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February is commonly known as the month of love. But for me, love is not only about red roses, fancy dinners and cuddly teddy bears. Love is what spurs us on to act on some of our deepest passions. Love, for one’s people and the world, is the basis of all revolutions.
South Africans are a people fueled by passion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we are the model state with no foibles, psychopaths or greedy leaders. We are far from it. But we love. For the most part we love our food, our cultures, our soccer teams and our music. But most of all we love our constitution so much that we witnessed over 2 000 people marching to the Constitutional Court in defence of our Public Protector and our constitution this week.
Love is a peculiar thing. It ignites a flame in the hearts of those it imposes itself upon, breathing hope into the minds of the numb and giving a renewed sense of courage and self-sacrifice in the souls of the weary. Love fuels humanity’s drive to better itself in a system that is designed to belittle it.
Apartheid was a system that the National Party preferred to describe as a way of self-preservation. Preserving Afrikaaner culture, language and the material wealth that they violently acquired. As sick as it sounds, it’s a gluttonous love of self that fuelled the colonial project of separate development.
On the other hand it is also love that gave Bantu Steven Biko the will to write what he liked. Love spurred Hector Peterson on to march towards the bullets that fatally martyred him. Much like how love urged the miners of Marikana, and the students of the #RhodesMustFall movement to stand up for what they believe in. Love can bring people together for a diverse range of reasons, no matter how strange and taboo they might be.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual community has had to endure prejudice, persecution, rape and abuse to be able to openly love. While Black girls still need to explain why they want to have safe spaces solely for themselves. Across the continent states are still illegitimatising homosexuality and ostracising those who love to love other people.
It is a love for education that kept students in South Africa marching on even in the blistering sun, protesting for free education during the #FeesMustFall protests. It is a love for our living environment that keeps activist groups ready to defend (and sometimes remedy) some of the wrongs done to the earth. And it is love for our fellow man that has sparked mass outcry against the killings in Palestine, Black America and Burundi.
Eusebius McKaiser once told a class I was in, “don’t be afraid of your own biases.” And we shouldn’t be afraid to love. If we had to take notes on love, comradery and passion, they are the excellent lessons to be taken from our global history. If there’s one thing I wish everyone on Valentine’s Day, its that we may all find something that moves us and we are passionate about. Something to love.