Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Friday, 6 July 2007


"WEEC 2007 - 6. Economics that hurt the moral wellbeing of an individual or a nation are immoral and therefor sinful. The economics that prey upon another are immoral." The text is engraved on the stone carrying the statue of Mahatma Ghandi. We are visiting the Ghandi settlement where Mohandas Ghandi lived for 11 years after his arrival in South Africa in 1893. He started here The Opinion, a newspaper for the Indian community. The old printing press is in one of the buildings, now a small museum. The house is simple and has a similar atmosphere as his houses I have visited in Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Empty rooms, a view on the garden. Knowing this great mind has actually lived here touches me as I enter the veranda, I get tears in my eyes.

Inside there are photos from the period he stayed in Africa. They all are gifts from the Indian government as the museum was set on fire during the 1985 unrests in the townships. Our guide blames the apartheid regime for this disgrace. A South African lady from Indian descent has another version and tells me about the strained relations between the different racial groups. But clearly history is written by the victors. During the trip we have more examples of this wisdom and of the official ANC policy lines: African culture does not know domestic violence; a dowry does not mean that women are bought, it is only to strengthen the bonds of the two families. Since the ANC took over the power, people are happy, rejoice the leaders and celebrate their new found confidence. Strange to hear this in the birthplace of satyagraha (pursuit of truth).

On one photo we see the signboard of a hotel from those days: "We do not accomodate coolies in our hotel." Coolies meant Indians, Kaffers stood for Africans. The photos show the changes Ghandi underwent from a formal lawyer to an ashram dweller and proponent of ahimsa (non violence), developer of the philosophy of satyagraha and leader of the Indian Congress. The guide tells about Ghandi being thrown out of the first class compartment of the train in Pieter Maritzburg. The oppression of racial groups and the injustice and cruelty of apartheid. We are reminded of the important leadership role of the ANC. The guide tells us that the truth and reconciliation process, was too soft and that all these criminals will go to jail, if he had a say in it. I get the impression that it will take generations to heal the wounds and become a satyagrahi (seeker of truth).

The garden is well kept with green grass, flowers and trees. There is a peace monument erected by Native Americans a few years ago when they held a march for peace in Africa. There are more houses on the premises, outside the property townships as far as the eye reaches. Children are standing curiously around our bus. The school teachers are still on strike. They smile, laugh and wave at us. We visit schools and experience the importance of education for social change. Then it is time to return to Durban, where I have to catch my flight.

At the congress center I bump into the smiling faces of the people from Orange Free State I had shared a table with during the Farewell Dinner yesterday evening. We say goodbye again. The evening was a fabulous event. A modern ballet inspired by climate change. Wonderful food, music and dance. Many speeches, but the organizers had deserved all the applause they got from the participants.

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