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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


HOFMEYR, A. B. (Benda). "Mother, can't you see I'm burning?" A few remarks on what we are today. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.1, pp.114-125. ISSN 2224-7912.

The current national crisis in Higher Education in South Africa, set against the backdrop of a corrupt national government incapable of providing any leadership in this regard, compels philosophers to undertake an incisive analysis of our present, a task that has always been a crucial and inherent part of philosophical discourse. The formidable nature of such diagnostics of the present forces one to try to make sense of the senseless violence, the irrational politics, and the disintegration of society that typify our time. In an attempt to devise sense, the article starts out with a thought experiment of sorts, in which our country, South Africa finds herself on the proverbial psychoanalyst's coach in discussion with the author-therapist. In the course of the therapy session, Freud's well-known dream scenario comes up about the dead child whose shroud caughtfire and the dream that the parent had following the tragic incident. In this essay, the dream with its burn-motif is linked to the prevailing conditions in South Africa, which newspaper headings describe as a country burning with rage. In an attempt to make sense of the present, the Freudian dream isfirst and foremost closely analysed from a Lacanian perspective. In contrast to Freud's contention that all dreams are wish fulfilments, Lacan argues that it is not the dream that offers an escape from the reality of the child's passing. In actual fact, the child's terrible accusation in the dream that the parent had failed him/her while still alive was experienced as far worse than the actual death of the child. It is the same accusation seen in the eyes of our children having fallen by the wayside, going hungry, burning to death in their shacks, left behind and to their own devices. The essay continues by investigating why the fury of the youth is so fervent at this particular historical juncture. This line of investigation puts the author on Mbembe's track, specifically his contention that the fundamental question regarding the restoration of social bonds that had been destroyed by human trafficking (slave trade) and endless wars has been neglected by the postcolonial discourse on the identity of the African subject. Instead the African subject has primarily been conceived as passive victim of forces beyond his/her control. This has divided African societies against themselves and it opened the way for Africans to participate in the victimization of their own people. Throughout the blame had been laid before the door of the external Other while failing to acknowledge the repressed trauma of the original fratricide, which played an important part in the slave trade. It is argued that the repressed trauma is the reason why the present trauma of the born-free generation has led to so much fervent protest and violence. What is being repressed is the fact that the African subject has not only been violated by European imperialism, but also by his/her own people in the form of African slave traders and more recently a self-elected government in blind pursuit of self-enrichment rather than the empowerment of its citizens. If the born-free generation is indeed subject to an original trauma to which all subsequent traumas owe their impact or amplified potency, and which results in irrational, emotionally driven reactions, how can we possibly hope for an outcome that is not predetermined by the same regressive spiral of us and them, of violator and victim? The author turns to Lacan in the hope of finding an answer to this question. Lacan is adamant that a minimum yet recalcitrant measure of choice remains at our disposal, which is capable of breaking the chain of historical predestination. In the end it is found that this supposed freedom of choice is anything but a straightforward or simple solution to the dilemma.

Palavras-chave : Diagnostics of the present; analysis of our time; Freud; Lacan; Mbembe; student protests; crisis in Higher Education; repression; trauma; politics of trauma; interpretation of dreams; victim; victimhood; Transatlantic slave trade; slavery; imperialism; colonialism; apartheid; violence; #FeesMustFall; born-free generation.

        · resumo em Africaner     · texto em Africaner     · Africaner ( pdf )


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