Peter Batchelor and I were asked to give a lecture on democracy to a group of rather radical black teachers during the death throes of Apartheid.
While Peter was lecturing, I noticed an obvious lack of interest in what he was saying. People were yawning, lying on their arms or looking around. I decided to intervene, and asked the question, “What does all this talk about democracy mean to you?”
One or two people hesitantly tried to say something, and then all hell broke loose. For more than an hour we were bombarded with emotions of pure hatred and anger. As part of the “white oppressive regime” we were attacked with gusto. We who drive around in our luxury cars while they remain oppressed (I could not help but be aware of my little Conquest parked among some rather expensive German cars, looking through the window at that moment). The word “democracy” had stimulated it, but at ﬁrst they had suppressed their emotions. Now they were let loose.
We let them be. All we did was to listen and reﬂect.
“So what you are really saying is …”
“I hear your anger …” etc.
Then, as suddenly as it had started, it turned. Some positive remark was made, and shortly afterwards the lecture ended in a very jovial atmosphere. Several participants invited us to talk to them again!
It never ceases to amaze me: It wasn’t our talk that motivated them. Not at all! It was our acceptance of their anger. Yet the unconscious ego mind does not understand this, and therefore had to revert to the “rational” part of the event: the talk.