Jack in a shack a colo­nial throw­back

CityPress - - Voices - BINWE ADE­BAYO binwe.ade­bayo@city­press.co.za

30 Nights In a Shack by Jack Bloom Stag­ing Post 172 pages (80 pho­to­graphs) R185

Jack Bloom’s ode to good deeds may as well have been called 40 Days in the Desert. Be­fore I even opened the book, I was struck by the im­age of Bloom on the cover – arms out­stretched, a white man in the mid­dle of a crowd of hope­less-look­ing shack dwellers, or “for­got­ten peo­ple”, as Bloom so of­ten calls them in the book.

De­spite his per­haps sin­cere but lack­lus­tre ef­fort to ad­mit all of this may be seen as poverty tourism and a dec­la­ra­tion of his own priv­i­lege, his dis­claimers did lit­tle to im­prove my sense of dis­taste.

Trig­ger phrases such as “these peo­ple” and “they” squashed any ben­e­fit of the doubt I tried to muster for Bloom. And, while the ti­tle of the book might sug­gest the DA politi­cian spent 30 con­sec­u­tive nights in a shack, this was not the case.

He spent one night lis­ten­ing, try­ing to help, and sleep­ing next to “those” poor peo­ple, but lived at home for the rest of the time. He then re­peated this act ran­domly in dif­fer­ent town­ships through­out Gaut­eng on an ad-hoc ba­sis.

I could not fig­ure out the pur­pose of the book. Be­yond the ob­vi­ous self­con­grat­u­la­tion and a long list of the ANC gov­ern­ment’s ser­vice-de­liv­ery fail­ures, there was no sense of what these ex­pe­ri­ences re­ally meant for Bloom.

Did he come away hav­ing a greater sense of his priv­i­lege?

Did he con­clude that party-based pol­i­tics is the only way to change the sta­tus quo?

If there was at least one chap­ter ded­i­cated to Bloom eval­u­at­ing the vi­sion of his jour­ney, it would have helped to bal­ance the sense that his shack work ex­isted in a bub­ble.

In­deed, why did these ob­ser­va­tions war­rant a book at all?

Surely if the pur­pose of the jour­ney was to see where Bloom could help, why was it nec­es­sary to chron­i­cle each in­di­vid­ual ex­pe­ri­ence? Who is the book for? It’s highly un­likely it will be read by the fam­i­lies he stayed with.

While I think there is def­i­nitely a space for white ac­tivism in try­ing to ad­dress so­cial ills, I can’t hon­estly say I’m in­vested in the type of ac­tivism Bloom be­lieves he is prac­tis­ing.

Even with­out the words ‘na­tive’, ‘prim­i­tive’ or any other Con­ra­dian phrase, this book is rem­i­nis­cent of colo­nial and post-colo­nial an­thro­po­log­i­cal texts, which ear­mark the poor-black ex­pe­ri­ence as some­thing to be stud­ied, an­a­lysed and fixed by a white per­son in power.

And that makes most of what may well be a sin­cere ef­fort a lit­tle hard to read – and im­mensely dif­fi­cult to be­lieve in whole­heart­edly.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.