Defining blacks by past misery is unfair

A DEAR friend invited me to dinner at The Troyeville Hotel in Johannesburg, where Jacob Dlamini was to interview Anton Harber on the latter's book, Diepsloot - one author interviewing another.

Dlamini wrote Native Nostalgia, a book the premise of which, that growing up in apartheid-designed townships was fun, I find so sickening I decided never to read it.

Imagine if a Jew were to write a book about how much fun he had had growing up in a Gestapo-designed ghetto during the Jewish holocaust years, and then seek to obtain a doctorate on the subject.

There would be an uproar. At its most dangerous, saying this sort of thing reduces the magnitude of the debt that humanity must pay for its transgressions.

When humanity does not pay its debts of abuse it is is most likely to repeat the abuse.

Of course human beings can have fun under stress. I guarantee you there are Jews with lovely stories from their dark days.

Even while enduring traumatic events humans will find reasons to laugh, other humans to love, dreams to pursue, no matter how impossible, and triumphs to celebrate.

To think that we are somehow unique because we did this under apartheid is farcical.

The only purpose it serves is to reduce white South Africa's guilt over its past transgressions.

It reduces white South Africa's desire to commit to helping alleviate poverty today. It reinforces the thinking among young blacks that apartheid was not so bad after all, so why don't we "move on already".

I gave Dlamini's interview of Harber 30 minutes, in which time I saw two guys licking each other's behinds while taking unsubtle jabs at our government without any depth of thought. It was boring.

I will not read Harber's Diepsloot either. He says he wrote the book because he believes that there isn't nearly enough reporting on the state of townships and squatter camps in this country.

Say, given that there is zero reporting on the state of "white" suburbs in this country, is Harber's next book going to be called "Sandton"? Don't people also want to know about South Africa's good life?

I hate the perpetuation of the idea that black Africans are nothing but a reservoir of miseries, pain and failure.

This might appear contradictory given my view on Dlamini's Native Nostalgia, but it isn't.

To say don't worry about our painful past, we had a good time, is in a way worse than saying pain and misery define us.

Native Nostalgia says we had fun under apartheid. By extension, how can we not be fine now that apartheid is gone?

Diepsloot fortifies that feeling of helplessness among blacks. It says look how desperate your situation is and how inept your government is.

By extension, why even bother to try and improve your lot? Yours is a lost cause.

Both books create barriers to black success. They weaken our struggle for black economic freedom. I cannot support that.

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