by Alex Tabisher
Words are the seminal tools that we as humans can use to deal with life problems. The word, especially the spoken or written form, can be the conduit through which we address realities that have no other agenda than to contrive and achieve a meaningful life for all people.
We need to wrestle with words like nation, national, nationality, nationalism, nationhood in order to unpack the confusion of twisted ideologies which has left our country worse off than we were during apartheid years.
My post-graduate work on colonialism taught me the nature of colonialism and its indelible after-effects.
I have revisited the writings of Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka (Nigerians), Leopold Senghor (Senegalese), Ngugi wa Thion’go (Kenya) and Frantz Fanon (French West Indian). I also revisited European writers like Neil ten Kortenaar and the myriads of European (read White) critics of colonisation, Maxim and decolonisation, which has lately morphed into post-colonialism.
This long preamble introduces my notion that we need to rewind the clock and restart the nation called South Africa again. I mention the above writers not as a personal bibliography, but as possible starting points from which we can attempt (re-attempt) the construction of a new land of promise for all inhabitants.
Several of the narratives (in fact, almost all) extol positionality and advantage that are predicated on greed, hatred, prejudice, bigotry, and all the other deadly sins perpetrated in the name of nationality, hegemony or that hoary old demon called ‘culture’. I have said nothing about race.
A notable quote by Fanon is: The oppressed will always believe the worst about themselves. I think that applies to the Whites as well, who perpetuate the myth of white supremacy based on nothing expect spurious physical or geographical differences.
What I am suggesting is well-articulated by Kamala Harris, American Vice-President, who expressed it like this: Don’t let people tell you who you are. You tell them yourself.
To taper into my theme, I suggest that we re-interrogate falsehoods. I refer to my categories around the word ‘nation’. Whites are not superior. The ANC is not the only option for (fair) governance.
We must learn that nobody is born with hatred. It is either acquired by teaching or experience or agenda. We do not want to be wrong or right. We would rather be left to avoid the errors of the past.
The human race is various and multifloriate. Tapping into that reality needn’t be a basis for an agenda of unequal legislation. It should transparently create platforms and liaisons for powerful renewal. Do not climb into the bed of the oppressor for the personal gain it holds. Hang on to integrity, morality, honesty, ambition, resourcefulness and invention.
One cannot legislate absent cognitive ability by force-feeding children on maths and science. Language is a common denominator. Empower through teaching, mentoring, guiding. Develop literacy so that the level of the discourse rises.
If we vibrate at a higher level, the universe will meet us there.
I have laboured mightily to avoid pedantry, or polemic or even nebulous rhetoric. I am merely asking for our Constitution to be reread bearing in mind that there is only one race: the human race.
A country that loses its moral compass or abandons its faith-based teachings is doomed. No man-made writs supersede the word of the god of your understanding.
The elections will be no more than re-arranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic. We need to talk to each other. Then we must learn to listen. Then end up listening in order to learn.
Perhaps then we will begin to understand our national malaise and set about a cure.
* 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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