Paternalism, ideology, and ideological critique: teaching Cry, the Beloved Country

Paternalism, ideology, and ideological critique: teaching Cry, the Beloved Nation

Numerous works of postcolonial literature participate in a review of dominant national ideologies and the hierarchies those ideologies sanction. When teaching such works, I usually begin by identifying and describing some ranges of ideological critique. In doing this, my aim is twofold: (1) To help trainees comprehend the author’s criticisms of dominant views, and (2) to help students believe seriously about positive claims stated by the author as alternatives to those dominant views. First of all, I differentiate “external” and “internal” forms of review. By “external,” I indicate forms that seek to decline the entire social structure in which a given ideology is located. Examples of this range from Ngugi’s Marxist analysis of Kenyan society to the multicultural synthesis advocated by Tagore to the romantic anti-capitalism of Yeats (“Sing the peasantry, and after that/ Hard-riding country gentlemen”) and the related, if more complex, African traditionalism of such works as Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel. By “internal review,” I imply types that seek to criticize one part of the dominant ideology by using another part of that very same ideology or which criticize actual social practices on the basis of their incoherence with common ideological claims. These can be uncomplicated representations of hypocrisy that take no stand on the ideological principles in question, as in much of Armah’s The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, or they can be more politically ambiguous treatments that both weaken and support, slam and celebrate the system they are representing. Functions of this last variety “deconstruct” one dominant position but build up their own views on the exact same basis, rigorously maintaining the troublesome, remaining within the limitations of “affordable” discourse in which the dominant ideology is located.

Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country is an exceptional example of this last, uncertain kind of review. As it is a book of South Africa, the ideological issues to which Paton addresses himself are centrally issues about race: the condition of blacks, the relations in between the white minority and the black bulk, etc. However it is within a mainly racist bothersome that Paton defines his review of South African racism. Thus, I preface class conversation of this work with a brief intro to racist ideology. Trainees, even college students, understand of race hatred and bias, hiring discrimination, and so on. But the majority of them– and I include here black American students, nonwhite trainees from postcolonial nations, and others who suffer the results of bigotry– have actually not considered the ways in which racist thinking is generally structured. Indeed, a number of them are just dimly conscious that racist beliefs require not include race hatred, just as numerous are just dimly conscious that sexist beliefs require not include misogyny.

Firstly, racist (and sexist) ideology is always based upon an affirmation of difference. Though much recent theory obscures this truth, the first function of ideology justifying oppression is to establish a firm distinction between the oppressor and the oppressed. Nazis did not rationalize the Holocaust by claiming that Aryans and Jews were the very same, nor did American slaveholders safeguard slavery by asserting that blacks and whites share a universal mankind. Fascists, slaveholders, colonialists, patriarchs all seek to justify their supremacy by reference to deep and abiding differences that radically separate individuals on the basis of skin color, sex, nationwide or class origin, and so on, which effectively dehumanize members of the oppressed group.

However, not all dehumanization is the very same. While there are many variations on this style, there are 3 especially common themes. Drawing on the work of Ashis Nandy and others, I explain that members of an oppressed group are most regularly portrayed as subhuman/animal, prehuman/juvenile, or posthuman/aged. Each of these types brings with it a cluster of residential or commercial properties specifying members of the oppressed group in terms of their sexuality and instinctual life, intellectual capabilities, morality, social developments, spoken abilities, stature, color, and various physical qualities. In addition, each is typically related to a range of images and metaphors which are suitable to the putative bestiality, juvenility, or senility of the oppressed group. As it is the juvenile category which is most relevant to Cry, the Beloved Nation, I will avoid the others and describe it quickly. (I am dealing with a book manuscript in which I go over all three types at some length.)

The juvenile stereotype is initially of all the assimilation of members of the oppressed group to children, with the correlate assimilation of the oppressing group to adults. It separates these groups by phase of development, knowledge, maturity– however not, just like the bestial stereotype, by species. There are 2 typical subtypes of the juvenile stereotype: the teen and the puerile. The puerile is nonsexual or presexual, rowdy possibly however neither instinct-driven nor moral, spirited rather than violent or reasonable, innocuously anarchic, chattering, small, cute. Members of a puerile group require fundamental education and the company, caring guidance of the dominant, “adult” group. This is a typical patriarchal characterization of ladies, and a standard characterization of colonial locals throughout times of peaceable relations. The teen, on the other hand, is sexually irresponsible, overpowered by impulse, ethically confused, violent, vulnerable to delinquency, rough and misleading in speech. This shares with the bestial stereotype a characterization of the oppressed group as sexual, violently criminal, and anarchic, but the degree is less in each case and the origin of these propensities is in upbringing, not biological nature; hence the suitable reaction to delinquency is a social equivalent of reform school and extreme, rather than affectionate, parenting.

Both of these stereotypes prevailed in the ideology of “the white guy’s problem,” and they remain typical today in liberal views of black South Africans and black Americans. It is very important to emphasize that a consistent practice based on such stereotypes can be part of a critique– a specifically liberal critique– of a dominant ideology which views members of the oppressed group as subhuman, instead of merely prehuman. Arguing that whites can and should educate and raise blacks opposes the concept that blacks are innately inferior, that the suitable treatment of blacks is punishment rather than (ideologically sound) education, and so on. Promoting gallantry towards “women” involves, when genuine, active opposition to rape, harassment, and physical abuse. However, at the exact same time, kid stereotypes remain solidly within the troublesome which specifies and validates oppression; they reaffirm the superiority of white people and white culture or men and male culture, the outright requirement of white or male dominance– a minimum of up until that indefinite point in the future when the childlike blacks and ladies have actually matured. Hence they provide an intriguing case of ideological critique focused on the dominant ideology, but however open up to additional ideological review focused on the underlying bothersome. They specify, simultaneously, a paternalistic ideology and a paternalistic review of ideology.

The majority of this theoretical material I deliver in lecture to the trainees, though I do generate examples and even some stereotype residential or commercial properties from them. Having provided these ideas, nevertheless, I motivate the students to analyze the deal with their own, with less direct assistance from me. As I can not effectively recreate the advancement of class conversation, I will merely show a few of the topics I raise for conversation and a few of the points which occur in that context.

The very first thing I ask trainees is extremely simple: who are the good characters in the novel? After discussion, we discover that they are of 2 sorts: (1) Blacks who have dedicated their lives to Christ, and (2) whites who assist blacks, prominently consisting of the director of a reformatory for black adolescents. We can see immediately how the latter group operates to critique one type of racist ideology, by holding up good-hearted whites as figures to be emulated. This follows Paton’s real criticism of the typical treatment of blacks as animals– of which students can generally provide lots of textual examples. However something else is currently suggested by the fact that the excellent black characters are essentially all devout Christians: the cultural supremacy of Europe over Africa.

What are some examples of this in the novel? It is simple enough for students to find cases. Father Msimangu discusses that he can not “hate a white guy” since “It was a white guy who brought my dad out of darkness” (25 ). Another character, informed that he has “a love for fact” describes that “It was the white man who taught me” (268 ). Certainly, the association of Africans with darkness and Europeans with light is common in the book. A particularly striking case is at the white-run school for the blind. Mentioning this school, Father Msimangu informs Father Kumalo, “It will raise your spirits to see what the white people are doing for our blind” (71 ). And later, Daddy Kumalo believes, “those who spoke English and those who spoke Afrikaans came together to open the eyes of black males that were blind” (89)– his words having both literal and metaphoric resonance. Even the native languages get their only authentic worth from Christianity, as when Dad Kumalo finds “the Zulu tongue … lifted and transfigured” through a translation of the Bible (90 ).

Thus whites have light, vision, fact, knowledge, and they can direct blacks– assist them, educate them. But what of black leaders? Who are the black leaders in the book? First off, there are the priests. In addition, there are examples of tribal management and nonreligious political leadership. Father Kumalo’s bro John is the primary instance of a black secular leader. He is corrupt and deceitful, and betrays his brother and nephew at the first chance. Additionally, if he were not corrupt, Father Msimangu discusses, he would be worse; he would not solve problems, but “plunge this country into bloodshed” (187 ). The tribal chief, on the other hand, is an ignorant fool, who attempts to take over the instructions of land advancement from whites, however rapidly reveals that he has no knowledge, no understanding, no capabilities (242 ). Therefore black leaders fall into four classifications: (1) those who are corrupt, (2) those who provoke senseless violence, (3) those who mishandle, (4) those who are devout Christians. Additionally, even members of this last group are able to lead just by accepting whites: by accepting European religion, by rejoicing in the help used by whites to blacks (“Kumalo’s face used the smile, the strange smile not known in other countries, of a black man when he sees among his people assisted in public by a white guy”|50-51 ~), by standing aside as the whites work out land advancement strategies (unlike the tribal chief), by motivating ordinary blacks to work together with the authorities (see 80-81 and 84– clearly the inverse of prompting bloody transformation), etc. Indeed, the narrator and the black characters are quite explicit in granting just whites sufficient intelligence for management. For instance, Kumalo is great and sympathetic, but painfully simple. And Daddy Msimangu mentions four leaders, one European, one of blended European and African descent, and two African: “Professor Hoernle … he was the fantastic fighter for us … he had Tomlinson’s brains, and your bro’s voice, and Dubula’s heart, all in one male” (47 ). Africans may have deep sensations, or deep voices, but just the Europeans and those with European blood (i.e. Tomlinson, see 39) have “brains.” (Though ultimately of the very same basic classification as Kumalo– a black male filled with Christian love, who can act for the great if led by whites– Dubula is a nonreligious activist and hence a partial exception to the preceding schema. He deserves going over in class, however I leave him aside here due to constraints of area.)

And what of common blacks in this book– what are they like? They are murderers, burglars, bootleggers, and woman of the streets. And the unique consistently informs us that these crimes– not the casual brutalization of black men and women, not the rejection of political and economic rights to the frustrating bulk of the population– are the huge issues in South Africa; they are, after all, the problems of Kumalo’s own family, and, more notably, they are crimes which impact whites. The narrator notifies us about one area where “the majority of the assaults reported were by natives against Europeans” (177 ). As Daddy Msimangu laments, today “children break the law, and old white people are robbed and beaten” (26, focus added), and as Daddy Kumalo reflects, on the edge of despair, “His kid had actually gone astray … But that he should kill a man, a white guy!” (87, emphasis added). And what is the cause of these issues? Once again, it is not political oppression and economic exploitation. Rather it is the absence of an appropriate familial structure in which a strong ethical tradition can be handed down– and particularly the failure of Europeans to provide such a system, their failure to accept parental duties.

The clearest declaration of this paternalism is in the fragment of a writing left by Arthur Jarvis, the missing hero of the unique, the fantastic fighter for blacks who was killed by black wrongdoers, a man directly associated with two other killed liberators, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ (143 ). Here, I ask my trainees to analyze the excerpt of Jarvis’ writing (144-46) in information, for in this passage the book’s paternalism is completely explicit. Jarvis insists that the destruction of native culture was “acceptable” because of that culture’s “violence and savagery … its superstitious notion and witchcraft” (146 ). However due to the fact that of this destruction, “Our natives today produce crooks and prostitutes and alcoholics” (146 ). He continues, “Our civilization has therefore an inevitable task to establish another system of order and tradition and convention” (146 ). In this context, students normally discuss the implicit characterization of the native peoples as “our” kids– puerile or adolescent– whom “we” (i.e. whites) have the right and duty to inform and reform. In addition, we talk about other presuppositions of the piece, for instance which contained in Jarvis’ reference to South African resources as “our fantastic resources” (144 ), where the “our” plainly refers to Europeans.

Depending upon the class, we might conclude by discussing the reception of the novel. Why would The New Republic refer to this as “among the best novels of our time,” and why would it be such a bestseller, an unique still required reading in some American high schools? Ideally, I would ultimately lead this into a conversation of the function of liberalism and paternalism, not just in South Africa, but in the United States too, where the debate over minorities tends to be specified within quite comparable criteria. Even when we find the ideological complicity of Paton’s paternalistic critique– its stringent adherence to a racist troublesome– quite apparent, a lot of us might still stop working to acknowledge a comparable complicity in writings on race by popular white American liberals. While it is important to help students understand the operation and review of dominant ideology in any context, it is most important when they can use and extend that understanding within the context of their own society.

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