I have always loved the declaration of Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, “You shall be called the repairer of the breach.” For the most part I think we have no idea what this means.
At times, we put flimsy plasters over the breach and call it repaired. At other times, we shut our eyes to the oozing pain, and pretend for all the world like the breach does not exist. Still other times, we go so far as to make home in the breach, those with the means creating comfortable enclaves, and narratives that justify certain people’s comfort amidst others’ devastation. Like the false prophets in Jeremiah we declare peace where there is no peace.
In times of rupture, like the one we are living through right now, a gift is offered to those who have denied the breach’s existence- or at the very least, its scope. This gift is a painful tearing away of the blinkers we have attached ourselves to, so that the breach- that has always been there- becomes undeniable, screaming its existence to us.
The collective project of the repairing of the breach obviously needs urgent attention. And part of the work is seeing and recognising the extent of the breach, far beyond this present rupture. Seeing the daily brutality and trauma borne by so many. Seeing the horrifying inequality of our education system. Seeing the devastating taxi violence currently happening in Cape Town leaving many dead and many others injured. Seeing the flooding in townships and destruction of people’s homes. Seeing the daily exploitation of people’s desperation. Seeing the critical levels of hunger, rife across our country. Seeing the hugely unequal impacts of covid and the measures taken to mitigate it. Seeing the unrelenting violent displacement of people from their homes.
There is no hope of repairing the breach as long as we are not seeing it properly, as long as we are spinning narratives to justify its existence. But perhaps the moments like this, the moments that refuse to go by unseen, can shake us up enough that we are not able to go on as we have been doing. Maybe it offers us a chance to lament the breach, to rail against its length and breadth, to imagine what the world could look like without it, and then to begin the long hard work, both internal and external, of repairing it together.