News and Articles

Radicalism, Riot and Revolution: The Urgent Demand for Belonging across the Globe

Image by dawid-malecki from unsplash
Photo Credit: Dawid Małecki on Unsplash
August 26, 2020

Lebogang Mahlalela is a 2020 Social Connectedness Fellow, working with Synergos Institute South Africa to identify how social connectedness builds better leaders through the Social Connectedness Programme. Lebo is passionate about social justice and committed to building a society completely free from all forms of oppression.

2020 has brought some of the most unprecedented global challenges that we have seen in decades as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A report by Oxfam International found that the current situation is “pushing about 40-60 million people into extreme poverty.” Similarly dire statistics are mirrored by the recent Progress Report on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which have cited significant shortcomings in the goals of gender equality, reduced inequalities, as well as peace, justice and strong institutions. These have all culminated in exacerbating inequities in an already unequal world. 

As the situation continues to decline, and governments scramble to put in policies to mitigate the multidimensional impacts of COVID19, we have come to recognize that even whilst we are all under quarantine, and life has metaphorically been put on hold, for many across the globe – injustice has not taken any breaks. These inequalities have taken centre stage – as people not only fight against the COVID pandemic, but for a vision, and ideal of a just and equal society. 

To no surprise, this has also subsequently resulted in conditions for many citizens to become increasingly vocal, critical and oppositional to systems, institutions and governments which continue to perpetuate these socio-economic inequalities. From the continued unrest against Gender-Based Violence in South Africa, to the workers’ movement in India, and the #BlackLivesMatter global protests  – these movements and instances of collective action are ushering in a new vision for a more inclusive world and providing an opportunity for injustices to come to light.      

Yet if societies do not address the demands to dismantle systems of oppression, and actively foster systems rooted in belonging, clashes can and will break out, and most likely, the resulting demands will no longer be asked ‘politely’. 

A similar sentiment was also echoed and understood by Dr. Martin Luther King who, though strongly opposed to violent action, understood that the language used by those who are voiceless, ‘the unheard’ is often riots. And this highlights the very real fact that for many who have been systematically silenced and marginalized, who have no access to systems of power, belonging or support, the only avenues for action are through disruption of the status quo: through protest, riots and radical action.

Highlighting this is not a move towards fear-mongering, but to the contrary – it is a clarion call towards governments and institutions alike to actively participate in the vital process of cultivating systems of belonging and justice. Thus, increased recognition by governments, and organizations need to be placed on the urgency of mitigating inequities, as a means of enshrining national peace and stability.

So, what does ushering in systems of belonging and inclusion look like?

  1. Acknowledging collective trauma

Systemic change must begin with a deepened acknowledgement of the injustices experienced by many communities as a form of violence; their experiences as collective trauma; and the process of seeking justice itself as often times traumatic. This collective trauma, not only experienced as a singular event but a continuous and ongoing experience often results in isolation, and disillusionment with the system itself. 

  1. Restorative justice

In order to envision a future free from the structural and systemic violence experienced by these communities, as well as the trauma responses, we must then seek a form of collective healing and recognition. This further upholds principles of restorative justice and reconciliation within the community, by recognizing the underlying issues, and cultivating paths of healing and cooperation through compassion and empathy. 

  1. Recognition

This process of restorative justice also needs to actively centre the importance of recognition. This is a recognition of the various and intersectional injustices, which have spanned time and place. This also requires an understanding of the resulting collective trauma that has been felt by millions across the globe as a result of these systems.  Thus, in recognizing this, government and organisations must place increasing focus on the psychosocial impacts of the injustices and address this through a multidimensional approach.

  1. Belonging 

Significant strides have already taken place within various organizations to usher in a      vision of inclusive systems of belonging and justice. These organizations have centred their work around recognition, collective healing, belonging, as well as providing opportunities for those who have experienced injustices to tell their stories. Governments, and various organizations can use these as models to foster belonging within their own programmes, policies and practices.

Across the world, we are witnessing growing demonstrations, unrest and radical action. These all point to an urgent and persistent demand: the demand for belonging, inclusion and justice. Governments and social institutions thus have a profound responsibility in cultivating a society rooted in these principles.