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 trying to remember my first true understanding with authority. I do know the first authority as is for most of us were my parents. What seems almost impossible to find is when did I begin to understand authority and the structures placed upon my life by this authority. Even though I cannot seem to conjure the first experience, my earliest memory of authority was when I threw stones at our house. I do not remember the reason for this fight between me, my mom and aunt (there may have been more people). All I can remember was the fury. The angst of the anger. That’s what I can remember. This experience, despite not remembering the roots, would dominate my life greatly. The second most authority would become my elder brother. Now him and I are as dissimilar as siblings can ever be. We would have many run-ins, many battles he would consider to be won by him. And I will not make any effort to refute those claims, at least not right away. The third authority in my life would become the school. I dismiss my relatives because I was, for the most part, raised in a secluded nuclear family environment. The dynamics of each relationship was the same only in the sense of who held the power and wielded the power, but very different from each other. With my parents, I had room to argue my case. It must be said I was an awkward child and very secluded. My relationship to my brother was and to an extent still is chaotic. The power aligns can be blurry but only for moments. It is the first relationship with authority in which I searched for my voice and attempted to beleaguer my ruler. Of course, I would fail more oft but that did not deter me from seeking what I then considered to be my freedoms. And great lessons would be learnt from this siege. And some continue to be learnt to even this day.
As for my parents, the power dynamics were a bit complex as is with any child-parent, parent-child relationship. My mom was heavy-handed and my father was more lenient. But my father saw us on weekends because he worked in a different town from the one we lived. He didn’t have to deal with the day-to-day stress of living with two toddlers, a teenage son and a pre-adolescent boy. Oh! I have two younger siblings in the form of sisters. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. She had to see to the day-to-day needs of the unrelenting devil incarnates in her household. This created a very complex relationship between my parents and I. For the same of conservativism, let’s say I loathed my parents. As for my sisters well, I still argue there is no need for humanity to continue to procreate. However, they are the first two whose love I have never doubted or questioned. My upbringing had made me timid and it showed in an excessive show of power when dealing with my sisters but we would gradually make amends and find common ground. And this is the relationship that taught me the other side of power. That power could be wielded to express something more humane. Something eternally beautiful such as love.
I cannot say the same for my experience with school. It is very hard to find the power of an institution or individual alluring when their functioning is redundant and their practice is a misnomer to the principle they claim to stand by. For me, school represented a place where ideas are stifled and free-thinking is most frowned upon and ridiculed. The formal education system is by far, for me, the most oppressive institution, only superseded by the church. The only true-form of free thought as far as I’m concerned and as far as I can tell, died when we only accepted the ideals of institutionalizing free thought by form of schools. I abhor formal education in all it’s forms. I will admit to its benefits but the evils far outweigh the virtues. And this would prove true in my participation in subject fares that were supposed to encourage free thinking. And as a son of two nations, no nation in my experience stifles free thought than my father’s country. They have substituted and managed to make peace and fear synonyms. In father’s country, as you can tell by my reluctance to outrightly name the country, fear lingers like the flies upon wanton boys. From witnessing my essays being marvelled to them being disqualified because teachers feared they would be seen to push propaganda. From seeing university students being shot at for the incompetence of the government in the name of peace– to the shooting of youth peacefully protesting the even exponentially growing unemployment and underemployment. Father’s country is a mockery of what peace means. The government is failing but one thing they are surpassing at is selling the image of peace to the world. Father’s country is in tatters and the powers that be will continue to dismantle and besiege and piece by piece dismember her. It is disheartening because if you spoke to the regular folk you would see how much hope and conviction they speak with. How they wish to take Father’s Country to her rightful glory. Father’s Country kills any genius it cannot milk to its selfish benefit; for Father’s Country does not seek symbiotic relationship, the power seeks only to further its reach into to his people’s pockets. It will do anything to discredit any thought that speaks out loud against Father and his messengers of grieve. So the people only speak in corners hidden from his ears like children raised to believe their father is Dimo. My people only share their ennui in hidden places they feel safe from father’s watch. There, in Father’s Country, if you speak up publicly people take you aside and tell you ‘look we agree with you but it is a dangerous game you’re playing’. I have spoken against Father in essays that were disqualified, in front of His minister of Education during a teacher’s protest in my last year of senior secondary school. Father is a monster but not the kind we are shown on TV. He is a true monster in a way only true monsters are able to survive and are true monsters because of this. Monsters, real monsters, are not ugly green one-eyed goblins. Nor are they gigantic in appearance although might is mammoth. True monsters are like babies, innocent in the eyes and endearing in the smile. Father’s Country hones this and He charms His people with giving them what is their right and labelling these rights as gifts and blessings. Bestowing upon Himself the power of the Gods and much like the Gods, your fear is His power: But unlike the Gods, He names His Power peace. A peace He has bestowed upon you and if you seek to go against Him, it is then you will see He offers not peace but He demands you fear Him. And that is the truth about Father and how He governs. If you do not fear Him, you’re an enemy of the state; and for him to protect and secure the state you must be dealt with. That is why He says we must keep peace for the Protection and Security of the State. What he truly means is you must fear him in order for him to keep his facade and charades to maintain his monopoly over your rights. And for that, I only in my nihilistic cynicism, can only try to hope you, the people of the land see the lies and seek true peace of yourself and your family.
To South Africa, the place of my birth: I know your plight and her children. But it is with this that I beseech you to look beyond the now. I ask of you now to seek a new language of grievance because I have seen the malady of your violence. Now is the time to learn an argot to speak in times of need. We cannot continue down this path. This ravenous plague that is by no means of our accord but it is for us now to end, must end. We can no longer afford the tax we pay for this violence, necessitated or not. We are only digressing in our attempts to seek better days for those we love. I know my mother’s country is filled with vultures and hyenas, lurking and waiting to pounce. But because we are our land is the child of foreigners who plagued us with malice does not mean we must leave her to the operandum modi or the same manipulandum meant to keep the systems going. So I beg of you to find a new language of struggle and to find it with urgency because we are going nowhere fast. And it is for this reason, I in my existentialism, hope we find reason to fight the good fight with reason. The violence will only culminate into even greater destruction of our society. Father’s Country may have her issues but one thing He did right in regard to Her governance, is the school regulation. In South Africa school goes out at 2pm, back in Father’s Country it goes out at 4:30pm. When school goes out at 2pm what you then have is a bunch of teenagers who have about 4 hours before the parents get home. What you do not want is an idle energetic unsupervised youth. And until this is addressed, I believe, in my personal capacity, the justice, freedom, development and empowerment we seek will continue to elude us. We need an education system that understands that learning is more than sitting a child in a classroom. That sport and other activities ranging from science, social and business clubs are a necessity in the grooming of a child. Back in Father’s Country school starts at 7:30am, with lessons starting at 8am. Each period is 40minutes long and the day has 8 periods. After the fourth period, the students go for tea-break, where they are provided with breakfast. After the eighth period, it’s lunchtime. A meal that’s basically what the average black household would serve is provided. After lunch, it’s study time; learners are provided with an hour and a half to work on their homework and study. After study time it is time for extra-curricular activities. By the time the child gets home, he/she is well worked from the day’s tasks to have excessive energy required to engage any other activity and homely chores awaiting them. South Africa needs to benchmark and see if it cannot implement a similar system.”
**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.