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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was the voice of an aggrieved conscience

Alex Tabisher writes that we have buried an icon, and that we have lost his invective, conviction, and moral strength. Picture: Jack Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Alex Tabisher writes that we have buried an icon, and that we have lost his invective, conviction, and moral strength. Picture: Jack Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Jan 7, 2022


My education consists of the pursuit of two very powerful sets of academic imperatives spread over 82 years.

As an octogenarian, I clearly see my first 55 years as a student of the Caucasian model that posited the superiority of tribes who are fair-skinned, blue-eyed and blond.

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Their over-riding imperative was a complete belief in their hubris of arrogance, haughtiness, vanity, self-importance and supercilious pomposity.

Then, at about 55 years of age, I was introduced into the present narration that interrogates these assumptions and begins to suggest that our troubles began roughly at the time of the colonial contagion.

That is to say, we arrived at a time when the ostensibly less-endowed and exploited darker-skinned ones started questioning the Eurocentric model that gave us all the worst excesses and aberrations of the human condition: world wars, slavery, gender discrimination, rampant diseases and the hideous conviction that the poor are condemned to the service of this higher ethical ideal for all time.

Before I drown in a sea of flawed pomposity, allow me to just briefly refer to a simple little lyric from a clever little song by the American folk singer, James Taylor.

He refers to the whole human race as “drifting through time and space on the face of a little blue ball/falling around the Sun/one in a million, billion twinkling lights/Shining out for no one …”

He refers to our only home, Planet Earth, which is rapidly spinning down to a condition of entropy that will be irreversible because this trajectory will only lead to disorder, death and the ultimate end of the universe.

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I use entropy in its literary, and not thermodynamic sense, as posited by Thomas Pynchon in his eponymous short story.

We have had strident voices proclaiming global warming, climate change, depletion of natural resources and so forth. So we listen to individuals like Greta, Al Gore, renegade royalty and so forth, who are venerated and lauded because they are narrating that which we all know – that the great tragedy of our time is the schism between those who have and those who do not.

This is a wide academic field that I couldn’t possibly begin to engage for fear of lack of space and limited intellect.

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In a word, the human condition is one of trauma, psychic laceration and staggering confusion either suffered by the self or inflicted on others because of unnatural man-made laws that insist that the rich get rich and the poor get children.

One such voice spoke stridently, with conviction which was faith-driven and based on… “a mandate from God”, stating clearly, time and again that we were on the road to perdition because we defended the morally indefensible.

This voice did not propagate a political agenda, or an economic ambition, or a lust for more and more power that has led us to this sorry condition. It was the voice of an aggrieved conscience, a voice that asked questions like: why are we not holding hands in brotherly love and acceptance that we are all creatures of God?

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Why have we become reduced to shallow political agendas that justified calling this man “… the one in the pink dress … ” as part of a eulogy, while serving as a proponent of a failed government in the international corridors of power?

Why have we been reduced to nearly turning a national tragedy that we cannot ever recover from into a subtle exercise in spin-doctoring that unsubtly inveigled itself into our tragedy in order to recoup the rejection it recently suffered at the voting-locales?

And what virtue was there in “elevating” a funeral to a state-allocated event in order to bolster its own fading credibility?

We were mourning the passing of a voice that spoke to our morality, our conscience, our lassitude and reification of monstrous lies, denial and a flawed conviction that the ungodly would be in charge until Christ Himself returns to this crucible of tragedy that we have made of His Creation.

We have buried an icon. We have lost his invective, conviction, and moral strength. We are lost in a sea of social and political detritus of our own making.

Let us ponder this momentous and universal show of our deep collective sense of loss, and start the work of reparation.

May I suggest a naughty little notion, that although Tutu has left, we still have a year that echoes his impishness every time we remind ourselves that we are going to reside, at least for a while, in the year twenty-two-two.

I wish my readers and their loved ones a happy year of healing and reconciliation.

* 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.

Cape Argus

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