Taking responsibility for our own feelings and reactions to events and incidents around us can potentially change everything.
That’s not going to happen
I was making tea during a short break in our frantic operations at our little start up on Tuesday 19 June 2018. My partner came through, leant on the door frame and announced, “The news is out, SuperSport found no evidence of racism in the actions of Nick Mallett and Naas Botha with Ashwin Willemse.” His eyes shining, he drew a breath and said, “I think we deserve an apology from our Minister of Sport.”
Matthew does not get excited about much, but sport is the one thing that gets him going. He is a deep thinker and an even deeper feeler and the Ashwin Willemse episode had occupied many of his reflective hours. It had upset and discomforted him.
I looked at him and said, “That’s not going to happen.”
That’s not going to happen
Wide eyed, a frown furrowed his forehead, he asked, “Why do you say that?”
“Oh, just wait for the vitriol and the positioning,” I said, “The derisive goading on the one hand, from those that said all along there was no racism and howls of non-acceptance of the findings from those that jumped on the racist bandwagon.”
With mug of tea in hand I worked my way back to my desk to read the articles myself. It appeared to me that SuperSport had done as good a job that they could. They had employed an independent lawyer in Advocate Vincent Maleka SC to do the investigation. He looked at the available footage, did site inspections and conducted interviews with the relevant parties. Except with Ashwin who chose not to participate.
I wish I hadn’t been right
Before I had finished reading the available online articles there were comments frothing over the social media air waves. Unfortunately, I was right. I like being right but in this case I really wish I hadn’t been. Positional, told-you-so’s from both sides barked at each other and the world. I sighed a deep sad sigh and switched it all off.
A few days later Ashwin Willemse’s legal team announced that they would be taking the SuperSport matter to the to the Human Rights Commission and Equality Court. Again, not a surprise.
We don’t have Ashwin’s side of the story so we don’t know what was happening for him at the time or for that matter what must be happening for him now. None of it can be pleasant. He felt aggrieved and the world watched how that feeling translated into an action. We do know that he was angry. We do know that he walked off the set and said he felt patronised.
We don’t have Ashwin’s side of the story
Since then everyone has made pronouncements, suggestions, declarations and judgments. The thing is it’s got nothing at all to do with anyone else but Ashwin. It’s his stuff and his stuff alone. He has every right to feel exactly as he did for whatever reason. He felt like that, whether or not there was any malice or intention from those he directed his accusation at.
Who hasn’t felt wronged?
Who hasn’t felt wronged in some way and reacted? Something just pushes us too far and we push back. Possibly, once the adrenalin has stopped coursing through our body, and given some reflection, we might feel anything from righteous to foolish for how we responded. Lucky for us there probably wasn’t a large audience watching our every move, making judgment calls on our very perceived motivation. We might have even found the courage to re-engage with the person responsible for our ire to resolve the situation. Again, with no audience.
Something just pushes us too far and we push back.
As onlookers we don’t allow this. We take our own hang ups, beliefs, motivations, and opinions and we throw them at the screen. We have projected all our own stuff on the poor man. And now with lawyers involved, who is going to win, if there can ever be a ‘winner” in these situations? Only the lawyers. The lawyers will do his talking for him. They are out for one thing – to get known, to move and shake. It’s all politics. And it is unpleasant.
I feel for Ashwin, he might have referred to himself as a “quota player” but he was chosen on his merits. His accolades speak for themselves including Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year and Most Promising Player of the Year in his debut year, 2003.
Being a person of colour in South Africa, his history, culture and education are complex. None of that should say that his actions, and those of his co-presenters, were good or bad, right or wrong. They just were actions. His actions.
It’s always about you
Did I have a reaction to his walk out? Sure I did and it gave me pause for thought. I did not side with anyone and I did feel compassion for Ashwin. I don’t think he wanted it to get to this stage. Who would? I also know that when we start to look inside ourselves and own the reasons and results of our own reactions rather than seeking external places to put blame, then we will get somewhere in this complex, volatile and uncertain world we live in.
About the author
5th Place offers specialised psychological services in the form of coaching and therapy for immediate relief from stress, anxiety, & other mental health challenges. It works fast, deep and quick. For individuals and groups, children, teens and adults.