grown to a giant travels through the whole world

Without a pass

Ingrid Jonker, extract (in translation) from Die kind wat dood geskiet is deur soldate by Nyanga
My people fought for freedom. My people - black, white, coloured, indian - died for freedom. Their blood, their sweat, their youth, their education - the sacrifice for the precious freedom I live every day. But this freedom is a restless freedom. It is restless partly because it is so far from a perfect freedom - because of service delivery and corrupt officials and crime making lives unbearable. There is far to go to make this freedom complete for everyone here. But everyone here has freedom. This precious thing that has been fought for with so many lives - taken both in violence and in years - is free to all of us.

This is not the freedom of nations, it is the freedom of individuals. Ours is a restless freedom partly because other individuals are not free. All freedom is intertwined. My freedom, our freedom, is dependent on the freedom of others, because those who crush their freedom, with laws and terror and excuses and weapons, are only a moment away from being the same as the people who held ours ransom for so long. And their continued existence threatens our freedom by legitimising the idea that unfreedom is acceptable and normal somewhere, anywhere, anytime. Unfreedoms both in oppressive regimes, with no excuses, and in supposedly free places, with many, many excuses.

And because I am free to move from place to place, their unfreedom directly constrains my freedom. Am I free if I can roam across South Africa but my freedom ends at the border with Zimbabwe, where I am no longer welcome because I am white? Am I free if I can can marry as I choose in my own country but little girls are forced into arranged marriages not very far to the North? Am I free if I can go where I please, dressed in the most shockingly unconservative outfits – as is my right – but women on my own continent must always cover their heads, their bodies, sometimes all but their eyes, not by choice but for fear of being beaten and burnt with acid? Am I free if I cannot go to those places without also wearing a veil?

My freedom is restless because my freedom is limited. My own freedom is constrained by diplomatic constructs and man-made lies and the unfreedom which I am told is okay for others. My freedom is restless because my freedom is bounded by national borders. My generation, glorying in the new-found right to travel, no longer limited by international sanction, has broken out of the red-tape cage and set off across the globe. We set off trailing wisps and winds of the freedom we have learnt to value and love and enjoy. And at every turn face frustration as more and more people try to curtail our freedom. We face the reality of societal expectations and man-made laws and artificial limitations on freedom. This is the reality, the falsehood, of a freedom only valid within certain borders.

We learn, we are learning, that the urge for freedom, the struggle for freedom is insatiable. It is not enough that we have freedom here and now, in this brief moment, in our own home-country. It is not enough to have freedom just where we are born and just for our own people. Even just for ourselves, with no empathic urge to share this wonderful freedom with others, it is not enough. Freedom is restless and the struggle for freedom insatiable. As long as it is impossible to board a train in Cape Town and travel, unhindered, to Cairo. As long as women are still disfigured because they refuse to veil their selves and are not allowed to speak in public. As long as some individuals are more equal in power and voice than others. As long as our freedom is threatened by the oppression of others. Until, die kind wat 'n reus geword het reis deur die hele wêreld, Sonder 'n pas.The struggle for freedom, the struggle for our freedom, continues.

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