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Solidarity in Athol Fugards Township Plays

Hausarbeit (Hauptseminar) 2003 23 Seiten

Anglistik - Literatur

Leseprobe

Contents

2) Introduction

3) What does the term "solidarity" mean?

4) No-good Friday
4.1) Solidarity among Blacks
4.2) Solidarity between Black and White

5) Nongogo
5.1) Solidarity on the part of the two main characters and on the part of the minor ones

6) The Coat

7) Sizwe Bansi is dead
7.1) Solidarity in the play

8) The Island

9) Conclusion

10) Bibliography
10.1) Primary literature
10.2) Secondary literature

2) Introduction

At the moment solidarity is of topical interest more than ever. In the news we hear of the decline of the welfare state, of cuts in social services. We discuss about our solidarity with the United States of America with regard to the war in Iraq. There are shows on television to collect money for poor countries in the third world or for post-war reconstruction. These are all forms of solidarity. But what really is solidarity?

This paper wants to have a closer look at the term "solidarity", its nuances and its conditions. Solidarity depends on the society and on the time. As an example I would like to examine the term on the basis of Athol Fugard's Township Plays. The Township Plays are: No-good Friday (1958), Nongogo (1959), The Coat (1966), Sizwe Bansi is Dead (1972) and The Island (1973). These five plays were written under the conditions of the oppressive apartheid system which characterized South Africa's politics since 1948. During the following years the Whites oppressed the Blacks in a very cruel way, cut back their rights and made them live and die under miserable circumstances. In such an inhumane situation solidarity grows very fast and reaches its peak. I would now like to examine how solidarity is described in the five South African plays, in which situations it occurs. Furthermore, it may be interesting to look who acts in solidarity with whom and in which situations there is perhaps even a lack of solidarity. These shall be the main aspects of my paper.

3) What does the term "solidarity" mean?

In general the term "solidarity" stands for a communal spirit of individuals or different groups due to common views and interests. It derives from the Latin word "solidus" which means as much as "unshakeable" or "sincere".[1] Initially the term was used in the Roman legal terminology: "obligatio in solidum"[2] meant a special form of liability. Each member of a community was liable for all the debts of the community and the community was liable for the debts of each member. They were not linked by a common interest only by their debts. But when they had to negotiate with creditors they had a more powerful position as if everybody would have negotiated on his or her own. This legal principle is similar to the alliance "All for one and one for all": the confederates owe each other assistance and each member of the alliance vouches for the community. The well-being of each member depends on the well-being and help of the others. The alliance only collapses in case that one member denies assistance in a crisis.[3]

At the beginning of the 19th century, as a consequence of the French revolution, "solidarity" was used as a political term along with the term "brotherliness" (fraternité) and later replaced it. Solidarity was seen as a pacesetter for the other two principles of the revolution, liberty and equality.

The French socialist and philosopher Pierre Leroux[4] intended to replace the Christian term "charity" by the term "solidarity". He argued that charity was only directed towards God and prevented a deeper relationship between human beings. To his opinion only solidarity could provide an improvement of the living together because this was founded on anthropological facts. He wanted to achieve a mutual responsibility of equals not of non-equals, that is of God and the human beings.[5] In contrast to Leroux the French politician and sociologist Léon Bourgeois[6] used two complementary terms: "solidarité naturelle" and "solidarité sociale"[7]. He argued that "solidarité naturelle" is the normal principle of life and society whereas "solidarité sociale" is a mechanism to correct the former principle in order to achieve equality.

Later the term appears as a principle of the proletariat ("solidarity of classes") and as a means to push through social and political claims. Here we can possibly speak of a "solidarity of fight" because the lower classes fought for their rights vis-à-vis the upper classes. Nowadays, solidarity is discussed in the context of social compensation[8] for example that our German welfare state supports those who do not have work or who cannot afford a medical treatment. The premise is that the citizens of one state form a mutually supportive society due to their common history, language, culture, moral codex and so on. That is why they are obliged to help their fellow citizens in contrast to foreigners. Therefore solidarity is more or less kind of a binder which holds the society or nation together.[9] In these respects "solidarity" can be seen as a moral and social principle which is associated with brotherly love and charity as well as liberty and equality.

Today another form of solidarity appears: the economic solidarity. We must not only show solidarity with our fellow citizens but also have to care for others. The richer countries use huge amounts of the natural resources whereas poorer countries are left empty-handed. The problems of the poorest cannot remain unsolved. We, all people all over the world, have to fight against hunger, poverty and exploitation in order to give everybody a chance of a good and humane life.[10]

As we have seen until now solidarity is a very multidimensional term. And all these different aspects have a common basis: The interests of the community are mostly prior to those of the individual which means that the individual cannot always insist on his or her right or interest when there is a more important common interest. One has to moderate one's life in favour of one's neighbours, friends or even the whole society. It is generally possible to satisfy both interests to a certain extent by finding compromises, if the opinions of the "We" (the community) and the "I" (the individual) do not differ too much. The philosopher John Rawls[11] defined a community as "a cooperative venture for mutual advantage, … typically marked by a conflict as well as by an identity of interests". An identity of interests exists because "social cooperation makes possible a better life for all than any would have if each were to live solely by his own efforts"[12]. Despite all good intentions solidarity always implies a certain kind of injustice: Some people have to lower their expectations to the benefit of the community; and sometimes the community must even make use of sanctions to secure its well-being.

But there need not always be a common interest as a basis. Nowadays, we more and more meet a form of solidarity which results from different interests, which is orientated towards the interests of people all over the world.[13] This can for example be solidarity with the victims of a war or the victims of oppression. In the case of South Africa many people declared their solidarity with those in prison and with those who lost their rights and protested publicly against the apartheid regime.

The definition of the term always depends on the person who defines it. In the broader sense of the meaning the term stands for justice, helpfulness, brotherly love and sympathy, for a feeling of belonging together and helping each other in a crisis. In contrast to this some people argue that brotherly love is too universally a term and does not belong into this category. To the mind of Albert Camus[14] solidarity requires commitment to common interests.[15] Nevertheless, there can always be people who pretend to show solidarity but in the end when they have achieved their own aims they revoke solidarity. That is a kind of free-riding mentality. Solidarity in the broader sense of the meaning can exceed all conceivable borders as is already shown in the Bible. In the parable of the good Samaritan all religious, politic, cultural and linguistic borders are exceeded when the Samaritan helps a man he does not know and who does not belong to his community.[16] He follows God's commandment to show solidarity to everybody even though his own ethnic group was regarded as enemy by the man's ethnic group. The more narrow and traditional term only implies mutual responsibility and helping each other in a crisis to achieve a common aim. This form of solidarity can be found in communities with at least a certain feeling of belonging together.

Nowadays, solidarity (especially in the narrow sense) is more and more driven out by power and money, by a change of ideals.[17] Many people do not care about others any longer and our society has become more and more impersonal. The integration of individuals does not succeed everywhere and the welfare state cannot compensate for everything any longer.

My thesis is that solidarity can be found more often in societies and communities with a lack in something, for example a lack in rights, money or food. Here people help each other in order to improve their situation, in order to survive. An example for such a society is South Africa with its apartheid regime. I will now try to show different forms of solidarity in Athol Fugard's Township Plays in which he describes the life of Blacks under difficult conditions. On this occasion I will pay attention to the traditional term as well as to the broader one. Besides, I will try to find reasons for a lack of solidarity in some situations and have a look at the solidarity between Blacks and Whites.

4) No-good Friday

The play is set in Sophiatown, a black quarter in Johannesburg. On a Friday evening the main characters meet in a backyard to talk about their lives and problems and to wait for Shark. He comes every Friday to collect money for protection. This time a problem comes up: Tobias, a newcomer to the quarter, refuses to pay because he does not understand the reason why. Nobody even protests when Tobias is killed by Shark. The only one who is awakened now is Willie who later reports Shark to the police. By doing this he signs his own death sentence and nobody can persuade him to apologize to Shark in order to stay alive.

4.1) Solidarity among Blacks

The premise for solidarity is a community and people feeling mutually obliged. In this play the main characters Guy, Watson, Pinkie, Peter and Moses are friends and Rebecca and Willie are lovers. They all live in the same quarter and share nearly the same problems. The biggest problem is the lack of work for everybody: Many people are looking for work but they have to be very patient to find one and they have to have good qualifications. Most of them are turned down and only if they have connections they can succeed. That is also the case with Guy: he cannot find work however hard he tries to get one. On the contrary, Willie is learning to get a better chance. And he promises Guy to help him find a job because he knows where to get one. This is a good example for a situation in which friends can help each other.[18]

Willie's friend Watson is a township politician who is committed to fight for their rights on a political basis. He is one of the delegates of a small township parliament whose intention it is to improve their living conditions. They can only debate about the problems and find solutions to smaller ones but they cannot change the whole political system. Nevertheless, Watson and the others try to contribute to an improvement.[19] Another (political) institution which is fighting against poverty and oppression is the African Feeding Scheme.[20] It was founded in 1945 when many families moved into town following their men. The conditions in the cities were bad and so people decided to help the poorest and give them food and housing. So these are two examples for institutional/ political solidarity (in the broader sense of the meaning).

[...]


[1] See Solidarität <http://www.sociologicus.de/lexikon/lex_geb/begriffe/solidari.htm>

[2] Kurt Bayertz, "Begriff und Problem der Solidarität.", Solidarität: Begriff und Problem, Ed.

Kurt Bayertz (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1998), p.11.

[3] See Markus Daniel Zürcher, Solidarität, Anerkennung und Gemeinschaft: Zur Phänomenologie, Theorie und Kritik der Solidarität (Tübingen: Francke, 1998), p. 53 f.

[4] Pierre Leroux was born on April 17th 1797 in Bercy/ Paris and died on April 11th 1871 in Paris.

[5] See Markus Daniel Zürcher, Solidarität, Anerkennung und Gemeinschaft: Zur Phänomenologie, Theorie und Kritik der Solidarität (Tübingen: Francke, 1998),p. 56 f.

[6] Léon Victor Bourgeois was born on May 29th 1851 in Paris and died on September 29th 1925 in d'Oger/ Marne.

[7] Markus Daniel Zürcher, Solidarität, Anerkennung und Gemeinschaft: Zur Phänomenologie, Theorie und Kritik der Solidarität (Tübingen: Francke, 1998), p. 63.

[8] See Markus Daniel Zürcher, Solidarität, Anerkennung und Gemeinschaft: Zur Phänomenologie, Theorie und Kritik der Solidarität (Tübingen: Francke, 1998), p. 55.

[9] See Markus Daniel Zürcher, Solidarität, Anerkennung und Gemeinschaft: Zur Phänomenologie, Theorie und Kritik der Solidarität (Tübingen: Francke, 1998), p. 23, p. 34.

[10] See Ulrich Steinvorth, "Kann Solidarität erzwingbar sein?", Solidarität: Begriff und Problem, Ed. Kurt Bayertz (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1998), p.82.

[11] John Rawls was born on February 21st 1921 in Baltimore/ USA and died on November 24th 2002 in Lexington.

[12] Markus Daniel Zürcher, Solidarität, Anerkennung und Gemeinschaft: Zur Phänomenologie, Theorie und Kritik der Solidarität (Tübingen: Francke, 1998), p. 61.

[13] See Hans W. Bierhoff and Beate Küpper, "Sozialpsychologie der Solidarität.", Solidarität: Begriff und Problem, Ed. Kurt Bayertz (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1998), p. 264.

[14] Albert Camus was born on November 7th 1913 in Mondovi/ Algeria and died on January 4th 1960 in Villeblevin in an accident.

[15] See Markus Daniel Zürcher, Solidarität, Anerkennung und Gemeinschaft: Zur Phänomenologie, Theorie und Kritik der Solidarität (Tübingen: Francke, 1998), p. 90.

[16] See Katholische Bibelanstalt, Die Bibel: Einheitsübersetzung der Heiligen Schrift, Altes und Neues Testament (Augsburg: Pattloch, 1990), Lk 10,25-37.

[17] See Markus Daniel Zürcher, Solidarität, Anerkennung und Gemeinschaft: Zur Phänomenologie, Theorie und Kritik der Solidarität (Tübingen: Francke, 1998), p. 132.

[18] See Athol Fugard, No-good Friday, Ed. Dennis Walder, Township Plays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 6, p. 9.

[19] See Athol Fugard, No-good Friday, Ed. Dennis Walder, Township Plays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 8.

[20] Ibid. p. 10; and

See African Children's Feeding Scheme <http://www.feedsa.co.za/community_march2002.htm>

Details

Seiten
23
Jahr
2003
ISBN (eBook)
9783638265362
Dateigröße
563 KB
Sprache
Englisch
Katalognummer
v23410
Institution / Hochschule
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster – English Seminar
Note
Good
Schlagworte
Solidarity Athol Fugards Township Plays Advanced Seminar Literature Southern Africa

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Titel: Solidarity in Athol Fugards Township Plays