The Fatalism of Dichotomies: Conflict & Morality (Part 1)

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The Fatalism of Dichotomies is a collection of 8 essays written by Onkarabetse M. Mokgatle**, a Motswana writer with roots in South Africa too. The collection of pieces is framed to be objective, in that it endeavours to explore the New Black Conscious through the scrutiny of some of humanity’s most prevailing dilemmas.

“I’m visiting my nephew at his mother’s home. My nephew is 4 years old going on 5. He plays with a cousin who is a year older than himself. The cousin lives nearby so they visit each other often, meaning whenever I babysit my nephew his cousin is probably there, playing with him. Even when everyone is home he comes by and my nephew visits him too. They have a friendship. However, the cousin has a blatant disrespect for me. Not the childlike disrespect but the kind that sends shivers down your spine. I consult my nephew’s mother to address the issue, together with my nephew’s older cousins. They are teens. They take me for an authoritarian too eager to flex his muscle. The second incident happens, the kid (nephew’s cousin) now disrespects me in front of other kids his age and won’t budge when I show my distaste for the tone and parlance with which he chooses to address me. He grows bolder the more I try to correct his course. I retreat. I go home and again, I consult my nephew’s mother and his older cousins. Again, I am met with mockery until they realise my tone and resolve has only escalated. Now it is I who is under the microscope because I created a fictional foe in a six-year-old. I concede to their logic that I as the adult should have the foresight to know he is only a child.”

We will assess the above prelude of the child vs the adult, adult vs child; morality in conflict. For now, let’s start here; nothing presented in this paper, in its entirety is new to you as a reader — however, it is the thread and the needle that weave the cloth to create the garment at the vision of the tailor, directed by the careful caressing of hands, which now covers the body. Simply put, ideas evolve as we acquire new and better ways to fully assess and reposition our rhetoric and understanding of that rhetoric. So let’s indulge each other, I the author, arguing for and against you; you the reader criticizing the manner and content matter of the subject presented to you. As you see by simply starting to read this essay, you and I are already at conflict because you ought to have an opinion which may or may not align with the arguments presented. And even if you agree with me, the ideals from which our position is the same may differ, therefore we will disagree on what circumstances warrant the said position of agreement. And if we do disagree, we may find that our disagreement either stems from the same rationale and/or we are simply at an impasse due to lack of consideration of one another’s background. From this, we can conclude that conflict precedes morality by a macrocosmic mile and that conflict is far more intrinsic than morality will ever be. However, it is worth noting that this is not necessarily an argument against morality but an argument about where morality stems from, its outcomes in conflict and what conflict is outside morality.

Now let us shift our gaze into the prelude or anecdote or whichever term you prefer; a man, the narrator, who is two decades plus some change older than the boy who challenges him. The word challenge is used simply to not over-express the domain of who is to exert power. What is clear, however, is that the boy according to the narrator has no respect for him in particular. We now must ask ourselves, what warranted this from the child or what perhaps makes it appear to be so to the narrator. We must then note the following;

  1. The narrator — being that he is a visitor — is unfamiliar with the boy, and ergo the boy’s behaviour may seem to him as utterly despicable since he has no frame of reference of his background. 
  2. The boy, being that he is still very much a child hasn’t learnt proper manners and/or his behaviour in relation to his environment is not out of character.
  3. Another explanation could simply be, given that the boy and the narrator are strangers to each other, the boy is stabbing at the air to ascertain some sort of dominance and test the limits of the narrator. And on the narrator’s side, it could simply be that he is being excessive in his demands of respects from a mere 6-year-old.

In our efforts to address as well as understand the oxymoronic nature of the conflict of Conflict & Morality, we must scrutinize the concept of Morality itself. A great conscious question that the social science, and as of late one may suppose science also asks, is the birth of morality. The nature of morality — not mentioning the definition — is very fickle to put it very mildly and in disassociation. Throughout history, the goal post for morality has been a little bit in the grey areas for elite and ruling classes. This, as expected, cannot be said for the common folk. His burden, as trapped by the nature of the environment to which he is born, is that he is devoid of any sense of morality let alone having any sense of morals. The former statement being not only true and prejudice, but a stereotype as well. But before going any further, we must elucidate on the statement; the birth of morality. Whatever other reasons may be, true or otherwise, the true birth of morality is control. That is the true birth of control. Any other suggested birth is nothing but a fancy lie glazed in gold paint. But to fully grasp the concept of morality by control, let’s address a small matter of who or what the nature of society is?  In the most mundane and simple of explanations, society is an aggregation. An aggregation of a people, of the ideals of a people and of their pursuits. This, like almost a lot of things in existence, is neither a good or bad thing. It is simply a way in which we agree to manage the affairs of our lives in a way that finds the most effective and efficient way to meet the demands and desires of all. Or at least what it should mean.

Morality then in principle, is the scale and court by which we measure and judge these aggregations. Control is not a bad thing. In fact, if well managed and balanced it allows for the very principle which morality is supposed to be. But morality is in reality what it is not in principle. It an ingenious and cunning device with which the common folk pays for the transgressions of the powers that be. In essence morality and power are ultimately synonymous. Before reverting to the breakdown of our anecdote, let’s play a simple but common morality/power scenario, that is, man vs woman; men and women have a tumultuous relationship with each other in respect to morality. Man, feeling as the authority because of the mere virtue of being a man, governs the woman. As such, being that he holds the power, he also holds the moral superiority and therefore can detect what constitutes a transgression. In other words, the man determines the immorality of a woman. It is by this same reason that men feel entitled to decide that abortion (by a large degree) almost anonymously agree is immoral. And it is for the same reason that women feel it is right to birth a child whom the father expressed intently that he has no desire to be a father to, let alone raise. A woman can argue a man is then bound by the duty of morality to accept the child. Alas, a power struggle.


**Onkarabetse M. Mokgatle is a Motswana writer from Mmankgodi with roots in Potchefstroom & Mafikeng in South Africa as well. He has been an avid writer since his pre-teens, but his love for literature dates back to his mastery of nursery rhymes at just 5 years old. He pursued his writing skills via various forms all through his teenage years, eventually moving into facilitating and nurturing other talents in his early 20’s. He eventually took a 2-year hiatus from writing which ended in 2019, when he rekindled his love affair with writing through a series of brilliant ideas. In 2020, these ideas would go on to grow into ambitious multimedia projects originating from Africans, For Africans.

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