Wits wit­ter­ers bet­ter turn to their Marx

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.