by Alex Tabisher
My column aims to fulfil my desire for the entire nation to improve their literacy levels. This includes all the modalities that empower our communication skills, such as looking, listening, memorising, auditory discrimination, writing and, of course, reading.
This is not a plea for one language group, but for all. Mandela eloquently reminded us that when you speak to a man in a foreign language, he listens with his head. But when you speak in his mother tongue, he listens with his heart.
So rest easy all of you who are groaning that I am pushing my own agenda for my language of choice. Not all communication needs be done in English, just as not all classical music needs to be written in E-flat and preferably for the oboe.
Higher literacy will generate higher order questions. This will lead to higher quality rhetoric which, in turn, might stimulate higher-order critical thinking and questioning. If you vibrate higher, do not fear. The universe will meet you at whatever level.
We start with a question. Why are our literacy levels lower than countries with less than half our GDP? Why did we place 11 languages in our Constitution and we still dread a speech on TV that starts with “My Fellow South Africans”?
Why are our shortcomings publicly paraded through commissions of inquiry, revealing texts, affidavits and some whistle-blowing?
Why, 26 years after our first free election are we still recycling the same bureaucrats who have palpably and woefully demonstrated that they don’t know how to heal the country?
Why have we been lied to for a quarter of a century about the ANC being the bearer of happy news regarding our democratic expectations when they know that the Constitution was written in a way that protects white interests better than the draconian Nationalist government ever could?
How many more Titos, or Cyrils or Pravins can you toss on to the pyre to detract us from your inefficiency and duplicity? The question is directed at the small percentage of Blacks who sold out the country and protect their ill-gotten wealth as assiduously as their previous “masters”.
Sooner or later we must debunk the myth that the ANC is set to rule for life. We have to consider the wishes of all citizens, and not be afraid of criticism; not be afraid of accepting the advice gained through experience.
My only weapon is language. Much of my post-graduate studies focused on the countries of the continent of Africa and their narrative of rebirth after the advent of decolonisation the 1800s.
When I started teaching “other” literature at university level in 1995, one of the mouth-clutching fears uttered by some (white) colleagues was “Good Lord, Alex, do you expect us to re-invent the wheel?”
It is this hysterical assumption that change means pain that holds us back. The English and Afrikaner settlers left indelible evidence of their colonial rule.
To try and unbundle that legacy has overtones of the Gorgon knot that irritated Alexander the Great. Let us embrace similarities and differences. Let us nurture a nationhood under a unifying title like “South African”. Let us drop the top-down-we-can-think-for-you-bovine-ordure and contrive a think-tank of loyal citizens.
I am aware of how hard it will be. Whites still look “through” people of colour. Prior skewed paradigms still mewl for out-dated validity. The levels of engagement need not be for dominance but for cohesion.
We have now messed up the Covid-rescue package. And still, they merely grind out reasons for why it happened. External reasons. No admission of demonstrable evidence of ineptitude and pig-headed narrow-minded belligerence.
Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.
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