Dashiki Dialogues: The violence our violence begot

2013-02-03 10:02

At even the most stable of times South Africans are volatile and quarrelsome. You have to wonder how rowdy we’ll be in times of genuine wholesale conflict. Ours is a world where the simple act of demonstration takes on the ­macabre.

The spectacular killings at Marikana, the burning streets of Sasolburg and, in our relatively recent history, the Boipatong and Shell House massacres, are not aberrations in an ­otherwise flowery world.

In fact, the latter two can be seen as violent birth pains that shaped our Mandela moment, the miracle of 1994. I may hazard saying ours is a violent condition that violence begot.

So when I recently sat with colleagues over beverage and banter around the fires in Zamdela, Sasolburg, I felt a slight jadedness take hold of me.

The comments being made were all too familiar and ­boring. Everyone seemed all too ­eager to denounce the violence brewing there as unnecessary and pointless. So I chose to point out the elephant in the room.

I felt there was nothing out of the norm in what was happening there and it didn’t start in De Doorns, where journalists were being attacked too.

Violence is so much a part of us that I find our middle-class appetite for outrage, for pretending to be appalled at these explosions that often flare up in our streets, a tad hypocritical.

To enjoy the post-1994 reality of our world is to be immersed in violence as its co-architects, even if all we do is simply sip cappuccinos in leafy Rosebank. Of course I was scoffed at for making such a ­suggestion.

However, as Marshall McLuhan, the late Canadian media critic ­famously wrote: “I don’t know who discovered water, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a fish.” Hence it’s unwise to expect those who live in violence to identify their world as such.

So I relied on Slovenian scholar, Slavoj Žižek to make my fish friends discover the water they live in. Žižek points us to the “systematic violence that is inherent in the social condition of global capitalism”, which involves the “automatic” creation of excluded and dispensable individuals, from the homeless to the­

unemployed. In other words, it’s about how the glamour of Sandton City systematically creates the squalor of Alexandra and the sort of people that chasm creates.

We must confront the apparently innocent participation in what Žižek calls the solipsistic speculative dance of capital that pursues its goal of profitability in blessed indifference to how its movement will affect social reality.

Therein lies the seeds of our most spectacular violence. Our mundane dialogue with the world weaves our dashikis, violently lovely.

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