Friday, April 17, 2015

South Africa and immigrants ... here and there.

I read a blog post a little while ago (find it here) about how we bury our heads in the sand, sometimes ... reading blogs about interiors and the latest fashion trends ... how to plant a spring garden ... celebrity gossip. When there are serious issues at hand, things we should be talking about. I know what she meant ... it's the song from Midnight Oil from all those years ago ... how can we sleep while our beds are burning ... but at the same time it's also about what we choose to spend our time reading, seeing, believing, wanting. And sometimes we choose to escape a little.

Sometimes it's because the politics are too much, the world is heavy on our shoulders, and we find no answers ... that we look to escape ... a book about somewhere completely different, a movie to take us away, new recipes to try ... Pinterest with its beautiful interiors and perfect images.

This week my thoughts have turned to home a lot ... so many conversations on Facebook - articles flying back and forth, opinions, thoughts, worries. A friend who wrote about turning to her husband's facebook feed at the end of a long and stressful day to find pictures of beautiful travel destinations, interiors, smiling babies. It's what we choose to see and feed ourselves with ... sometimes.

Still, from far away the talk all week has been about an uprising in Xenophobic attacks in South Africa and the unease that has been spreading ... outbreaks of violence and looting. The chasing out of immigrants. Illegal or not. Just a small group involved, this in no means reflects on the majority of the country ... there is so much outrage and anguish at the uprising starting. We've been through this before, long enough ago to still remember. 

Immigrant : Someone who leaves a place to make his or her home elsewhere. Usually permanently.

That's me. That's so many of us. So many of my friends, and family too. Maybe not intentionally .. but we leave or wander or move for all the reasons that it means to be human. Because of love, we run towards or away from it ... for adventure ... to study, work, progress, change. To try a new horizon. To see something of the world. And it's to survive. After War. Famine. Disease. Disaster. 

It's quite a thing, to leave one's home and set off for new horizons ... it's quite a thing to make a new home somewhere else, to start again. Day after day in the unfamiliar. Never quite belonging, never fitting in. All the new rules to learn, new languages.

I think of how it is at home, of the anger and the suffering so many are experiencing. Of what it means to have crossed borders on foot to set up home somewhere else, at the very toe of Africa ... after which there is no where else to go. To be forced back again, to the beginning, after all of that. To have to leave friends and new family, wives and husbands even. Because of jealousy and narrow vision. To try to find refuge until the violence calms.

In Australia, this beautiful campaign. 

The struggle happens everywhere. I felt it in England. I feel it here. Sometimes with pride when I look around at the history of this country, this city where so many seem to come from somewhere else, or their parents before them. Sometimes with less than pride when people talk about first generation immigrants with pity, and I realize I am one too. 

It's a conversation with no beginning and no end ... I'm one in a long line of travellers ... great grandparents who came to Africa, and we who left ... and so the story continues. Those of us who are living the story know the only way to survive is through kindness and compassion from those around us, and towards others living our story with us.

Onward and upwards.