Talks about Talks

Recently I attended a talk about building the “Rainbow Nation” by the TUTU Foundation on behalf of Feint and Margin. With speakers such as Dr. Mamphele Rampele, Prof. Antjie Krog and Adv. Dumisa Nstebeza, I had high expectations. Rightfully so, the speakers spoke about the ideas, possibilities and failures of the concept of a Rainbow Nation. I was amazed. Within that same week I went to three other talks organised by the UCT Humanities department. This was the launch of their HUMA Institute. This is a research centre for the humanities in Africa. Once again, the talks ranged from what academia should do to better the human condition to poetry. The common thread that ran through the TUTU Foundation talk and the HUMA institute talks was the issue of high income inequality and how to address this. As we all know, the cause of such high inequality is embedded in a legacy of Colonialism and Policies of the Apartheid government. Talk about solving the inequality issue seem to only lead to more talks, academic papers and more  research institutes. As generations of oppressed people go by, the younger group seems to be more radical than the  previous generation. The demand for action becomes more radical and urgent. Take for example progressive South African generations. The generation of the 19th century, (like the KhoiSan and Zulu) fought a handful of battles against the colonisers and finally ended up giving up their land. The following generation (the likes of  Chief Albert Luthuli) became peaceful activists for the emancipation of oppressed black South Africans. The Madiba generation started an active campaign of guerrilla warfare. The Zuma group not only wanted to be free or govern their people, but also to claim back the land via the willing buyer, willing seller principle. Who can forget the 1976 youth? Then you get the Julius Malema-led ANC Youth League who want to nationalise the mines forceably. Now we’ve had a group of high school students demanding 25% before even writing exams because of weeks of inconvenience due to a teacher’s strike. Between Chief Luthuli’s generation and modern day COSAS, we’ve had talks about talks and maybe a policy change or two. This holds true in America as well. America went from passive slavery, to Martin Luther King Junior led marches to the Crips and Blood gangs, who have to date caused the death of over 15 000 Americans in the LA region. Anti-Tutsi sentiment in Rwanda eventually led to genocidal violence, while the whole world was holding talks about talks. As generations progressed this worsened and from Tutsi-rebels killing 20 000 Tutsis in 1963, we had government assisted genocide that killed 800 000 Tutsis in 1994. All of this reminds me of an urban tale that tells of how the rich and poor were separated by a street. On the one side were the employed, the business owners and educated. On the other were the impoverished, dirty, uneducated and social lepers. The poor would dig into the bins on the other side of the road. This was their living. After a while this was not sustainable as the rich developed better waste systems because they didn’t like the prospect of the poor digging into their waste bags. The poor then crossed the streets more frequently to beg and borrow. Later they stole and a few terrorised the rich. The poor then awoke to their numerical advantage and in a single surge simply took over the other side of the street. During this whole time the rich were discussing the events of the inhabitants of the other side of the street. They would meet around the dinner table and talk and talk and later talk some more.

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