QA 14. (May 09) The first priority

What should be the single priority for the new South African government? In his Sunday Times column (3 May 2009), Mac Maharaj invited readers to answer this question, following Peter Bruce’s observation that a government that tries to fix everything achieves nothing. “Let us… find some common purpose, which is the first step to success.”

But because any choice refers to a prior and more fundamental commitment – to the criteria by which we choose – it seems to me that clarity of purpose is at least as necessary as common purpose. What we believe the government’s priority should be depends on how we understand its purpose, and this in turn will shape the way it functions and is evaluated.

So here’s my response: Read more

QA 13. (April 09) Tug of war, tug of words

Michael the teacher was talking about what he says to new classes to disarm them. To disarm them? An ambiguous phrase. Did he mean to charm the children or to take away their weapons? Which reminded me of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas’s view that discourse (conversation, dialogue) is the way we can engage with each other without violence. Which started me thinking about how we use language to arm and disarm ourselves and each other.

Read more