Frustration mounting as years since apartheid lengthen. What could possibility-oriented dialogue offer? (by Michelle Strutzenberger)

More than 19 years since apartheid legislation was dismantled in South Africa, the dialogue in that country is one of increasing frustration, especially from the people who have given their lives for the democracy they now have.

Feelings are running high that a betrayal is happening, says resident Anastasia Bukashe.For herself and many others, there’s a recognition that it is time to honour and then build on this anger to create something new for the country.

At the core of this new conversation: South Africa’s identity in the larger context of the continent, which is a front and centre concern today, prompted by undercurrents in the country linked to the xenophobic attacks several years ago and increased refugee and immigrant populations.

While some are saying South Africa was supported by the continent during its own struggle, and that needs to be honoured now, others are angry about the opportunities “being stolen by these people coming in.”

“We need to have a different conversation about what it means to be in Africa, and what it means to be South African in Africa,” says Anastasia.

“What is the world calling for Africa to be, what are we calling for each other to be, and what are we witnessing in each other that makes that possible?”

She has been working for more than a year to bring these questions to groups of citizens and civil leaders.

It’s been incredibly slow work, she says, with a few significant shifts here and there, as when she convened a group of key civil leaders for such a conversation.

People were determined to talk about their anger and what they saw not working in the country. The undercurrents were strengthening, building up a moment when some sort of transposition was inevitable, which did come, in the form of a question from one of those gathered, “When are we going to be angry enough to say enough?”

“That was a key moment in the meeting, where it really shifted the conversation out of that frustrated space to an energized space of saying ‘Yes, we say enough,’ ” says Anastasia.

“At that point it became possible to ask the question, if it’s enough, what do we want?”

For her the highest possibility in this new conversation is around the relatedness of the whole continent, how “we all face very similar challenges, have lots to learn from each other and, particularly, what are the possibilities in growing wealth at the local level.”

Anastasia presented at the 2012 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference in Ghent, Belgium April 25-28.

She says a presentation from Dr. Kenneth Gergen and Dr. Danielle Zandee on micro and macro practices around social constructionism created what she calls a synapse fire for her that she hopes to follow.

She feels an image concept they put forward of flow and energy and that we are all part of something that is “so much older and richer and deeper than we can even conceive, and has impact so much further than we can even imagine,” is especially important for the work of the global community going forward.

It was also announced at the gathering that Anastasia will be involved in hosting the sixth WAIC in South Africa in 2015, a connection that fits very well with her current larger mission.

Feel free to comment below, or e-mail michelle(at)axiomnews.ca

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