QA 56. Four touchstones for thinking about peace

For Nelson Mandela’s birthday, and because I’m reading Thula Simpson’s Umkhonto We Sizwe: The ANC’s Armed Struggle, thinking about and respecting the lives of everyone who stood against apartheid, those whose names are known or unknown, remembered or forgotten. Thinking that the aim of the struggle was peace, and how we’re not there yet. Thinking…

QA 54. #What rises?

The student movement that flashed into life this year in South Africa, from #Rhodesmustfall at the University of Cape Town to the extraordinary #Feesmustfall protests last week in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Stellenbosch, Grahamstown and Pretoria, is a complex and dynamic phenomenon. Lots going on there. But there are two things I’ve been trying to think about. Two…

QA 29. The national question, or We we we all the way home?

(This is the original of an opinion piece published as “Identity does not depend on race” in the Cape Times on 11 October 2011) Who are we? is the question posed in a timely series presented by the Cape Times and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. Really, it’s incredible. If “I am because we…

QA 22 (Mar-Apr 10). Three book reviews (1)

Three recent reviews published in the Cape Times (Cape Town, South Africa) 1. Re-imagining the Social in South Africa: Critique, Theory and Post-apartheid Society (Jacklin and Vale, eds) 2. Nurtureshock: Why everything we think about raising our children is wrong (Bronson & Merryman) 3. Africa: The Politics of Suffering and Smiling (Chabal) Re-imagining the Social…

QA 21. (Feb 10) Crying shame (Thinking about race again)

Samantha Vice, a philosopher at Rhodes University, has been thinking about the moral condition of white South Africans. Is it possible to live a virtuous life here, given the continuing privilege that comes with whiteness? Believing that this will be “very difficult”, she argues that shame is “the morally appropriate emotion to feel”. She concludes,…

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.”…

QA 8. (Oct 08) Practising philosophy in trying times

It’s become terribly unfashionable to be “judgemental”, but the fact of the matter is that life calls for judgement, all the time. So we should learn to do it well. For me, this is the purpose of philosophical practice: to study and understand what’s going on in the world and in oneself, in order to…

QA 5. (June 08) A Canuck in Cape Town

A friend in Vancouver asks me to “say in three lines why you would rather live there than here, not counting weather”. There are several ways I could answer, but my first quick response was: The people. Something about light. Something about deep. Something about real. Which means something like this…