Melanie Veness: PCB CEO
One of my favourite things to do, is to stimulate debate about tricky subjects, with the objective of getting people with divergent views to hear each other. Hopefully it brings them closer to a new way of thinking. Sometimes it doesn’t, but what a thrill when it does.
I like to believe that I am quite open to new perspectives. I’m not necessarily easily persuaded, but I am open to being convinced. I realise more and more, however, that there are many people who simply aren’t open to questioning their chosen truths at all. Often they don’t even want to recognise that the beliefs that they hang on to with such fervour are, in fact, chosen, never mind that they warrant testing.
I remember very distinctly when I first realised that everything that I had been taught and accepted as truth wasn’t necessarily correct, and it was a very silly truth that brought it home to me. I was about 15 years old and was part of a group of pupils chosen to attend the English Olympiad at Westville University. To this day I am not really sure how the event was allowed to take place, because apartheid was very much alive and well, and yet the entire programme was Black theatre productions and poetry by Black poets. It was the first time that I had seen plays like Athol Fugard’s “The Island”, created with actor-activists John Kani and Winston Ntshona, and the first time that I was exposed to Black poetry, and it was a poem that did it. The poem was called “My Grandfather”, and it was about a proud old Zulu man who was battling to comprehend why he was labelled “a savage”. He said something along the lines of ”they call me a savage because I blow my nose in the fire, but they blow theirs in a cloth and pocket the stuff”. Need I say more?
Anyway, leadership strategist and author, Dr. Mark Manley makes the point that when your chosen truth is faulty, then your behaviour will be inappropriate, which goes a long way to explaining some of the behaviour that we see in our country today.
Moeletsi Mbeki once said something to me that I will never forget. He said: “when you approach a difficult discussion, go in being 100% prepared to be convinced of the other person’s point of view, and if after really listening and considering, you are still not convinced, then prepare yourself to convince.”
There is still a great deal of chosen truth challenging and deep conversation that needs to take place in our country in order for our society to be healed. I’d like to challenge every person reading this to start initiating some of those difficult conversations, and when doing so, to be open to the idea that your chosen truths might be a little questionable.