Open letter to Professor Martha Nussbaum

Dear Professor Nussbaum,

This morning I downloaded a lecture that you gave at the British Academy in which you refer to the discredited model of development pursued by South Africa in the twentieth century, implying that this country only invested in technical and engineering skills. On the contrary, at that time far more funds were spent on the arts, culture, classical music, theatre, opera and so on than today. Even African languages were promoted whereas today only English prevails.

But I suppose democracy in itself or head counts at the polling booth is a higher value than civilisation itself, as you seem to imply that we should study the humanities in order to advance democracy.

A few years ago I wrote a novel in my language, Afrikaans, which is set in the Paris metro. One of the themes is South Africa as a stereotype. When you refer in your lecture to “the brutal apartheid regime” that built so many schools and hospitals and made this country into the biggest economy on the African continent, you are of course merely repeating that stereotype, Manichean or binary in distinguishing so easily between right and wrong.

It may be that apartheid was brutal, even though 900 people were killed in direct state action in forty years, paling into insignificance besides the many catastrophes of the African continent: Rwanda, the four million killed in the Congo, mass rapes of women, organised famine in Mengistu’s Ethiopia, and so on. During the Angolan war against the Marxist movement known as the MPLA, assisted by Cuba, Russia and East Germany, just over 1 000 of our young conscripts died in 20 years of fighting. Today, under so-called democracy, that many people are murdered every week or two, including innocent children and toddlers such as the recent case of the little girl Willemien Potgieter. The two-year old Willemien was picked up by her hair by a young black man and shot in the head, her corpse carried afterwards to her mother who was also executed while praying to God on her knees. So our former war was far less “brutal” than our present and horrible peace.

Our newspapers are full of these massacres and atrocities that are a daily occurrence, yet we are considered a free and “democratic” country, no longer “brutal”. The real brutality and fear that we experience, cowering behind the walls of our gated communities, are seen to be harmless side-effects of social change and multiculturalism.

Or do you perhaps have an opinion on the brutality of our current South African democracy too? And what would it be?

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Dan Roodt
Author

5 thoughts on “Open letter to Professor Martha Nussbaum

  1. Suzette van Zyl

    Dan, I admire your ability to get a point across… She might actually be surprised that some or us are literate!

    I wish these “experts” on South Africa would come and see for themselves the conditions we have to endure every day. If she survives, the Bronx will be like paradise to her!

    The flies rule this jungle, and the lion must endure it….Just because the flies are the majority…

  2. Pieter Du Toit

    What a stunning letter and sooo true!! I would however kindly request of these so-called ‘experts’ that when they DO finally decide to visit our beloved and ‘peaceful’ democracy, that they book themselves accommodation directly inside the squatter camps and not in the 5-star Hotels; please do come and visit us here in South-Africa and come experience the ‘love’ by walking around the masses of your beloved black brothers, visit the local ‘shebeens’, drive the local taxi’s and enter the many squatter camps. Then when your done, please do write another ‘expert’ report based on the ‘love’ you experienced over here hahaha!

  3. Gerhard Swartz

    Hi Professor.
    You should consider visiting or even emigrating to one of the youngest “democrasies” in the world. After the brutality of the apartheid regime you can come and experience safe, clean and even clinical democracy.
    In the centre of Johannesburg you can live very cheaply and befriend those running the country. You don’t need to learn to speak Nigerian, they will ‘guide” you in English.
    With the value of pound sterling you could get your passport immediately.
    Looking forward to meet you.

    Gerhard Swartz
    P.S.: Remember to bring your chronic prescription for anti-retrovirals.

  4. Danie Erasmus

    Thank you Dan for giving her a few facts of the riality of life in the New South Africa.My New-years wish to her is that she is also raped, her children murdered and her husband chopped-up with a panga, starting at his feet.And to finish it all, a “Winnie Special”- a burning tyre around her neck
    (with 93 Octane pertol, 95 will not burn so long. I will personally fetch tthem at any Airport in NSA and drop them in the Township off their choice. O, And they can bring the “Survival Camera Team ” along to film it all and broadcast it to the world.

  5. Deon Oosthuizen

    Ek wil net weereens dankie se vir als wat jy doen vir die Afikaner nasie.
    Ek het af en toe Nuus berigte gelees op Praag ens. maar nooit rerig in dit in gegaan as jy weet wat ek bedoel,kyk ek se nie ek was nie pro-Afrikaans aktief nie dit sal ek altyd wees, maar dis eers rerig vandag dat ek n bietjie van jou artikels gaan lees het en op die internet gaan opsoek het dat ek rerig agter gekom het hoe baie jy al gedoen het. Ek kan nie myself indink hoe baie tyd dit moet vat om so baie artikels te lees ,publiseer ens. nie.
    As ek mag vra dat u asb in artikels soos hierbo partykeer publiseer wat hul gereageer het op u artikel/brief/reaksie.
    Dankie

    Deon Oosthuizen

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