Grade 12, Peer Guide
We often don't catch ourselves getting easily caught up in our circles (be it family or friends), where naturally, similar opinions and behaviours are allowed to manifest. This is not necessarily all-bad but can certainly be pertained to our exclusion of things that do not form part of what is deemed "the norm" within our circles. This can be seen in the many issues that have arisen from Wynberg's Transformation process as well in our private lives. In light of the upcoming Anti-Bullying Week (May 8-May 13), the WGHS Peer Guides thus promote the need for our understanding and inclusion of one another, and mostly, the importance of recognising the power within ourselves to stand up and take control of situations that aim to victimise us.
As cliché as it may sound to say, "understand and include," these are the fundamentals of humane interaction between people, and are things most of us still cannot do. This is the reason human rights movements, such as Feminism, have become intersectional.
Understanding others can only go so far as we all view things from our own perspectives; perspectives which have been shaped by our personal experiences. Listening not to respond but simply to engage with the opposing perspective can put us in the shoes of others so that when we do hear the opposing perspective, instead of saying, "You are overreacting," we will say, "I admit that I don’t fully understand what has led to you display these feelings. Please help me to reach a level of understanding."
The inclusion of others comes with the mindful unpacking of prejudice and judgement so that we can unlearn what we have deemed acceptable within our circles. Unfortunately in many cases, our preconceptions – which are not necessarily intended to be offensive – are so widely accepted that the lines between right and wrong are blurred. Look out for the "they" statements, for example, "They look so weird though." Inclusion is the simple acknowledgement of a homeless man as he begins to tell you his life story or asks for donations at the robot. All this takes is a, "Good afternoon Sir. I'm sorry. I really cannot help you today." After all, he is human too.
The fact that so many of us are unable to practice these fundamentals is what leads to issues such as bullying, and matters on an even larger scale such as genocides, when lack of understanding and inclusion are allowed to manifest.
While many of us are responsible for not practicing the abovementioned fundamentals, the chances of us being put in situations where we are not understood or included are also high, and even these can occur within the circles we know and love. In these cases it is just as vital to be able to realise when we are not being recognised in the way that we deserve. If someone does not understand, or worse, does not want to, the mere announcement of our feelings will force within the individual an awakening. In cases of exclusion, which often leads to bullying as the bully feels enough power to continue hurt others, we need to know that as fellow human beings, we deserve respect and acknowledgement. Taking power from those who exclude us does not have to be approaching them, but can be simply ignoring that bully, gaining newfound confidence, or realising that it might not be that worth it to be part of a clique if that is how they treat people. At the same time, taking back your power can be finally speaking to someone about how you feel. We can only feel a certain way because of external factors if we allow external factors to make us feel that way.
As easy as it may be to fall in the trap of forgetting what happens outside of our circles, we should never underestimate the significance of taking a step back to do some personal reflecting on our thoughts, actions and opinions without the influence of our friends and family. Saying what we mean, meaning what we say, and understanding whether or not this infringes on the dignity of others while still recognising when we ourselves are being victimised is what embodies the respect of one another's humanity. We need to catch ourselves even before verging on non-understanding, exclusionary tendencies.