Navigating care as a form of activism - Ziko Petse

It is no secret that we have been living in an unjust society. I don’t find it necessary to reiterate these injustices as we see them everywhere: social media, the news, the radio. Many people have decided to take it upon themselves to fight institutions that perpetuate these injustices. Doing this can be a daunting task, and one is likely to experience what is known as "activism burnout,” a physical and emotional state of helplessness. Symptoms of activism burnout include, but are not limited to, physical fatigue, loss or gain of appetite, prolonged sadness, and emotional helplessness.

But what if I told you that there is a way to be an activist without jeopardizing the mental health of yourself and others? Its name is Care. Don’t get me wrong, I am not by any means telling you to only navigate this form of activism, in fact, I encourage you to discover and learn more about different forms of ways to oppose injustices. However, someone who suffers from mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, or bipolar, and still wants to contribute to the eradication of these injustices, deserves to navigate their way through forms of activism. One form which we propose is Care as it has been generally overlooked.

In a society that values profit over the wellbeing of people, the suffering of others has been normalised. By caring for one another, what we are essentially doing is rebelling against the colonial mindset that teaches us dissimilarity, and embracing the core values of an African society; care for one another. When one takes the time to care for those around us, we are making ourselves realize our worth, so much so, we will gain the courage to speak up against any system that overlooks our worth. The beauty about caring is that it has the potential to reach any social issue. Because after all, activism in itself addresses the lack of “care” within a society.

Caring is a vague expression, so let’s break it down. I see that there are two subcategories for care; care for oneself and care for others. These subcategories are interdependent; one simply cannot care for others if one does not care for oneself. We find it imperative for you to practice self-care before furthering your journey with activism. Self-care includes but is not limited to, cleaning your room, setting boundaries on friends and family, taking time off, or doing your favorite activity. Refer to the page titled, “Izindlela zokuthukusiza impilo yenqondo” to get more ways to practice self care. I suggest getting a journal and recording ways you are taking care of yourself and noting any progress. Taking note of how you take care of yourself will make you more mindful of the ways in which you treat others, a prerequisite for the second subcategory of care; taking care of others.

I suggest navigating care for others by referring to your journal of how you took care of yourself. If you, for example, wrote something along the lines of cleaning my room once a week, eating healthily, setting positive affirmations for yourself, or forgiving yourself, then you should immediately see caring for others respectfully as keeping a shared area clean after yourself, preparing healthy meals for your family (if you have the luxury to do so of course), speaking positively to others and forgiving others. Thereafter, you can delve further into caring for others as a form of activism. You can perhaps share mental health support resources with your followers, knock on your neighbours doors and offer your help out with any housework, encourage your classmates or colleagues to practice self-care or get inspired by Uzizwa Kanjani and start your own mental health support group.

Remember, it is completely valid if you do not want to partake in activism which puts a strain on your mental health. Your peers might want you to partake in any movement of social change. However, as overwhelming as it might sound, you should explain to them why you will not directly partake in the movement and share your way of indirectly contributing to the movement; perhaps by sharing this post!