Wits witterers better turn to their Marx
IN ANCIENT days like the late 1990s, it was a bit shocking to realise that transformation was merely apartheid’s second innings.
I say “a bit” shocking because my small acquaintance with the Church of Marx has left me with a smattering of dialectic. Which says that when you stop making a large long mistake you’ll make the opposite mistake, for a while.
We now know that apartheid was a mistake all along, since long before that word came up. We also now know it was always a mistake to think the earth is flat, or that eclipses are the gods’ anger, or that Earth is the hub of the universe.
But all those mistakes, and thousands more, were in their day everyone’s mistakes. Everyone believed they were true. In 1652 not a soul on the planet believed in non-racial democracy. Not in 1806 either. Damn doubtful you’d find anyone in 1910.
By the middle of the century only two groups had any idea of a fully raceless South Africa, drawing no difference between people by race.
One group was some of the Communists. South Africa had few Communists, though with powerful friends in far places. For many, the notion of a society that absolutely did not recognise race was bigger in their theory than it was in their souls.
The other group was the Liberals – fewer, and lonelier, they could hold their AGM in a Morris Minor. Liberals were lax on theory but, boy, racelessness was in their souls!
You might say that public thinking “ought” or “should” have then begun waking up to shared humanity. But “oughts” and “shoulds” are easy, with hindsight. I’d love to eavesdrop on what our grandchildren in 2067 say about what we “ought” and “should” be doing now.
The racelessness idea was the Liberal Party’s fount. They drank deeply of it, and were considered brain-damaged even by the nearest thing they had to an ally, the Progressive Party.
Others battled mightily to work out their stance on race. The PAC – Pan African Congress – officially believed in one race, the human race, but to many members this was baffling. They’d joined to be more African than the ANC, which was hobnobbing with whites. The ANC spoke “non-racialism” but practised “multi-racialism” by apartheiding their non-African allies into separate ethnic bands.
The Nat government was skunk of the world for trying to make eight ethnic states. How odd that Russia would later get a free pass to create 21 ethnic states (and 62 ethnic patches).
But with all its confusion, irony, tragedy, weirdity, politics bumbled its wobbly way in the general direction of recognising the person for the person and ignoring that great impostor, Race.
Something I bet our grandchildren (or theirs) will take as self-evident, is that transcending race has always been the target. Everything that propped race up was backward.
So they’ll have hysterics examining the case of Wits University in 2017.
Who should be clambering out of our mistakes faster than Profs and Doctors? But by numerous accounts, the place is a hell hole of race recrimination. Everyone growls at everyone else and is sure everyone else dislikes them for their colour.
Real blacks shaft half blacks shaft foreign blacks, and vice versa, agreeing only that if a pale face holds a juicy professorship, transformation has failed. The whites sulk in corners denouncing ethnic cliques and turning puce and purple if cheeky voices say they’re an ethnic clique of their own.
I hope Karl got that Dialectic right. After the second mistake you ascend to common sense. Ignore race and deal with people.
Now would be a fine time.