Calling all judgers, anybody home?

Reaction to the Nomzamo / Lwandle evictions of a week ago raised a number of social concerns, economic and material dilemmas for the evictees and political tensions among key players in the field. The French Open final was not as riveting as the to-ing and fro-ing between political rivals, with SANRAL remaining discreetly hidden behind press releases and empty words. In what was arguably a very unexpected reaction, the community of the Helderberg fueled by social media groups such as the Facebook group, Somerset 1, took tremendous stance against this particular eviction. Under mounting local and international pressure, the ANC-led government and DA-led Western Cape government scrambled into action. Ministers visited the site and MECs bemoaned the fate of those evicted. Land was made available and the relocation started in earnest on Monday, 9th June 2014.  The same community was asked for assistance in clothing and text-booking learners who had lost it all to bulldozers and deliberate arsen attacks, yet it would seem the perpetrators, SANRAL, are comfortably distant and in true big-uncaring-bullying-tactic causes the worst damage and walks away without any recompense at fixing what they broke!

The community's reaction was however conspicuously divided. While many hearts were opened and blankets, clothing and food streamed into the Farmhouse Restaurant (a central drop off point) a large contingent held their steadfast position, resolute that the evictions were lawful and justified. This was never at issue though: very few disagreed with the evictions. The concern was that our fellow human beings were evicted against the backdrop of an approaching winter storm, their homes destroyed with no regard for dignity or humanity and their children, their old and frail, left destitute. Yet judgement was unreservedly spewed over anyone that would dare listen. They KNEW they were building on the wrong area. They KNEW they were to be evicted. They ....

In other spaces, online and physical, this same judgmental current carries many in its wake, spewing flotsam over the unawares and sludge over the confounded. Someone takes stance against a photo posted in a closed online group, and armed with half-truths and rigorous beliefs attacks the 'poster'. Another yields indignation and super knowledge in their self-proclaimed understanding of ancient texts, a gnostic belief that their hotline to the gods is faultless. In such arenas everyday people's actions are held to such stringent measure that the pope himself could not have a hope in hell of being found holy enough!

Judgementalism dons a multitude of guises. Outright, in your face is the kind that asserts its own importance, it's own dominance, without much regard for others' views. In another more subtle kind, the stares, the looks, the humphed shoulders, betray more than a thousand words could. As if physically repulsed by the not-to-measureness of another, the judger hauls their sledgehammer onto deeds and words with such finality that resistance is in fact futile. Their opinion is cast in stone, their views unchanging.

Judging is however not a passive unbiased tool of social life. We are taught from young to judge between morally right and wrong, between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, between what passes as correct and what as insensitive, bullying and down-right ignorant. We take this attitude into our wardrobes and ways of being, into our actions and reactions to others, and into the lives of our children. Like a Social-Moulding-Injection our children learn to judge much like we do, they learn that being in the social space we call 'life' means being in a certain way and acting and speaking appropriately. Unfortunately it also means learning to judge those not the same as you or who hold different beliefs, as being 'other' . It means putting categories in place that says MY view of the world is superior to YOUR view. This 'othering' is arguably the greatest danger of judgement, as it allows the 'judger' to see themself as dominant, a position they accept unquestioningly as completely natural and 'the way it is'! And if you cannot see a stance or position as anything but natural and correct, how is it possible to change it? To address a view of the world that does not take others' views into account or that dogmatically holds to one stance without giving homage to the plethora of 'other' views.

There are times that we should judge and when putting on different lenses allows us to judge the actions of others in a certain light and not another. The recent evictions for instance, was at a political and legal level utterly acceptable and necessary, and need to be judged at this level for social order to reign. The humanitarian crises it elicited is however at a human compassionate level abhorent and despicable, which is the level the community of the Helderberg addressed. In another instance, judging a photo as being appropriate or not, or judging someone for their seemingly contradictory actions, is in a similar vein yet another kind of human level judgement and should be seen in this light. It is based on a certain view of the world that is deeply personal and deeply subjective. Knowing the difference in each instance is priceless.

The greatest danger though for a 'judger' is the measure they use, for it is this measure they are judged on.

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