Thursday, September 06, 2012

Morbidity Crystallised

Before you ask, no, I have never read Gordimer. So the reason for my excitement at the prospect of hearing her in conversation had more to do with the accolades that have been heaped on her tiny person, than on any real passion for her words. But, like the good Muslim I am, I told myself, every deed is judged according to the intention made for it, and, as such, my intention to seek out her writings, immerse myself in them post Literary Festival had to count for something.

Besides, this being my first time at a literary festival of any kind, I was feeling quite urbane. Almost grown-up as I settled into my seat for the second time (oh em gee!) that week.  Gordimer was already on stage as was Wally Serote and Professor Craig MacKenzie who would be ‘hosting’ (though he really ended up merely observing) the ‘chat’.

I was tired; it had been a long day and an even longer week. But by the time the question was asked: Would those who had fought (sometimes at the cost of their lives) for our ‘freedom’, have still been so willing to give up everything had they known then what we know now? Had they lived to see the dream soured by the greed of a few at the expense of the many? – all traces of ennui that I may have begun to feel, vanished.

So, would they?

Gordimer and Serote both asked this question - Gordimer being more forthcoming in her mention of corruption than Serote, who merely fingered the issue rather delicately. Gordimer (like millions of us in South Africa) wanted an answer. What was to be done to stem the tide? To stop the flow of money from government coffers into offshore accounts; into the banking accounts of Mercedes Benz dealers; into the pockets of unscrupulous tenderpreneurs.

When Serote responded to her insistent questioning by suggesting Gordimer join him in a march, I wanted to weep. In that moment, I realised, that even the intellectuals have no answers.

So while Gordimer made an effort to end the session on a hopeful note by reminding us that it was the will of the people, their tenacity and strength of spirit, that slew the apartheid monster, and that this spirit could once more stop all that is ugly, all that putrefies society, I remained unconvinced. I remained on the brink of despair, where if truth be told, most of us teeter. The corruption, the greed, its cost to human lives, all feels bigger than I am.

It was only after our robbery that I realised the depth of the wound that crime has carved into society. At every turn friends shared their own hijacking/crime/robbery stories. While the details in each story differed, the wounds that still bleed, looked the same. The sense of helplessness, of being defeated, that remained the same. The sense of being made a victim. No one wants to be a victim.

Ours is a landscape of loss. If it is not our parents/ children/ friends/ neighbours that we are burying, then it is our fragile hope. When crimes go unsolved; when dockets disappear; when cops take bribes by the roadside; when Presidents spend millions on sprucing up rural homesteads even as their city neighbours live amid squalor, in shacks; when children are raped and the rapists go unpunished; when thieves are put in charge of state coffers; with each of these, does a bit more of that fragile hope crumble, a bit more of it join the hundreds who died to bring this freedom and now ‘rest’ in unmarked graves. Forgotten.

Just as those who perpetuated apartheid, yet never really apologised wholeheartedly for their role (even if that role be mere apathy) continue to fuel the fire of disgruntlement by this (in)action, so too does government’s refusal to own their screw ups, refusal to apologise for them, feed the sense of hopelessness.

Who will apologise for the scars that remain after being made a ‘victim’?  For how long will the crumbling hope remain married to a love of The Land, and keep us here?

Where will we find the strength to rise against the moral decay, the stench of which fills our nostrils? We need champions. Will you be a champion?


Kaloo5 said...

Hear Hear!
Ps: Thanks for informing me about the event. I would so loved to have been there ;)

Yes,I'm muslim. Deal with it. said...

"Who will apologise for the scars that remain after being made a victim". I like that. Mash'Allah.