stitching together a new South African fabric….

I MADE OVER SIXTY-THREE TRIPS to South Africa between 1981 and 1999, launching the South African initiative first called “Strategic Evolution.” During that period, my basic role was to reshape the definitions the various sectors of society were using to stereotype each other, replacing the usual racial/ethnic categories with an understanding of these value system or memetic differences, all of which were alive in that global microcosm. The complexity of the South African situation had been simplified down to what is morally right or wrong along race lines, and that was a grave mistake. Much sympathy was lavished on the black “struggle,” *and right- fully so. But getting rid of what they didn’t want—apartheid—was not the same thing as getting what they did want—a just and prosperous society. In the final analysis, a black, one- party-state doctrinaire nationalism (as in Zimbabwe today) would be no better than an Afrikaner version of the same.

So, rather than attack the Afrikanervölk and their rather rigid, exclusive belief system around race, I simply challenged them to develop technology and agriculture in Africa—as their highest calling. As Franklin Sonn, the South African ambassador to the United States, said, my work “helped educate white people that there was a life, and even a life abundant, beyond apartheid.” To get this message out, I appeared on television, on radio, at academic institutions, and in open sessions all over the country. A series of six articles of mine, which appeared in all the South African newspapers in April of l989, was influential in convincing Afrikaner political leaders in Pretoria to release Nelson Mandela and start the peace process. But I paid a heavy price and was severely criticized for my work in South Africa. Clare Graves had warned me to plan for a personal attack from the GREEN egalitarian system for even being in South Africa in the first place, “selling out to the white, racist, apartheid regime.” I was advocating a different solution than what GREEN demanded, which was the instant redistri- bution of power because, according to GREEN, the only reason for the gap in development between European and African was blatant racism. The unhealthy expression of GREEN egalitarianism is to “deconstruct” the BLUE and ORANGE social, economic, and political architecture since that alone is supposedly the cause of human suffering. But those in the “struggle indus- try” had little idea of the scorched earth they were to inherit if their tactics for disinvestment, sanctions, and Western isolation were to succeed. In fact, sanctions cut both ways. Jobs were lost, never to return. The medical establishment was severely crippled. Much of the essential infrastructure disintegrated. Many good people with high skill levels have left the coun- try and, alas, the AIDS pandemic is sweeping the veldt. I think there was a much better way to transform that whole society in a healthy fashion, and many who backed sanctions in South Africa have told me they now realize what deep and permanent damage was done to the country.

I believe that if they started over again, South Africans would do a number of things differently. And yet, the fact that the society emerged without a civil war is simply remarkable. But to me, apartheid was not the problem; it was a symptom of the inability to figure out the meshing of European and African modes of thought, to stitch together a new South African fabric. I went to South Africa because I believed that something entirely different, yet just and democratic, was waiting to be discovered, managed by new, more complex levels of thinking that would appear, driven by the Life Conditions they all faced together. If the social mosaics could successfully work together for the common good, I believed that South Africans could point the way for the true integration of the entire planet. I felt that if I could discover the nature of the deep conflict, perhaps I could work behind the scenes in empowering them to bridge their own great divides. There were many, many South African heroes who were involved; I was simply a pathfinder, a map-maker, and a cheerleader. The Zulus named me “Amizimuthi,” which means “One with Strong Medicine.”

– Dr. Don Beck

One thought on “stitching together a new South African fabric….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s