I found this post by Cobus van Wyngaard behind the times and horribly narrow minded. South Africa was at an advantage compared to the First World after the Enlightenment period. I suspect the First World embraced the less intelligent races in rebellion after the period of too much reasoning and too little spirituality. White South Africans never suffered from the confusion that followed the Enlightenment, until we were forced to abolish apartheid and embrace multiculturalism.
Professor Jurie le Roux is one of the unsung heroes of my life. He was the first who attempted to teach me the modern and especially the postmodern philosophers, all those French and German people, I think he failed in this. He also was the first to attempt teaching me the early Church Fathers, also in this I believe he failed. Not because of anything he did wrong, but because I don’t think I ever was a good enough student for this brilliant man. But he was also the one who taught me that South African has missed the enlightenment, and in this, I think, he did strike a chord with me somewhere.
The Enlightenment was a time amazing technological progress, a time of positivism, a view that all problems can be solved. It elevated the perception of human reason to an all-time high. It is a time of which postmoderns are extremely critical. And it is a time with which I agree a lot of critique need to be voiced. But it is a time which never should have been missed. This was the time when critical thought also grew into adulthood…
This was the time South Africa missed. OK, I’m aware that what I’m now saying applies to the European immigrants only. But while the enlightenment was going on in Europe, we were busy fighting the British authorities in the Cape, then the blacks in the Vrystaat and Transvaal, then the British in the Vrystaat and Transvaal. Then we had the poor-white problems, just trying to survive, trying to get the farms going, then trying to institutionalize Apartheid, by the time the Republic of South Africa was founded (1961), the Enlightenment was at an end, and we just started to catch on. But Apartheid wasn’t the best place for this critical thought to develop. In this environment church was always right, and state as well. 1994 came, and the floodgates of South Africa was opened for the world to come in.
We were suddenly opened up to postmodern and post-enlightenment thought, but we weren’t post-enlightened, because the enlightenment never hit home. We never learned a culture of critical reflection. We never learned the art of critically looking at a government of societal structure, not simply as an individuals, but as a society. We don’t like what is happening in current South African politics, but do we have the ability to critically react, for a critical societal voice to appear.
It’s a society that maybe still need to grow up. That need to get out of adolescent shoes of emotional shouting or giving those we are mad of the silent treatment. We need to find an adult reflection, a deep critical voice. This is not a cry-out for the “better old days”, but the reality is that being postmodern without having engaged with enlightenment thought is only naïve, not post-enlightenment.