Don’t fall into a com­pla­cent slum­ber, watch over our democ­racy

Cape Times - - IN­SIGHT - Sandile Dikeni

RE­MEM­BER Rushdie Siers, Aloma Foster, Heather Robert­son, Don­ald Paren­zee, Mavis Small­berg, Jane Baker, James Matthews and so on, who were among many oth­ers in the West­ern Cape re­spon­si­ble for the for­ma­tion of Co­saw or the Congress of SA Writ­ers?

I was there too. The big or­gan­i­sa­tion then was the United Demo­cratic Front (UDF), led by Al­lan Boe­sak. Arch­bishop Emer­i­tus Des­mond Tutu was also in­volved, but don’t ask me how, be­cause I don’t re­mem­ber… rerig!

I re­mem­ber that all the big ral­lies of the UDF and Cosatu were sup­ported by Co­saw and many arts for­ma­tions in the demo­cratic move­ment of the 1980s and early 1990s.

The spirit was com­ple­mented by the hum­ble de­mand that or­gan­i­sa­tions op­pos­ing the evils of apartheid be un­banned in or­der to voice the de­mands for the democ­racy that we now en­joy.

We wrote po­ems and short sto­ries that voiced our op­po­si­tion to PW Botha and other Na­tional Party lead­ers, who in­sisted on white supremacy. We hollered our dis­sat­is­fac­tion and many times landed in jail for voic­ing our dis­sat­is­fac­tion with racial sep­a­ra­tion in po­ems and short sto­ries and es­says.

Need­less to say Pik Botha and those guys didn’t like us.

Whenever there was a mass meet­ing, we went there with our po­ems to voice our dis­like of racial su­pe­ri­or­ity. And it was not with­out the dan­ger of real bul­lets, rub­ber bul­lets, sjam­boks, tear­gas, as­sault and de­ten­tion.

But we car­ried on voic­ing our op­po­si­tion to the un­fair su­pe­ri­or­i­ties of race. The apartheid gov­ern­ment did not ig­nore us, they de­tained us with­out trial and tor­tured many of us in de­ten­tion.

And all the time the writ­ers and po­ets dec­o­rated our mass meet­ings with the voices of the scribe.

We were called “ter­ror­ists” and other deroga­tory names, but we did not give up our love for hu­man dig­nity and hon­our. Many writ­ers went into ex­ile to con­tinue voic­ing their dis­like of racism and sex­ism.

Be­tween you and me, many of us were de­hu­man­ised dur­ing this hor­ren­dous time.

Some of us in this demo­cratic process still can­not see the light and beauty of free­dom, as ex­pe­ri­enced by the new South Africa. This is why I am ask­ing that we search our hu­mil­ity in the depths of our hu­man­ity.

See, the demise of apartheid has in an ab­surd fash­ion also re­laxed our vig­i­lance against hu­man rights abuse. I am re­quest­ing that we re­main awake. It is not the cru­el­ties of the new state that I am awak­en­ing our minds to, but the lazy docil­ity of a com­pla­cent mind.

We need to awaken our so­ci­ety to the many sad dan­gers of com­plic­ity. We must cul­ti­vate a so­ci­ety vig­i­lant to the sleep syn­drome of an ar­ti­fi­cial par­adise.

There is a need that we con­sci­en­tise our broth­ers and sis­ters about the beau­ties and plea­sures of a new democ­racy.The state it­self can only do so much.

It is civil so­ci­ety that must be awo­ken to this com­plex­ity. It can be done with the sen­si­tive thought and con­scious­ness of a vig­i­lant peo­ple. It is also im­por­tant that we ar­tic­u­late to our­selves that this is not for them, but for us the peo­ple who have ob­served the charms of this thing called life.

It is true that this mo­ment might have gone to the mind and urged us to com­pla­cency. Be care­ful; com­pla­cency is not the ul­ti­mate in the tremors of re­cent birth. There is in my mind a dras­tic need for us to be ca­ressed with soot-mas­sag­ing hands of a coun­try’s reawak­en­ing.

This I carry as a wish for the en­tire coun­try. There is in me a gen­eral sus­pi­cion that an over cel­e­bra­tion of this democ­racy might make us take a deep slum­ber in the deep couches of false con­scious­ness.

Please wake up to the beau­ties and el­e­gances of the cul­ti­vated depths of mind.

On an aside, let me also call on the artis­tic side of pa­tri­o­tism to waken to the des­per­ate charms of vig­i­lance. We are aware that the many pos­si­bil­i­ties of­fered by the neb­u­lous charms of sen­si­tive liv­ing have a nas­ti­ness hid­den be­neath the glam­orous cloth that cov­ers it.

It is pretty well known that the many depths of life are in­ves­ti­gated by the depths of artis­tic ex­pres­sion. I am there­fore mak­ing a call that artist so-and-so help this na­tion to walk in the del­i­cate di­rec­tion of com­ple­men­ta­tion.

The arts make more sense in a beau­ti­ful sen­si­tive place like South Africa. It is also pretty nec­es­sary that we con­vey to each other the soft mes­sages of rivers, moun­tains and seas that praise the hu­man­i­ties dis­played by this amaz­ing space.

I wish that the pre­cious im­ages that the writ­ers of the 1970s and 1980s painted in our scripts be re­alised.

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