ANNOUNCER: This is a production of Cornell University.
MUNA NDULO: I guess we are ready to start. My name is Muna Ndulo. I'm the director of the Institute for African Development. I'm also a professor of law in the Cornell Law School. It's my pleasure to introduce to you our distinguished scholar-- IAD's distinguished scholar for this year, 2016.
Before I introduce her, a little bit about the distinguished scholar program. The distinguished scholar program, we bring to campus Africanist scholars who have distinguished themselves in their work. And the way it works is that a department at Cornell nominates the scholar to us. And when they come here, the department and the institute play host to the scholar. And pursuant to that, I think we have had nominations from a very diverse group of faculties-- the business school, the history department. We've had scholars from all those areas.
And this year, our distinguished scholar is professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. She's professor and research chair for historical trauma and transformation in the faculty of arts and social sciences, Stellenbosch University. Previously, she was a professor in the psychology department at the University of Cape Town and the senior research professor for trauma, memory, and forgiveness at the University of the Free State.
Her book A Human Being Died That Night is an African story of forgiveness, won the Alan Paton Award in South Africa and the Christopher Award in the United States. She has also published several other books on trauma and healing. In addition, she has co-edited special issues of the International Journal of Critical Psychology, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in South Africa, and the Journal of Women in Culture and Society.
Professor Madikizela has delivered lectures and keynote addresses at the International Forum on [INAUDIBLE]. She Has been honored as one of the 100 people who have made a difference in the Hall of Heroes National Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received the Eleanor Roosevelt Award in 2007 and the Social Change Award for contributions made by leading psychologists in South Africa from Rhodes University in 2010. In 2015, she was awarded the South African National Research Foundation chair for historical trauma and memory, and in the same year received a five-year grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation for the project Trauma, Memory, and Representations of the Past-- Transforming Scholarship in the Humanities and the Arts. We're delighted to have you here, and please join me in welcoming Professor Gobodo-Madikizela.
PUMLA GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Thank you very much, Professor Ndulo, and good evening to you all. My paper is titled, "What Does it Mean to be Human in the Aftermath of a Historical Trauma." I have decided to frame my talk around the themes of leadership, empathy, and drawing from my work on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where we witnessed acts of forgiveness around forgiveness, as well. This is a wonderful pleasure to be here. Thank you very much to you, [INAUDIBLE]. Thank you to Evangeline-- who's at the back-- Evangeline Rae, who has been organizing my travels since last year.
There have been moments when our leaders have faced challenges that have called upon them to lead with moral vision. At their best in addressing the matter at hand, the leaders have put their countries first and made choices that transcend personal ambition. Nelson Mandela immediately comes to mind.
The essence of Mandela's leadership was moral authority and a keen awareness of the potential for violence and destructiveness in our society in South Africa. In a country with a history of violent anti-apartheid protests, systematic abuses of power by the apartheid government, and state-sanctioned violence against those perceived to be enemies of the state, Mandela recognized his role in building a culture of tolerance. He understood clearly that mobilizing crowds of supporters had to be done with caution.
What we have witnessed over the past couple of years in my country, however, during Jacob Zuma's presidency is in contrast to this cautionary principle. The speeches delivered to crowds mobilized at Zuma's rallies have conveyed a spirit of protest that has permeated many sectors of civil society in our country, rupturing the sense of responsible citizenship among some South Africans, not just among followers of the ANC.
President Jacob Zuma has corrupted the soul of South Africa, as I wrote in an article in the Mail & Guardian, one of our national newspapers, in May 2013. And I quote from this article. "At a time when we need leaders who will be moral role models for the next generation of leaders," I said in the newspaper, "one wonders what the future holds when our president's strength of popularity is not matched by the strength of his reputation for moral stature. How will he speak with authority on matters of corruption?" End quotes.
This dark cloud of this presidency of Jacob Zuma in my country has been a big contribution in the rapture that has happened in my country today. So it is reasonable to assume that Jacob Zuma's main contribution is in breeding a political culture in which the thresholds of intolerance begin to sink lower and lower. The progression to acts of violence against individuals perceived as enemies begins with the demonization of those individuals and the groups to which they belong.
Having spent many hours in the past interviewing perpetrators of apartheid atrocities, [INAUDIBLE] murders in my country, which are murders-- violent murders-- committed by some in the anti-apartheid struggle who targeted people perceived to be police informers. Having done interviews-- dozens of interviews-- with these people, and interviewing people who have committed a range of gross human rights violations, I have learned how easy it is for ordinary human beings when they are stirred up by leaders with the language of violence and hatred-- how easy it is that they become stirred into acts of violence by public statements made by their leaders.
In contrast, Nelson Mandela's leadership presented us with hope and with a very different ethos in terms of moral leadership in our country. In her memoir, Good Morning, Mr. Mandela, Nelson Mandela's former private secretary, Zelda la Grange, recounts a scene that took place shortly after Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa's first democratically-elected president.
Zelda was working in parliament as a typist and was unexpectedly moved to the presidency to help prepare Nelson Mandela's schedule and related tasks. She approached her first encounter with Mandela with trepidation, not only because of being a nervous 23-year-old; but probably also because as a young Afrikaner, she did not know how to relate to a man who, in the collective consciousness of most Afrikaners in South Africa, and perhaps most crucially in their collective unconscious, Nelson Mandela was still a terrorist. And he evoked fear and mistrust in them.
Her fears and uncertainty were quickly replaced with tears when Nelson Mandela greeted her warmly and spoke to her in Afrikaans. Hearing him speak to her in her language, she broke down and cried. And as she wept tears of shame, she tells her readers, Mandela comforted her, and she left his office feeling calmer. That was the nature of Nelson Mandela's leadership-- to appease, to bring closer, to be invitational rather than confrontational.
La Grange writes about this encounter as a turning point moment that led her on a journey of self-reflection on her ardent racism, and eventually bringing her on a path of change and transformation. She would later serve as Mandela's loyal and most trusted private secretary from his years as president and throughout his retirement and illness for 19 years until his passing.
Nelson Mandela was a master in the art of creating opportunities for reflection and change in many people that he encountered, especially his former enemies, both during his years in prison and after he came out of prison to lead South Africans towards the vision of freedom and democracy. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, he said, or because of his background or his religion.
He's a man of his age. He recognized human beings as only him, and his, and man. This is one of Nelson Mandela's most important lessons. Quote, "People must learn to hate. And if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." For Mandela, these were not just words, philosophical statements thrown around during moments of public appearances. He embodied this ethical consciousness.
It was a principled commitment to an ethic of care based on values with foundations within a framework of relational responsibility, responsibility for the other. Such a framework requires commitment to a stance of moral imagination, to a certain intentional openness, to the possibility of reaching out beyond the self and towards the other. Nelson Mandela's name has become a symbol of the possibility of this ethical vision, of the self-transcended position, a metaphor pointing to a more general horizon of an ethics of care and responsibility for the other in the context of our dealing with our traumatic past in South Africa, and indeed in other countries where Nelson Mandela's example has been held up as an important example of leadership.
He has blazed the trail for corridors of social and ethical reflection and for a new kind of citizenship that cause us to act in ways that might create relational experiences that can help heal historical raptures rather than deepen the divides in our societies with histories of divisions and hatred. One of the enduring lessons of Mandela's legacy is shining the light on the power of empathy-- the subject of my discussion today-- even empathy for our former enemies on the human capacity for moral imagination and understanding. The legacy of his wisdom appeals to the better angels of our nature as we continue to wrestle with a question of what our historical traumas mean, of how to face this traumatic past of our histories without being caught up in cycles of repetition of hatred that will make us hostage to the violence of these hatreds that is inspired by the past.
Now, I want to say a little bit about this idea of empathy-- what I mean by empathy and what has been said by empathy. Empathy-- particularly when it happens in the context of people coming from different sides of history, encountering one another-- empathy is the ability to put oneself in the other person's shoes. That we know. The essence of empathy is a capacity to feel with the other and to participate in shared reflective engagement with others in our life. The opposite of empathy is to disregard the other-- not to recognize the other as another human being, not to recognize their pain or their circumstances.
Most scholars recognize some form of identification with the other at a deeper internal level essential to the capacity of empathy. In other words, it's not simply saying, I sympathize with you. It's not sympathy. It goes beyond sympathy. It's something that really touches one at once in our core.
We speak sometimes about perspective taking. There is the kind of empathy that is affective empathy. In other words, it ends at the level of being moved by someone else's story or by someone else's circumstances. Perspective taking, in contrast, is to actually put yourself in the shoes of the other person to imagine what it is like to go through the other person's life.
Take for example, refugees, people who come to our countries, coming with stories of pain and suffering, desperate to make a life for themselves in our countries. Putting ourselves in their shoes means we imagine what it is to be them, to have traveled thousands of miles to risk their lives, crossing rivers or crossing oceans in very dangerous circumstances and coming to our countries. Empathy means being able to imagine what it is like to be them-- in other words, to identify with them as fellow human beings.
Psychoanalytic scholars speak about mentalization. Mentalization is actually another way of imagining putting yourself in the shoes through the process of imagination, mentalization. The authors in this field of work have argued that the emergence of the capacity for mentalization begins at a very early stage of our relationship-- of connecting with others, understanding, knowing-- understanding difference, and being familiar with difference, and being able not only to know difference, but being able to understand intimately what difference is, which is to say what the circumstances of others, or being able always to understand what it is like to be the other person different from us.
So mentalization, then, is this capacity to engage imaginatively with the other, to reflect on one's mental state and the mental state of the others. That that connects us at that level, at the very deeply mental state. The development of this capacity for empathy is deeply embedded in a very early stage of development. And you grow up-- you're brought up-- if our conditions are such that we care for others, we give an opportunity to learn to connect with others, we grow up with this idea.
Mutual recognition is a very important central part of this mentalization. Although one might hesitate to reduce this very rich process of connecting to another through mentalization, and therefore the empathy-- although one might hesitate to reduce this to a mere process of imagination or an imaginative act, there does seem to be something in considering the part that the human capacity for imagination plays in the grasping of another's experience, or at least the grasping towards a desire to understand-- almost like a gesturing towards a deeper understanding of the other.
That sense of mutual recognition, this is central to what it is to be a human being, to this idea of connecting every day to others, this intersubjective engagement in our daily lives where we become fully aware of another person's subjectivity. It's an openness and a receptivity to another's circumstances.
An aspect of empathy that has received scant scholarly attention, which is very important in so many of our contexts, is a component of care for the other that sometimes emerges through empathic responsiveness. I've seen this so many times in acts of forgiveness, particularly when victims of serious crimes-- historical crimes, gross human rights violations-- reach out to perpetrators who have expressed a sense of remorse. I've seen this so many times, this idea of not only being empathic, but going beyond empathy and feeling a sense of care for the other.
Victims, for instance, who forgive perpetrators and feeling a sense of care, caring for what will happen to the perpetrator, helping them, wanting to make sure that as they re-enter the world of moral humanity, they are guided by their love, the love of the victim who forgave them. And I use the word "love" here deliberately. And it's not the kind of romantic love. It's a love that's much deeper. It's a love for humanness, for "human being-ness."
So this caring goes beyond this mirroring empathy. Those of you who have done-- read neuroscientific understanding of empathy will be familiar with the word "mirroring." The idea is that in our minds, what happens to another person is mirrored in our minds. So the response is really a mere mirroring.
Caring for the other, in contrast, goes beyond this idea of mirroring or feeling into the state of another person. It arises from the moment-by-moment negotiation of the intersubjective relationship with an other-- between actors-- as well as from introspection and ongoing mutual reflection. And it involves making sense of the intersubjective experience of empathic resonance. In other words, it's part of this perspective taking that I talked about earlier.
In this desire to care for the other aspect of empathy, the empathic response of the victim is imbued with a quality of wishing to rescue. I mentioned earlier that I've seen this when victims reach out in forgiveness to perpetrators. There is this sense of wishing to rescue the other, wishing to rescue one's former enemy who has expressed a sense of remorse, which in itself is an indication of empathy for the other-- for the pain that they've caused the other. So this idea of reaching out and rescuing is as if it is affirming the identity of the other person who has wronged one as a member of the human community, instead of as other as the enemy, as the despicable other.
This desire to rescue the perpetrator, or the other person that you perceive as other, I argue, constitutes the fundamental moment, a pivotal point in the intersubjective context in which our relationships unfold into a caring and empathic relationship. This is very pivotal, this idea of, I care enough for the other not to say bad things about them, or not to hurt them deliberately, not to be malicious in words or in actions.
These kinds of examples that I'm drawing from-- examples of forgiveness and forgiving the other-- have taught us a lot, have given us a lot of insight-- profound insights about what's possible in human relationships. And this has made me to think that forgiveness-- actually, the word forgiveness is the wrong word for describing what unfolds in these kinds of encounters. Forgiveness seems to suggest a fixed position or a coming to an end. I forgive you so that I have closure and I move on, people sometimes say.
There is a subtext here that seems to signify an act of leaving something behind, moving on without looking back. This is evocative of the notion of, quote unquote, "letting go," which is the concept that is used by scholars who write about teaching people how to forgive. This is the kind of stage theory of forgiveness-- 12 steps to forgiveness.
The notion of letting go has also been used in a range of other fields-- psychoanalysis. In fact, people talk about-- even in general conversations, people say, let go. You let go. You forgive, therefore you let go. Excuse me.
So I see these processes of forgiving, of expressing, of expressions of the peace and connection with the other-- I see them as part of a process that you call in psychology a process of mourning, which requires that we confront these complicated paths in our lives. We confront them and really work through them. In other words, what is required here is a kind of admission or acknowledgement of these terrible pasts. It's an admission that allows us to take things a step further.
Denial of these kinds of terrible and complicated pasts-- denial of guilt, for instance; denial of accountability for whatever has happened in the past-- prevents us from engaging in these kinds of ways of connecting impactedly with others. Confronting these issues-- shame, for instance, for things that you have done-- confronting shame, confronting guilt, and instead of confronting shame and guilt, projecting it onto others to through and violence-- it is the opposite of working through. It's hiding them, pushing them under the carpet.
Perhaps what is important here in these encounters that open up the door towards empathy is the emergence of the unexpected, that when we come together we encounter one another to engage with all of these complexities, whether it is guilt for terrible crimes, or shame for things that people have done, or trauma of what we have suffered in the past-- when we come together, the unexpected often emerges. There's often this fear that, oh I can't talk to those people. They are other. They belong to those who have to be quarantined or sent back where they come from. We can't engage with them.
And yet when we take that risk and dare to confront and face the other, it's amazing what emerges when we have an openness in these kinds of conversation. A certain degree of caring evolves in these kinds of encounters, because then we are witnessing one another's pain. We are confronting truthfully and witnessing the vulnerability, the pain of the other. And that is what allows these unexpected moments to emerge, if only we dare to try to face the other.
Now, I want to give-- I'm telling stories tonight. I want to give another example, tell another story that is illustrative of this idea of the emergence of the unexpected and the caring for the other in a very deep way. And I'm drawing this example from our work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And I chose this example because it's based on a story of someone who is an American-- Linda and Peter Biehl's daughter.
Amy Biehl was a Fulbright scholar in South Africa. She went to South Africa because she wanted to be there at a time when the transition was taking place. She wanted to participate, to contribute. But she was murdered. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's a long story. She was murdered.
Her parents returned to South Africa to listen to the amnesty application of the men who had murdered her daughter. And in the end, Linda and Peter Biehl, they supported the application for amnesty of these men. And not only that; when they started the Amy Biehl Foundation, they invited the same men who killed their daughter to work at the foundation, to build themselves up and to participate in projects of reconciliation.
I have no hatred in my heart, Linda Biehl told me when I interviewed her. All I am concerned about is how these young men can re-enter their community and rebuild their lives. And this is this kind of caring that I talk about.
This is a position that goes beyond forgiveness, and it serves two possible functions. First, it seeks to restore the survivor of the lost loved one who was murdered by the perpetrator. And second, by showing the kind of caring and containment that can help prevent disintegration in the perpetrator, the victim creates a new relational experience with him which reconstitutes the memory of the loss as a positive narrative. In other words, my daughter did not die in vain. Here are the lives of these men that are being rebuilt now. They are becoming better human beings.
This caring for elements at the deeper level really captures the imagination. The transformation of these men stands as a symbol of the capacity of the other person to reach out, to connect, to be open to that possibility, rather than to shut it down and say, I can't speak to these people. These unique moments presented us at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and still today they present us with new solutions that dare to transcend the limits, or what you call the limits of human relationships.
They gesture us in the direction of the possibility of human relationships. In other words, we are now presented with the possibility, the height of possibility in human nature. These kinds of experiences of connection with the other, of empathic engagement with the other, they should not be taken lightly. We often think that they happen between-- in context where people have actually murdered or killed others. They are as significant in our day-to-day lives as they are in the lives of those gross violations of human rights. We ignore them at our peril.
Regardless of these-- how we perceive empathy, however we might see what empathy is, it is important for us to understand that empathy provides an entry point into the lives of others. And that is what creates a human community. Martin Luther King spoke about building the beloved community. That's about empathy at its core. That's the main thing.
What interests me in this work is the question-- this work of empathy, how people who are former enemies come together-- what interests me in this work is a question of what makes these encounters, these possibilities, where people come from different sides of historical trauma engage in these ways. It seems clear that once people-- even those who are former adversaries-- are faced with one another, once people-- even those who have been hating before-- are faced with one another in a truly humane way and open way, innumerable possibilities emerge. But sometimes these may be destructive possibilities. But we hope that these will be constructive possibilities.
One can accept that we are always affected by difference in some way. Whether we are affected in a negative way or in a positive way, difference affects us. The important thing is to be conscious about what's on our heart, what is stirred in our hearts, so that we can engage with it. We can engage what shifts in our hearts and move in a positive direction towards the direction of empathy.
We come from societies that are wounded, in this country as well as in mine. We carry-- we bear a lot of wounds. And these wounds are not just about our own generation. They are wounds that date back to several generations. And therefore, we have to be conscious about what you do as human beings.
This is why I think that a word perhaps that is important for us to think about is not so much forgiveness, but empathic repair. There's a lot of woundedness. It requires empathic repair. The need to build a world in which the other matters is at the heart of my exploration in this presentation this afternoon, in this idea of what does it mean to be human. The pattern of hatred and rageful discourse can be broken.
What forces enable this compassion that we have seen in the examples-- at least in some of the examples that I've shared with you? How is it that a Nelson Mandela, who is thrown into prison for all those years, his life all but destroyed in prison, comes out and in fact, even before he emerges out of prison, already in prison engages empathically with the very people who have imprisoned him. How is that possible? Empathic repair, I think, is the word. It's a consciousness about the need to repair, to be empathic.
So sometimes people who are victims have a burden of responsibility on their shoulders that only they can open their arms to embracing the shame and guilt of the other. Because only then-- sometimes only then will the other come closer rather than hide away from this shame with this aggressive language and angry verbiage. Rather than do that-- because this is a way of protecting the self from shame often open themselves up and reach out. Sometimes the victim bears the responsibility to open up in order to be more invitational and encouraging to the other person.
The TRC, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in South Africa, the Rwandan process after the genocide and terrible incidents, the brutality in that country-- all of these countries, and several others, too, these examples show that processes of restorative justice are much more critical in this idea of rebuilding the beloved community-- Martin Luther King's beloved community, which is to say this empathy. Because restorative justice becomes an engine, a tool for building and particularly repair.
The sides of conversation or the sides of dialogue between people who come from different sides of history, these sides of mutual recognition and shared experience provides important points of identification, entryways into the experience of others which enable comparison across critical registers of difference. Appeal to the familiar and the familial creates a context in which it is possible to engage empathic questions.
For example, in my country in these examples of gross violations of human rights, people often come together and they can engage questions like, what happened to you? What happened to your son? What happened to your daughter? And these questions, when people black and white, come to tell their story-- a white person, for instance, might say, my son who was conscripted in the apartheid army was killed in Namibia by a mortar bomb. His body was brought back home in a sealed bag. I could not even see him in his last moments.
And a black woman might say, my son was tortured in detention, and he was brought-- he came out of prison as a dead body. And so this is what I mean by engagement across critical registers of difference. Because now we have a story-- we share the story of pain and suffering. How old was your daughter or your son when he was killed in Namibia? Well, your son, when he was tortured, how old were they? These shared experiences of loss cut across the distinction of white or black, Tutsi or Hutu, Israeli or Palestinian.
On the terrain of a terrible past, a hateful past, certain statements resonate deeply. These statements of my son, this is what happened to my son. This is what happened to my daughter. These statements, they resonate deeply. And then they create the connection because we are now bound by the pain that we suffered as a result of this terrible history we come from, the woundedness that we carry.
It is ironic that the same factors that can ignite and perpetuate animosity, fear and hatred-- because there's nothing. There's nothing else but fear. We continue to fear one another. These fear and hatred, these factors-- the fact that my daughter was killed by your people and your son was killed by my people-- the fact that this hatred, these factors of fear, hatred, and distrust-- the love for those killed or maimed by the other might also suspend those negative moments. When we encounter one another with these stories, the love for the other-- although it's the same love that might ignite hatred-- here, when you connect, it might also suspend those negative sentiments.
By providing a way into the experience of the enemy, love and loss may provide a way out of violence. Ultimately, love and loss are what is common. And thus, in a sense of what is shared, love and loss enable healing that opens new possibilities in the aftermath of hateful and violent past.
At the center of this love-- now, I want to talk about ubuntu. At the center of this love is a notion that we call in my country ubuntu-- and in other African countries. It's a deep sense of caring for the other that is embedded in most traditional African societies. And in fact, I think that ubuntu is not necessarily an African thing. It's a human concept.
Now, the concept of ubuntu is an ethic based on the understanding that one's subjectivity is inextricably intertwined with that of the other in one's community. From the perspective of ubuntu, all people are valued as part of the human community and worthy of being recognized. All people matter. This entails not just blind acceptance of others no matter what they do, but rather an orientation of openness to others and a reciprocal caring that fosters a sense of solidarity.
Ubuntu is often associated with the concept of self-- I am because we are-- which stands in contrast to the Cartesian I think, therefore I am. Now I think-- this phrase-- I think, therefore I am-- I am because we are, rather-- is an English expression. There is no African word for I am because we are. So it's a really misguided interpretation of ubuntu.
It seems to me that the expression that actually captures what ubuntu is-- I will say it in [INAUDIBLE] first and then I will translate it. And in my language, it is [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. And I'll say it again-- [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. That is the best way of understanding this word ubuntu. Literally translated it means a person is a person through being-- actually, literally translated is, a person is a person because of other people.
But I think the deeper translation of the term is that a person is a person through being witnessed by and engaging in reciprocal witnessing of other persons, or a person becomes a human being through their multiplicity of relationships with others. There's a greeting those of you who've been to South Africa-- there's a greeting in isiZulu. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] literally means, I see you. And that is that the embodiment-- the very embodiment of ubuntu, this idea that our subjectivity depends on our capacity to bestow subjective humanity on others.
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. I see you. You are a human being in my eyes. The meaning conveyed by the expression is that subjectivity depends on being witness. The richness of subjectivity flows from the interconnectedness with the wider community of others and from their reciprocal caring and complementarity of human relationships. The phrase conveys the kind of reciprocity that calls on people to be ethical subjects.
Mutual recognition is fundamental to being a fellow human being, a relational subject in the context of community. A person with ubuntu, as [INAUDIBLE] says, is open and available to others. My humanity caught up is inextricably bound with yours. And that perception is one that really builds a sense of what it is to be human. No matter what happens, if our orientation is guided by this understanding of human relationships, then our response is that of embrace rather than rejection of others.
I wanted to end with quotes from three Africans-- African leaders, or black leaders, who have in their lifetime, who reflected on what it means to be human, particularly in our context. And the quotes actually come from Africa and from this country, as well. Steve Biko first. The centrality of compassion and care in Steve Biko's message is captured in his vision of a shared humanity, what he called the quest for a true humanity. Biko's profoundly simple yet powerful message calls us to return to the very essence of what it means to be human, to embrace a new consciousness, one based on an ethics of care and compassion.
Frantz Fanon. Frantz Fanon, although he has been very popular today with the movement of students in my country, and certainly in post-colonial studies departments, the focus has often been on his translation or interpretation of the war in Algeria and the notion of decolonisation. In other words, he's associated with violence as if he is actually imploring violence rather than cautioning against it. So here is a caution from Frantz Fanon.
Both the oppressed and oppressor must turn their backs on the inhuman voices which were those of their respective ancestors in order that authentic communication be possible. Authentic communication means that openness that allows these unexpected emergence of a possibility. Before it can adopt a positive voice, freedom requires an effort at dis-alienation. The simple attempt to touch the other, to feel the other, to explain the other to myself.
And finally, James Baldwin. And let me say something about the quote from Frantz Fanon. In a way, he is saying that freedom does not give us the right to be violent and to destroy another. And so finally, James Baldwin from your country, from his book The Fire Next Time. He says if we-- and in the book [INAUDIBLE] again, same kind of conversation. What's happening to my country? Why so much hatred in my country? Why is it that so many years after the end of slavery, still we are a divided society?
And he speaks directly to his white compatriots. He says, if we-- and I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious black-- who must, like lovers, insist on or create the consciousness of others do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, to end the hatred and achieve a country and change the history of the world. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.
MUNA NDULO: Professor [INAUDIBLE] some questions.
SPEAKER 1: Thank you. [INAUDIBLE] in your [INAUDIBLE] the ethical responsibility for the perpetrator? And I'm really interested in to what extent is this prescriptive in a sense that in the asking the other to forgive the other. So what happens in scenarios where [INAUDIBLE] the person is not a direct victim?
There's some kind of form of historical injustice that especially when the perpetrator, for example, if you are talking about the [INAUDIBLE] history of [INAUDIBLE] or the '65 genocide in Indonesia, which Benedict Anderson talks about the impunity of those perpetrators. So in a case where the perpetrators are not asking for forgiveness, they're not admitting anything wrong? And to what extent does this [INAUDIBLE] in terms of asking the victim to forgive, anyway, which is different from the position of the victim who dislikes to forgive. How far would you say is the ethical responsibility of every victim? [INAUDIBLE]
PUMLA GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yeah, your question is multi-faceted. You are absolutely right. There are echoes of Levinasian principle in this idea of ethical responsibility. And he does sound like prescriptive. But I think that we should not therefore dismiss the message of his work. The message really is that it is inviting us to be human beings towards another. He's really inviting a sense of humanity, that even after so much tragedy, even after all these historical traumas, it is possible to build a more humane society.
That having been said, it does not mean that people ought to forgive. This is why I am beginning to do away with the word "forgiveness." I say here-- I mentioned this in my talk this evening, that "forgiveness" really is the wrong word. What really is important is for us to consider that it's possible to reconnect with people whom we have considered to be enemies in the past. That really is the message.
And that's how I read Levinas, as well. I mean, I know that he's complex and he does seem to be giving an instruction that is how you should behave. But I think that, in a way, if we look at what he is saying in his work, is that it's really just the idea of the possibility of transformation in our relationships. It's just that it's possible to transform our relationship.
The idea of forgiving-- I got a little bit distracted. Forgiveness should not be prescribed. You cannot say to people who have been hurt, you ought to forgive. This is not about requiring people to forgive. When I talk about the emergence of the unexpected, I'm really trying to say that there are so many possibilities that might emerge if only people can be open when they encounter one another. Doesn't have to be, let's now talk about forgiving. Leave that word out.
And certainly do not ask victims to forgive. You cannot-- that is very unreasonable to ask victims to forgive. But what we have witnessed is that when the word "forgiveness" is expressed by people who have been hurt deeply, it often comes from a very deep place that undoes the pain. It's a kind of-- an unmaking of this deep pain that lies within.
And so it should not only be limited to this word "forgiveness." It's a lot of an unfolding. It's a lot of playing out of relationships with one's pain, relationship with one's past, the way that one perceives the self. It's a number-- it's a multilayered conversation that happens internally. What we have to remember is that it unfolds because one is engaging with his past. And the opportunity to encounter the other, to actually set eyes on the person who has hurt you, who has wounded you-- to hear them confess what they did is the beginning of the journey.
The word itself, in fact, is simply an opening of a new chapter. It's not necessarily the end. It's an opening of a new chapter. It's the beginning of the journey. The notion of working through is very appropriate here. And the words as people use the word is often an illustration that the person now is beginning a new journey. And they may wake up tomorrow and again feel hateful, hate these people, but they've begun the journey of engaging with this terrible past that has raptured their sense of who they are.
SPEAKER 2: Hi. How has psychology been used to-- how has psychology been leveraged through the process of the restorative [INAUDIBLE] people working through their trauma. And do you have examples to share?
PUMLA GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Yes. How much time do we have? I'm not suggesting that I'm going to tell a long story, but it's important to keep that in mind. So thank you for asking that question. Yes, absolutely. Psychology is-- psychological understanding is at the heart of this process of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Let me explain why.
One of the most important projects of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was the public hearings process. And this is a process that invited victims of atrocities to come forward and tell their stories. Now, we know from psychology that when people have been traumatized, they're overwhelmed by their trauma. Often they have no words to express their trauma. Or they blame themselves. There are lots of things that happen which are about-- often put people in a state of uncertainty, and helplessness, and powerlessness, and shaming, all of these things. They carry this burden.
Yet the burden belongs to the perpetrator. And they carry that burden because they don't know. No one has confessed. No one has acknowledged what they did. So we understand in psychology that the processes that unravel all of that-- including acknowledgement, affirmation of the victim's experiences, validation of the victim's experiences in the presence of an audience-- that the pain, the witnessing of the pain, the pain being witnessed by others, by listening others, is the beginning of the journey towards healing. And that is important.
And the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up in such a way that it was sensitive to the needs of the victims. We called it a victim-friendly process. So yes, it was a process that was very much focused on helping and containing the victim's pain to a large extent, in order to help victims to heal. So the commission was defined-- or rather was informed-- by these very profoundly psychological principles in its work. And we continued even as we provided people with support, because we understand that when people visit these traumas of the past, it reinvokes their trauma. So for instance, we had to make sure that there are counselors who were supporting the victims.
Now, one story that I want to tell-- I'll try and tell it very briefly-- is the person who gave the first testimony at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Her name is Nomonde. Nomonde, I mentioned the incident in a class earlier today where her husband was one of the men who were murdered by security forces, apartheid security forces. They were anti-apartheid activists and very loved throughout the country. And especially in the area of the eastern cape, where they lived, they were really role models for young people.
And they were murdered because they were a big influence among the young people in the movement, in the anti-apartheid movement itself. And they were targeted in order to, quote unquote, "eliminate them." So Nomonde was one of the widows who testified at the hearing. And she was telling her story of how she discovered that her husband was murdered.
One of the things that police did-- the security police did-- they would harass families. They would kill the anti-apartheid activists and then start harassing the families so that the families do not start looking for answers. The more you ask questions in the courts, to inquests, and so forth, that the more vulnerable you were, the more you were at risk of being arrested or being harassed by the police.
So they kill her husband, and then they go to her home to demand to know where she has hidden her husband. And when the policemen came into her home, she came, she walked right straight to her bedroom because she was still grieving, weeping in her bedroom. He goes right through her bedroom and he sits on her bed.
And she tells the commission the story of how this man came. But when it came to the moment where he sat on her bed, she could not withhold the pain. She just let out this scream, this loud scream, in the hall, almost as if the trauma was actually that memory of this man sitting on her bed. And the way she described ripping off the bedding from her bed because this man had sat on it-- the way that she described ripping off the bed, off this linen where this man had sat.
And the anger, and the rage, and this screaming, wailing voice into this room was so powerful. It was almost as if she was saying, I am wailing my pain into this big hall. And psychologically, we can understand that as a way of her reclaiming her agency. Here is a woman who was silenced all these years. She is coming to the commission and she can speak about her pain in whatever way she wants to.
And so this is a reclaiming of a sense of agency. And this is a very important dimension of healing of victims after they suffered trauma. So the commission bestowed this sense of agency to victims so that victims have a hold on their story. And they tell their stories of suffering in the way that they wanted, even finding a voice. You hear, for instance, we talk about people finding a voice or reclaiming their voice. This is about restoring a sense of agency, an agency that was taken away at the time of the crime.
MUNA NDULO: [INAUDIBLE]
SPEAKER 3: I want to say thank you very much for your talk. I'm [INAUDIBLE]. My question would come back to [INAUDIBLE]. One of the prerequisites the political [INAUDIBLE] possibility for productive-- for socially- [INAUDIBLE] political institutions [INAUDIBLE], what kind of political [INAUDIBLE] was [INAUDIBLE] for something like the TRC [INAUDIBLE]?
PUMLA GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Political will is very critical. And we were very fortunate-- is that what you are asking about? And we're very fortunate in South Africa in that Nelson Mandela and the leadership at the time were fully committed to the idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for a range of reasons that I will not go into now. But there was that real commitment.
And it was not only verbal. It was in action. There were huge resources that were given to the commission, both financially and in terms of personnel. The best people, or rather the most effective people whose vision was also the vision of change and transformation in the country, the diversity of the commission, there was a commitment to who are the members of the commission.
There was a consciousness in selecting a representative commission so that the society-- people in South Africa society, the demographics were reflected in the commission in a range of way-- in religion, in race, gender. And so there was a very focused attention on what kind of commission do we want. So the resources were quite serious in terms of what was intended as an outcome of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Now, I just want to say-- you didn't ask this question-- but I do want to say that often the commission is criticized for having "failed," quote unquote, the South Africans. But I think this is an unreasonable judgment on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission because the commission had its mandate. And it was very clear what it was supposed to do. What you should be blaming, rather, is what happened after the Truth and Reconciliation and what did not happen after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It in itself began a process that was critical at a historical moment, and then there are things that should have happened and that did not happen, or happened in the wrong way.
SPEAKER 4: Thank you so much for that excellent [INAUDIBLE].
PUMLA GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Thank you.
SPEAKER 4: Just going back to your comments about forgiveness, I'm hearing this. Because what you've done is somewhat argue forgiveness is about two people dialogue conversation. But a lot of faith orientation is about forgiveness to terminate [INAUDIBLE]. But you need to forgive them for your own benefit. So it's always around the individual's benefit. And how do you score those two? I mean, how do you facilitate conversation between faiths' ideas that often forgiveness is about termination of something or about you feeling better about yourself?
PUMLA GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Right. My understanding of forgiveness is a relational understanding. People have asked before in the past, what about forgiving the self? I think that's possible, too. I mean, which in a way you are more concerned about the kind of religious type of forgiving, of forgiveness. But it's sort of similar to this idea of forgiving the self, forgiving for your own good, for your own self.
That may well be true, but in these kinds of contexts we are really concerned about broken relationships. And so it plays a role in rebuilding these broken relationships. The religious kind of forgiveness may be-- I mean, especially when people approach it from the perspective that I ought to forgive because I'm a Christian. I always tell this story at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
A woman who happened to be a Christian came to testify about the murder of her husband in a shooting operation in a church, St. James Church in Cape Town. And so at the end of her submission to the Truth Commission, she was asked, do you have anything to say, any words, last statement, or request? And she says, I just want to say that I forgive these people who killed my husband. As a Christian, I ought to forgive them. But God will punish them.
So this is then also happens, too, that forgive-- but is there higher power that they will go to hell, essentially. But you've done your duty. You know, I've done my duty. I've forgiven.
But I go back to this issue. I mean, we use-- there's always this slippage of back into the language of forgiveness. I think first we ought to secularize the word "forgiveness" and branch it out of its religious precepts. Because again, the second thing is that it's not really-- the word serves a purpose, of course. But I think what is important-- but the problem if we keep on using the word in the way that it is used, then it closes the chance of people actually engaging, too, because they are afraid that they're going to be asked to forgive.
So we should really think about creating spaces for dialogue, for engagement, instead of deepening the divides, creating spaces for engagement. Because we know, we have learned from many other examples that something does shift when people really come together for purposes of engaging with a difficult and complicated past. It does open up something in people's-- call it people's hearts, people's minds. And at least in terms of their relationship, it creates the possibility for transformation.
MUNA NDULO: So I think we've come to the end of our [INAUDIBLE]. Before we do that, I would like to thank the department of sociology for [INAUDIBLE]. We've been working with them on this. And please join me in thanking our speaker.
PUMLA GOBODO-MADIKIZELA: Thank you.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
ANNOUNCER: This has been a production of Cornell University, on the web at cornell.edu.
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Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, the Institute for African Development's 2016 Distinguished Africanist Scholar, spoke at Cornell on Nov. 9. Gobodo-Madikizela is a professor of historical trauma and transformation in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University and a former member of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Her book, A Human Being Died that Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness, won the Alan Paton Award in South Africa, and the Christopher Award in the United States.