President should try ‘King Lear’
PRESIDENT Zuma’s Youth Day statement took a surprising angle, focusing not on the state of the nation or the promises of youth, but on his own education.
Rejecting the claims of formal education, he stated: “I decided to educate myself.”
Many famous figures in history are “autodidacts”, but the president is not one of them.
He proceeded to quote, somewhat inconsistently, the great symbol of colonialist culture, Shakespeare, particularly from Julius Caesar and from Macbeth, on the infamous Scottish tyrant.
The crowd scenes in the Roman play have potential for direct relevance, since the mob is angry, volatile and easily stirred up by Mark Antony’s powerful rhetoric. The parallel with our own Julius is stark. The second quotation was equally relevant, Macbeth, being a penetrating study of a hero’s descent into delusion and meaninglessness, culminating in the famous “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech.
The president or his presumed advisers might have used words more relevant to the current social situation, such as King Lear’s magnificent expression of empathy for the destitute: “Poor naked wretches that bide the pelting (beating) of this pitiless storm”. This is followed by Lear’s own sense of responsibility and guilt: “Oh I have taken too little care of this!”