Inherited Trauma: South Africa’s Heritage & Russian Roulette

By: Mo Senne��

During the course of this year, we have witnessed the brutal killing of Mthokozisi Ntumba by SAPS officials during #WitsAsinamali protests; the #ShutdownSA protests triggered by the arrest of Former President Jacob Zuma and State Capture corruption proceedings implicating several MPs; the #PhoenixMassacre triggered by President Cyril Ramaphosa���s ���ethnic mobilization��� utterances. It then came to our attention that 10000 rapes were recorded from April to June 2021 and 23000 teenagers were impregnated from April 2020 to March 2021. Lufuno Mavhungu took her own life because of bullying at school. It is important to note that youth unemployment is at an all-time high and suicide is the second-leading and fastest growing cause of death amongst the youth. Lastly, in August, news broke that Alutha Pasile murdered, dismembered, and stuffed the remains of his girlfriend in a suitcase.

The South African Government contends that Heritage Day ���recognises and celebrates the cultural wealth of our nation��� it is the foundation of all communities and an essential source of identity and continuity.��� However, how much introspection have we done regarding the romanticization of indigenous cultures which only serve to perpetuate mayhem and discord? Have we and can we adapt our cultures to an ever-changing society? We often look at culture as the clothes people wear, what they eat, how they express themselves, but hardly ever look at the dissemination of mental health aspects.

Mental health, for instance, is still viewed as something which only speaks to Caucasians and not Africans ��� symptoms which are typical of Schizophrenia are translated into witchcraft and some people go undiagnosed and untreated, and often become jailed for psychotic behaviours. Secondly, patriarchy – which is still romanticized in traditional families – is embedded so deep into the minds of women that they subconsciously reinforce it and anyone who speaks out against it is viewed as blasphemous. Lastly, if we are led by (old) people who survived the Apartheid Regime, it is of no surprise that 1000 days later of the State Capture Inquiry there has been little or nothing to show for it; that SANDF is being deployed to disperse citizens who are within their rights to protest (peacefully) instead of the Head of State engaging them on their concerns. How people behave essentially becomes part of their culture. South African history has come to prove Baron and Branscombe���s (2012) hypothesis that if a minority argues for a position that is consistent with current social trends (e.g., mass demonstrations and violent protest action have influenced positive social change) its chances of influencing the majority are greater than if it argues for a position out of step with such trends.

These are just a few examples of how we have inherited traumas and, to an extent, subconsciously made them part of our heritage. We thus continue to breed generations of angry and traumatised citizens who fight battles they were never here to witness. As a result, something that can be viewed as an outlier in this article such as vaccine hesitancy, can be linked to the abovementioned ��� it is not the vaccine itself that young people are afraid of, but the intentions of those who have proved that they cannot be trusted to lead. The deterioration of cognitive functioning, disseminated through culture, can be linked to almost all the pillars of the National Strategic Plan on GBVF but is there a pillar which solely addresses mental health?

In submission, it is imperative to note which aspects of our cultures make us ardent advocates of dysfunctional behaviours and adapt those to what is or can be socially acceptable. It is significant (and wise) to also remember that certain systems will not change if we are not consistent with the repercussions thereof; that direct beneficiaries of toxic belief systems will not form part of the change. Sigmund Freud called this defense mechanism ���reaction formation��� and it is when you overtly denounce certain behaviours by other people which you are, in fact, guilty of. You could, for example, advocate against the economic exclusion of women whilst bullying women subordinates at work who perform better than you. Sigmund Freud also said:

���Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.���

So��� Are you afraid?

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