The day after the Trump thing happened, I found myself in a blustery marquee inside the historical Cape Town Castle talking about ‘restitution’ at the inaugural South African Restitution Conference. It was a bizarre juxtaposition of events – polar opposite directions that humanity can take right now. I was very grateful to be in Cape Town, Southeaster notwithstanding.
A number of things struck me about Trump’s win: The unexpectedness, the very different perspectives that have been revealed throughout the election campaign but which were exemplified in the outrage and delight that were on view in the news coverage on the 7th, the polarising role of social media, the huge uncertainty and unpredictability about what the Trump presidency will bring.
Certainly, on the southernmost tip of Africa the world looked different as the outcome became certain. A sense of disorientation still pervades my daily routine, my dreams. And yet we do not fully know to what extent Trump will make good on his election promises, will encourage hate and other-ing, nor the extent to which the institutional structure will act as a counter to him. We do not know whether this opportunity for reflection will be taken up by US society. At the very least this occurrence will be disruptive. How can US society work towards emerging desirable disruptance as opposed to that which is undesirable? How can the international community support their efforts? For the issue of climate mitigation in particular, how can Trump’s potential disruptance of a hardwon and fragile global co-operation be contained, minimised? How can the momentum that is gaining in the clean energy space be expedited?
Back to #restitutionconference: We had a wonderful story in South Africa for a moment in the early 90’s, but we assumed a quick fix to a long history of systemic oppression, and neglected many aspects of ourselves, our communities, our society, our economy, where transformation had not yet begun. We now find ourselves in real trouble.
How can we work together now to re-orientate and develop the complex system that is a nation, to ensure that it self-organises towards a common vision, collectively re-imagined and maintained over time? Certainly understanding one another’s perspectives by listening to each others stories is a necessary starting point. What if more of that had happened during and prior to the US election campaign?
Encouraged by the striking presence of Advocate Madonsela at the Conference – proof that great and moral leaders can yet emerge from amongst us – I wondered whether the work being explored on that windswept day, together with similar initiatives around the world, might be very relevant to this ‘fresh hell’ that 2016 has just delivered (to quote a writer friend of mine living in the UK and reflecting on the Trump win so soon after Brexit) . That perhaps it could contribute to the complexification and resilience required to safeguard our world from the runaway Trumps of today and the future.