I’m sitting on a balcony overlooking a sea view to die for on the south coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa in this year 2017. In spite of this idyllic setting, the current world news intrudes and my thoughts turn to things less inspiring than white horses crashing on the seashore. I can’t help thinking about why the so-called tipping point of the Hollywood sexual scandals has occurred at this particular time when it is has been an open secret, not only in tinsel town but in the business world in general for a long time. What with unending wars worldwide and personal wars on the domestic front, in the shape of a lone gunman in the USA shooting on a crowd of people for no apparent reason other than that he could, you would think that there was enough negative energy out there lurking in every dark corner of the planet it seems. In our beloved South Africa, it appears to be even worse, with darkest Africa making a comeback in the form of cannibalism surfacing right here in KZN. The sad fact is all are symptoms of the human condition.
If this is so, what condition are they a symptom of? Perhaps the condition of a sick society infected by a lack of real love? God created man to love him, to serve him and to be with him in the next life, says the old catechism. The best description of real love is the well-known biblical verse on the definition of love 1 Cor. Chpt 13. Be positive, stop being so negative echoes the voices in my mind, of so many well-meaning positive gurus out there. And yet still I find it hard not to wonder where we went wrong as a society. If there has been a time in history when so many wars have been fought on so many fronts giving rise to so many genocides and so much abuse of the weak by the strong, then I know nothing! The abuse, sexual and otherwise is not restricted to Hollywood. It is a pandemic that overwhelms even the most hardened stoic.
In becoming as advanced as we have done, did we throw out the baby with the bathwater? Or is it simply the cycle of life? I doubt it. Will people automatically revert to real values when the wheel of life slowly turns and at some point we remember what true value is; real value, as opposed to the fleeting, empty values of getting more, achieve more, spend more, use more, pollute more – in the name of progress? What you may ask is a real value?
With the groundswell of opposition to denuding of forests, rampant consumerism of natural resources, driven by big business greed for more and more power, most of us know that the real values have been discarded for the very ‘needs’ of humanity that are in reality mere ‘wants’. Very little is needed to survive but a great deal is needed to satisfy my lust for wanting, more of the same, day in and day out. So what has this to do with sexuality? Well, just about everything!
Disregard for the other by devaluing their worth, reducing people to transactional entities, “What do I get out of this situation?’ IS THE ROOT OF ALL OUR PROBLEMS! The wanting never stops! It cannot be separated from who we are as a society. Starting with family and how we relate to each other the glue that keeps a family strong, confident and progressive is trust, sincerity, openness and kindness. How often have we confused our children by doing things that lose us their trust; that teach them to be secretive and that show them cruelty rather than that rare ‘milk of human kindness’? The man who sexually assaults a vulnerable person was probably taught that he must always look for ‘what is in it for him’ in any interaction. How often have we not indicated this very same thing to our children when we say, ‘Don’t be stupid. Make sure you get what you deserve or, there is nothing for nothing and there is no such thing as a free lunch!’ All very good advice you may say, but therein lies the seed of Narcissus! It’s all about me, me, me!
This type of thinking has been acceptable for centuries and in spite of periods of enlightened thinking, it keeps repeating over time. From periods of serfdom, slavery and even later when primitive man evolved into fairly civilised society there has always been a class of people who were treated less than human by the stronger, more powerful group. What is it in our psyche that drives this behaviour? Has it now been so suppressed by a pseudo civilisation that it now emerges as this dirty, dark secret in families, at work and in society at large where the power play remains the same – I have the power so you must submit! Is it possible for us to change?
‘Oh dear, how morbid can you get?’ that small voice in my head again! The scene before me has changed from calm and balmy to choppy and cool. The sound of the crashing waves is less soothing as well. A light aircraft flies by, perhaps on a rescue mission or, simply tourists on a day out. Life goes on and perhaps that is all there is to it? Life being life.
I’ve not personally experienced a sexual power play that could not be managed by myself as an adult but the most vulnerable adults and very young children must be protected AT ALL COSTS because the children will grow up to be those vulnerable people who allow sexual abuse to happen to them, having bought into the idea that if daddy, mummy, brother, sister, cousin and neighbour abused me and nobody stopped it then it must be alright, and the cycle continues. When vulnerable children placed in government care at foster homes are made a top priority by society then fewer predators will go free. The vicious cycle of the victim turned predator will continue if we do not stand up to stop it!
And now it has become decidedly cooler. Time to go inside to my cosy nest? An indication perhaps that if by now you have read this far you may be in agreement with most, that perhaps I am too negative? That I should embrace the joys of life more? Perhaps your bright, sunny and positive disposition needs a dose of cool reality though.
Whatever your personal philosophy, the reality of the sexual abuse tipping point, along with the global shift in the balance of powers, notwithstanding the prevailing madness of powerful leaders, hopefully, has within it the seeds of a monumental wake-up call for humanity; a call that the time has come for restoring the fundamental real values that promote human development, without being self-destructive, and values that are crucial to preserving the planet and the human race. If you love your neighbour you will respect his home and yours, planet earth, too. It starts at home. Respect the people in your life and really love your children because loving anyone requires respect for them first.
So where is this sexual conundrum? We have to look at primitive society, for acceptance of our sexuality as natural and necessary for the continued existence of the species. But how to present this to children without turning it into something dark and secret, not to be spoken about? Huh, I hear you say, kids these days are bombarded with all sorts of sexual innuendo as though it was something nasty and they have no compunction talking about sex. Right, but that is why you as the parent have to be open. Encourage a questioning of all that they experience and hear, so that the child has the confidence to confide any concerns. This can only be done when the child is sure that he can trust the parent. The most diabolical thing to do is to betray that trust with abuse!
We have to combine the acceptance of sex as natural and good with the enlightened knowledge that unless we respect the other, we can misuse and abuse our sexuality. We do this to the detriment of society and personally, by a loss of our sense of identity, our sense of value and our sense of our person-hood, particularly when we do not acknowledge that our sexuality is precious. Precious in that it is given to us as a privilege of co-creating with the Divine Creator and it is something to venerate as a divine gift to be held in the highest regard, second only to real love. It is when we squander divine gifts with abuse and demean our neighbour through these gifts, that we turn on ourselves.
And now it really is quite cool and choppy in spite of the clear sky and bright sunshine. Another conundrum? So, what can we take away from all this? I think that the only way forward is, to begin with you and me. To make a change it starts here and now with us, by talking about it, then doing something, anything to help breathe cleaner, fresh air into a polluted situation. Honesty, respect and integrity develop trust, understanding and confidence for the children. Armed with these. they can stand their ground in any sexual circumstance unless very young and helpless. The sexuality conundrum does not have to be one.