Bearing witness to South African’s supposed liberal party’s members debate on ubuntu has been a bit like watching the ugly sisters trying on the glass slipper. It doesn’t fit yet they keep trying and blame the shoe for being the wrong size.
“Ubuntu is ill defined and Africanness is not in the dictionary, so we can’t say whether they’re compatible with liberalism,” one group says. “And anyway there’s no such thing as ubuntu because it’s a vague politically correct abstraction and even if there were, as far as liberalism is concerned, there is no such thing as ubuntu because it is collectivist.”
The other group fires back. “Ubuntu is ill defined but there’s enough to say it is a liberal value because it’s about human solidarity, just like liberalism. It is not inherently collectivist because subscribers to the notion self-identify as such. And ubuntu can be expressed outwards, from the individual as part of a community and not imposed on an individual by a community. And anyway liberalism is not static.” Continue reading
My essay on how black anger, white obliviousness and the expedience of politics have foregrounded race in public dialogue in South Africa has just been published on Mampoer Shorts. It’s a 10,000-word “short”, so snazzy book-like cover aside, you should be able to read it in under two hours. It builds on an opinion piece I wrote earlier this year for the Daily Maverick at the height of debacle over Brett Murray’s ‘The Spear’. Read it, give me your thoughts, and if I haven’t died of shame from the self-promotion I’ll be engaging in during the coming weeks, consider me immortal. Also, in that instance, let me know if you’d like to be involved in a follow-on project I’ll be doing along the same theme next year. But for now, here’s an excerpt. The full essay is available on Mampoer for $2.99. Continue reading