Janice wrote:Ben in your second post to Elizabeth you asked her How do we truly achieve reconciliation? Can this question have a thread of its own. We are all on a learning curve with this one.
Perhaps it was a mistake for Mr Boddy to refer to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This idea was first mooted in a conversation between Mrs Hyde and my husband over three years ago as a way for the staff at St. Vedast to face up to their actions. (We were told all the problems existed at St Vedast, and that St James has always been a very happy school. After reading the BB it became clearly evident early on that this was yet another falsehood). We are South African and my husband?s parents, as we were, were deeply involved in the anti-Apartheid movement. Mr Boddy speaks in platitudes about Truth and Reconciliation, clearly without any comprehension of what that process actually entailed for victims and perpetrators alike, or the lengthy and agonising preparation period before Bishop Tutu was able to facilitate the confrontation. The white oppressors volunteered to come face to face with their victims, and in the process were brought by this confrontation to a full realisation of their own bestiality and of the system they were caught up in, and how their actions affected the lives of people they once considered their inferiors. They were thereby cleansed and experienced true remorse, and so forgiveness could take place. I watched the process on television and it was a most moving, salutary and uplifting experience. At last, I felt proud to be South African. Nowhere in the world had such a process been thought of, let alone enacted.
The lengthy and expensive investigation into the truth of the allegations found indeed that there had been ?criminal abuse? inflicted on the pupils. Despite this, many staff members including Mr Debenham have still not acknowledged that there was anything wrong with what they did. The sad truth about human nature is that in more men than we would care to acknowledge, the brute lies just below the surface and a word from on high will unleash it.
If the school is serious about ?Truth and Reconciliation?, so much about the SES would have to be questioned. The hope once nurtured that when the truth was established a genuine realisation of fundamentals would take place is perhaps asking too much. It would question the flaws in Leon MacLaren, the man whose photograph still hangs in an honoured position in the St James schools. It would take vision of a very high order to retain what is good and truly turn their backs on issues that have damaged the very concept of a spiritual education. There are many good and fine people in the SES who have devoted their lives to ?self-examination? and ?truth?. All that is needed is to drop the humbug and stop protecting the false that belies everything that they have devoted their lives to.
What was revealed to Mr Townend was the tip of the iceberg. There are many who could not attend the inquiry. The reasons being: a) They live in other countries, b) they are still unable to confront their parents who are now quite elderly and have devoted their lives to a belief structure, c) St James did nowhere near enough to inform all former pupils of it?s existence. Many only heard about it after it had taken place. The Terms of reference?s limited scope is also well documented.
I also wrote in the past on this BB about how important it has been for my husband and I to have gone through the painful process of acknowledging what we allowed to happen to our sons, both for them and us. And we have to witness one of our son?s ongoing emotional problems and how bravely he is doing all he can to help others who are too damaged to have gone anywhere near the inquiry. There are too many people in their thirties and forties to say ?mistakes were made by a few overzealous teachers? or to dismiss the vocal men and women as ?trouble-makers? or ?hardened activists?. They speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
I?m sure there are many in the School who would want to go through a process of ?Truth and Reconciliation?, but a brave and unprecedented step would have to be taken by the current powers that be within the organisation. That surely is the battle humanity has always faced in the process of spiritual growth.
(Former SES member, and parent of former St Vedast pupils)