Friday, July 13, 2007

one grows tired

this "tiredness theme" has two aspects. the first is prompted by a recent communication with a colleague (i mean this in a scholarly sense, i.e. we´ve never worked together as such) in South Africa, and then also my happening to meet a fellow South African last night, and the most pleasant conversation that ensued.
for some time now, and even before i´d left South Africa back in October 2005, i felt frustrated, for instance in terms of Open Access, since i knew we had the capacity to do things there, but that there was a lack of will within many institutions. but not taking OA-activity merely as metric, on all kinds of levels I feel that we (in SA) have so much that we can do; are capable of doing, towards improving the quality of living, education, etc. but that we were still so wrapped up in the joys of the post-apartheid era that we forgot that "the show must go on". cliché. i know. but so there we were, basking in the reflected glow of Nelson Mandela, whilst busy patting ourselves on the back for our 1994 achievement. of course, who can dispute that the change was not something amazing (if i called it a miracle (which is what ppl often say) that would somehow admit that such things cannot happen on the African continent. well, as Dr Phil likes to say: past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, and yep, one cannot deny that African countries do not have a good track-record when it comes to political transitions).

but we need to be humble again, and get beyond the rhetoric of believing how great we are based on an achievement which had its crowning glory ca. 1994 to 2000. we need get over this notion of our having been the poster-child for a non-violent transition in Africa. the glory of that has long slipped away. we need to prove ourselves, again, and constantly, in all kinds of spheres, such as, innovation (see previous post) for sure, there are lots of great people working very hard, and doing great things in small and big ways. but, it´s about time that we stop patting ourselves on the back: the party is over (it ended, about seven years ago), the band has stopped playing, and we need to get back to work.

another thing which bears mentioning vis-à-vis tiredness is, when listening to the Professor of Poetry here at the uni at the Encaenia (awarding of honorary degrees here) i couldn´t help but think how tired he had sounded. now, i had no idea who the person was, so their reputation did not proceed them. i just had that particular performance by which to judge. and i thought then: jeez, if i had this guy as lit prof it would turn me away from the subject. he read a poem. the theme of the thing seemed apt enough. and yet, he read the poem, as if too-casually reading an article from the evening newspaper: with not a lot of effort, which amounted to a rather underwhelming poetry experience. was he ill? were the acoustics in the venue not suited to the timbre of his voice? i dunno. but what a missed opportunity for poetry that was. my experience of it: i just felt really sad.

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