Monday, May 17, 2010

Lessons from South Africa This Coming World Cup Season

I watched the final part of Sir Richard Attenborough's "Cry for Freedom" yesterday - going through the slow-moving list of 'no trial' detainees (akin to ISA in this BolehLand). That alone made me cry - crying for such precious lives wasted, saddened over ridiculous reasons given by the authorities as their cause of death, mourning for seeing the very same inhumane Act is very much at work in this Ibu Pertiwi.

This movie features Denzel Washington, as Steve Biko - the founder of South African Black Conciousness Movement, and Kevin Kline, as Donald Woods - the liberal white editor of Daily Dispatch newspaper. It is based on Woods' "Asking for Trouble" book detaling his friendship with Biko, which blossomed after Woods was challenged by Dr Mamphela Ramphele, who berated Woods' misleading stories about the movement, to meet Biko.

I found an enlightening article here on Biko and his beliefs ring true to the article I posted earlier and also to our current Apartheid situation, if you continue to read the following extracts. Here's some lessons from him - one of glorious sons of South Africa - a republic that will host 2010 FIFA World Cup next month.

  • Steve Biko wanted more than anything, an end to the apartheid regime in South Africa but he was against a hastily arranged political compromise which was styled as integration. He maintained that only "once the various groups within a given community have asserted themselves to the point that mutual respect has to be shown then you have the ingredients for a true and meaningful integration".

  • The main problem, Biko felt, was that "as long as blacks are suffering from inferiority complex – a result of 300 years of deliberate oppression, denigration and derision’ this could not be done".

  • "The blacks are experiencing a situation from which they are unable to escape at any given moment. Theirs is a struggle to get out of the situation and not merely to solve a peripheral problem".

  • He maintained that what apartheid had produced was ‘a kind of black man that is man only in form’ – a process of dehumanisation had taken place. "The black man has become a shell, a shadow of man, completely defeated, drowning in his own misery, a slave, an ox bearing the yoke of oppression with sheepish timidity".

  • "Part of the approach envisaged in bringing about “black consciousness” has to be directed to the past, to seek to rewrite the history of the black man and to produce in it the heroes who form the core of the African background". Biko claimed that African history had been distorted by white historians to ensure that African children learned to hate their heritage which had been disfigured so that African culture became to be seen as akin to barbarism and reduced to tribal battles and internecine wars. He made the point that "a people without a positive history is like a vehicle without an engine".

  • At a student conference held in 1971, Biko made the point that "the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed".

  • The movement sought "to infuse the black community with a new-found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value systems, their culture, their religion and their outlook to life … Liberation, therefore, is of paramount importance in the concept of Black consciousness, for we cannot be conscious of ourselves and yet remain in bondage".

p.s. His name brought me back to my college days, where our Students Union Building is named after him.

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