Friday, April 17, 2015

Part of Us

Some people inherit hereditary wealth. Some power. Some just get ridiculously cool surnames. I am one of those who benefits from Black Privilege. Many of the clans of Scotland were stripped of their clan names and banished for being thieves. Instead they were given colours - a little like Reservoir Dogs - Green, Brown, White etc. Somehow my father's line manage to walk away as Mr Black. Boom.

My Mom grew up a Ruddock. There are Ruddocks all over the world but they come in many varieties because as they wandered to New Worlds, many of them were illiterate. On arrival when they got asked and gave their name for the first time, they discovered the spelling - Ruddick, Roddick and Rudduck. If you try follow up two splitting paths each time you go up, and then multiple splitting paths if you want to see where people went, it gets out of hand. My Mom's cousin moved out to Melbourne the year I was born in South Africa (He assured me that wasn't the reason). When visiting him, he hauled out (a section) of the family tree put together by an American Ruddock along with new DNA test help.

People have always looked for a better life. The decision to search could not have been easy. The message on the Statue of Liberty is powerful - 

"Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
If lift my lamp beside the golden door."

The decision for my Mom's cousin was a hard one. He and his family would have started again as they were not allowed to leave South Africa with anything more than they could carry. The should I stay or should I go decision is not new, and it is not uniquely South African. Some in my family chose to carry on resisting Apartheid. Some focussed on raising their families and ignored what was going on. Some decided they did not want their family growing up in that environment and decided to move. I am sure if I travelled along the various trees, there would be many who even turned out to support it.

One of the challenges I as someone who doesn't live in South Africa faces, is that some people assume I agree with their reasons. Awkward. They assume I left. I never left. The world is different now. Everywhere there is talk of a brain drain as young people wander off around the world. Then there are waves of brain gain as they come back.

On top of that I never left, because it is not possible. Part of me is South Africa. Part of me works in Johannesburg as a psychologist. Part of me is growing old surrounded by family in Hillcrest. Part of me is a lecturer at UCT. Part of me works in finance in Jozi. Part of me is Christian. Part Atheist. Part Vegan. Part Factory Farmer. Part of me wears red socks on fridays and is starting on foot from Cape Town to the start of the Comrades in a few weeks. Part of me got angry with foreigners and attacked them. Part of me defended those foreigners. Part of me is those foreigners. This idea that by packing our bags and going somewhere else we change anything is weak. Part of us stays. Part of us goes.

We build up each decision we make individually as this epic life changing event. But it only affects part of us. We can do better than that. The epic stuff is the stuff we do together building a bigger tribe.
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