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Violence, the simple and not so simple answers

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In a previous blog of mine entitled Violence and masculine performers a reader raised the following questions:

I want to know if the project on Violence would help to reduce the prevalence of violence in the Zimbabwean communities or not. I just want to know your fair minded judgement based on what the fourteen participants contributed on that topic of violence. Is the film going to help all the people (men and women) or women only or vise versa? If it cannot help, what are the areas that were not clear that will leave the people still wanting more information concerning violence?

The simple answer is yes.  I believe all of the participants walked away from the week having absorbed new knowledge and inspired ideas around what violence entails, why violence is a coward’s solution, and how to better lead life in non-violent ways.  One reason I say yes is because the fourteen participants were willing to speak at length and in detail as well as willing to speak honestly and in relation to their personal experiences.  That’s no small feat.  All too often discussions about violence in Zimbabwe are predictable and merely go the route of referencing “other” people who commit acts of violence.  When individuals look inwardly to unravel their own beliefs and actions then the conversations get real and begin to pave the way for meaningful paths toward change.   Therefore, I stand by a point in the original blog.  Change must come from within.  Within individuals.  Within communities.  Within institutions.  Within societies.  One by one, and it’s a process which takes time.  Tho, all the little things help.

At the same time, the questions which have been posed do not neatly have simple answers.  As I noted, the honesty among the participants was key in building discussions which were true to life and constructive.  But honesty is not always synonymous with hearing what you hope to hear.   Much of the honesty among the male and female participants incorporated belief that there are situations where violence against women is warranted.  Intermingled or likely one reason for that belief is what I saw as unsettling blind faith and one-dimensional this is just the way it is adherence to the notions that women are the weaker sex, that labola is tradition and a form of payment for a wife, that good wives must allow husbands to exercise their conjugal rights, and so on.  I mean come on.  Is that really just the way it is?  Or, is it not the case that all human beings harmoniously deserve respect, love, companionship, admiration, laughter, compassion, and equality from their fellow human beings?

The reader asked for my fair minded judgment.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I can be fair.  While I have the utmost respect for how honest the participants were, there were moments during the week where my jaw dropped.  I was in shock.  How can people think violence is ok?  And to try to rationalize justifications for violence, it made my body hurt.   In fact, during the week of filming I had nightmares.  And continue to have nightmares.  They are nightmares where people needlessly resort to violence.  So yeah, it’s tough for me to fair.  Intellectually a lot of what was expressed during the week I did not agree with.  Emotionally the week was taxing for me.  I would like to say I don’t have a violent bone in my body; however, in reality, no person can live up to that assertion.  But what I can do, and I hope the film participants also do, is recognize that every human being has the ability to make choices around whether or not to be violent.

Back to my simple answer.  Yes.  The week of filming was successful.   I remain hopeful.  I believe there are many courageous Zimbabweans, people who are willing to take a hard look at themselves and in turn, to let that self-reflective journey inspire them toward travelling down roads of non-violence and helping others do the same.  And as I said, little things do help.  Like this film project and others which International Video Fair Trust (IVFT) is implementing.  Disseminating films where the filmed participants speak up is surely a recipe for success and an effective way to encourage others to address the difficult issues in life.   And you know, there is a nice synergy with Kubatana’s Inzwa Weekly Audio Magazine.  Just as much as the people who work for the Adult Rape Clinic and the people who access those services are everyday heroes so too is it importantly heroic to make the information available.  To stand up and say, for those of you who might benefit from the services at the Adult Rape Clinic, please make use of them and we support you in the most heartfelt ways.

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