Reflections | An ode to the other

The Other

I always commiserate with the other. I need no therapist to know that this is because I am an other, in my own way. I also don’t need a therapist to tell me  that my fairytale is fulfilled when an ‘other’ triumphs. It gives me hope I guess, knowing that in another realm, imagined or real, an other triumphs and lives happily ever after. Perhaps resting on this fairytale is my way of resigning, if only for a moment, to live in that perfect world.

The other has little to be grateful for in our world and yet so much to live for. I do not want to appear ungrateful for the slither of a chance that we, others, have to live the lives we must. Because life has improved greatly from what it was at the time of Mary Ann Evans mostly known by her pen name George Elliot, Shaka’s mother Nandi Bhebhe, struggle stalwart and spirit medium Mbuya Nehanda, homosexual authors Kabelo Sello Duiker, Oscar Wilde and James Baldwin, and many others. But to laude this improvement is to praise such an act as that of breathing. It is to praise the world for doing that which it must. Because life can be, should and must be better. This slither of a chance is not a privilege, but a right.

Because life should be free. When this is not the case, it is an injustice. When such an injustice is repaired, we must not seek to praise this change and its bearers too much, because life should have been like that anyway.

We define otherness when we define the norm. Those who are not the ‘desired’ norm become the others.

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible

When a society says that a race is the norm, anything that is not becomes an other, by default. Society may not literallyspell out how that is so, but when a high quality standard of life is allotted only for that race, then that race is the norm and any other races are, well, others. Apartheid was a good example, as was slavery, America before the Civil Rights movement and Germany during Hitler’s reign.

When a certain group enjoys more social capital for no other reason except for their gender, then and they are the norm and other genders are the other and play second fiddle. Pronounced or not, the current imbalance of social capital nominates the preferred gender – men – as the better group, while any other groups – women, transgender and intersex – these people become second class citizens – the other.

So when the other, in the face of injustice, triumphs and excels beyond the capabilities and achievements of the favoured norm, I root for them and my heart smiles, because in that triumph, hope springs.

James Baldwin

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  1. The promise of this post makes me so happy. The reality makes me sad. Thank you.

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