Facing the Challenges to Build a More Harmonious South Africa

“I think one of the biggest challenges we face is how do we move past the us vs them of both race and social class and get people in the same room, sharing stories. Many of our bigger systemic and structural issues will be solved by relationship building. This is crucial in order to stop “othering” [ a process which dehumanises people] and to start seeing fellow South Africans in need. Hopefully we will be willing to step towards them and offer what resources we have, whether it be time, money, things, skills, energy. We tend to speak at each other and every issue becomes so politically and emotionally charged that it becomes easy to demonise or dehumanise the other and force people to take sides. This will never help to bring us together.”

Education is one of the biggest problems we face according to Brett. “Getting involved from a grassroots level [from pre-school age] across the board, including townships and rural areas and especially working to level the playing field as much as possible or at the very least remove some of the huge disparity that exists between the education and opportunities of the rich and the poor. Sorting out education would have a knock-on effect to the rest of the country so it amazes me that we don’t make this a priority.”

Brett believes that the lack of visible leaders who command respect is another big challenge. “When the president is seen as a joke in so many quarters and the word corruption is thrown about related to so many leaders and sectors of society, we really could use some leadership that people choose to get behind and back and run with. When the leaders fail to gain respect because of their character and their actions, it becomes so much harder for the masses to do better.”

Engaging in the Process of Change

“I work in my personal capacity to bring about change where I can. One area where I believe I have a calling is on social media and so specifically on Facebook taking and creating opportunities to bring important conversations and engagements to as many people as possible – trying to inspire people to adopt a #NotOnOurWatch commitment. I see this as a movement in terms of committing to interrupting racism [and also sexism or bullying] when we see it in front of us – refusing to let it pass by uninterrupted. I see this as potentially a huge way forward for the country – if people truly started committing to that then we could see positive peer and crowd pressure helping to affect the country in a positive way.”

“I am busy writing a book about race for white people [tentatively titled, ‘I’m not a racist but’] and also make videos on my You Tube channel focusing on educating white people about race and the need to think about and engage healthily with people who don’t look like us. Through my blog I host a number of those conversations and engagements, challenging people to think and then act differently.”

Brett believes that even the church needs to be challenged to do better. “We need to be the people we say we are outside of the building and everything that takes place on a Sunday. The idea of us actively being involved in bringing the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.”

“I have been part of the Peace Justice Witness team [PJW] that has tried to be a positive presence and observation in the #FeesMustFall gatherings on the different campuses – firstly to observe, but also hopefully to help de-escalate any tension or violence that erupts.”

He helped with social media for the recent Justice Conference that his wife Valerie ran and believes that the church has to be operating in spaces of social justice not as an extra to our mission but as a primary part of it.

“We also host dinners called Deep Dive Conversation Dinners where we invite people to meet around the table and break bread together and dive deeply into a conversation on an aspect of race or social change and really seek to establish relationships and opportunities for story-telling and listening. These have felt really positive and effective and I would love to find the means to expand them across South Africa.”

Taking the Lead on The Way Forward

“I do think establishing relationships which grow into deep friendships is key, so I look for opportunities to help bring people together. Such as the Deep Dive Dinners and the conversations on social media. Encouraging people to continue to do the small and big things they do well and not waiting for government to come and sort out the problems as it doesn’t look like that is going to happen. But just to keep being creative and looking in the spaces where we find ourselves and maybe challenging people to think twice about the spaces they find themselves in, and seeing what change we can be part of there.”

More about Brett Anderson

Brett has published a book called i, church which looks at the idea of church being the people and not the place and looks to answer the question ‘What happens when the church leaves the building?’ You can find more of his writing at https://brettfish.co.za/
The main purpose of his blogs is to provoke laughter, to challenge and inspire, to encourage and to share ideas, to celebrate and even to mourn – as the tagline says, to really ‘suck the marrow out of life’. Brett Fish is a lover of life, God, tbV [the beautiful Valerie] and owns the world’s most famous stuffed dolphin, No_bob. He believes that we are all responsible for making the world a significantly better place for everyone.