Guest Blog: Lynnette van der Merwe-Travers

What can we say to future generations about the patterns of generativity, equity, and inclusion we seek today? How would we speak with them about who we are together? How will we help them understand the power of the work we recognize as we stand in the world at the end of 2018?

Recently I received this powerful essay from one of our HSD Professional Associates. She wrote it to share with colleagues in an organization-wide equity and diversity event, and then was generous enough to share it with us. I asked permission and she has, again, graciously granted permission for me to share it here, in its entirety. With deep gratitude to her, I offer this for your reading.
–Royce Holladay

Inclusive Behaviour Role in the Work Context: What hinders or encourages me to act inclusively?

This is a message for a time capsule to be opened in 50 years’ time, in the year 2068. I write it for my future colleagues at the University of the Free State. I write it in the hope that we have left a legacy for you that is a strong foundation for the heights you want to reach. This is what encourages me to act and behave as I do every day: at work, at home, in life.

In the year 2018, we worked in offices and buildings, built of brick and mortar, separated by walls and doors. We looked at screens, typing messages on keyboards that meant we had to engage our brains, eyes, hands and hearts, conveying thoughts in and between the lines of language that was sometimes home and sometimes foreign to us. We interacted in spaces where we had to hear another’s voice, look into their eyes and interpret their posture, dress, or emotion using more than brains, eyes, hands and hearts; we needed ears and intuition too. We were introverts and extroverts, skilled or novices at human endeavours, bogged down by the weight of our histories and expectations, sometimes buoyed by hopeful shared experience, sometimes shut out by subliminal powerful undercurrents of privilege, power and politics.

In the year 2018, we spoke, debated, opined and surveyed on culture, consciousness and (de-)colonization. We desperately strived to plaster over wounds that had been festering too long, often tearing apart fragile bonds forged by shared experience for the sake of getting to the root of contrived difficulties. We were fallible, feeble and mortal in our need for recognition and reward, all the while forgetting our own weakness in rabid pursuit of the failings of others, pointing judgmental fingers when we ourselves were hoping to find understanding and compassion.

In the year 2018, difference was a difficult word, and integration seemed the panacea for any tension generated. Diversity could be cautiously entertained, as long as it did not demand to be seated ahead of inclusivity. We looked for our identity, found our voice and wielded power (over ourselves, over others?). Every time authenticity, reciprocity and justice joined the engagement, we saw that we could be agents of positive change. When truth left, when isolation crept in, when morality became a fluid concept, it resulted in patterns of prejudice and narrow perception.

In the year 2018, we struggled to grasp the energy released by our tensions, not always realising the immense potential for creativity or learning that we can harness when we let go of prescribed ideas on unity and togetherness. We had lucid moments when we could set aside our assumptions of “otherness”, lower our defences, and notice that we are most human when we collectively contribute to the benefit of others. We continued to grapple with comparisons instead of compassion, yet we had an inkling of a world where we could write different endings to our stories, where fear did not drive us forward; a world where we made decisions based on what love requires of us.

In the year 2018, did we leave you a legacy to build on? Did we make it easier for you to live meaningfully, together? Did our hope in a better future make your present brighter? Was our wisdom wide enough to stretch into a world we could only try to envisage? Did our lives matter beyond our own frail humanity?

In the year 2068, how will you go forward?

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