I Write What I Like

October 17, 2008

Strange and arrogant title, but for those versed in recent South African history, a title loaded with meaning. This was the title used in the regular column written by the late Steve Biko under the pseudonym “Frank Talk”. I have been reading a collection of his writings also entitled, “I Write What I Like”. For those who do not know the story of Steve Biko, he was a medical student at the Durban campus of the University of Natal (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal) during the late 1960s and became the leader of the “Black Consciousness” movement of the 1970s. In addition to regular writings, he was repeatedly jailed, harrassed, and beaten for his views. In a final arrest he was taken into custody in September 1977, and was beaten to death in prison. The authorities fabricated a story of his death, but he quickly became a martyr to the liberation struggle and a rallying cry around the world to the autrocities of the apartheid regime. My first connection with Steve Biko came through the Peter Gabriel song, Biko.

In reading his writings, there is a lot that makes this Western, Christian uncomfortable as he has set his sights squarely on both groups as responsible for many (most?) of the terrible conditions faced by blacks in the 1970s. I know that the book is a product of a very specific time, and it is impossible to tell if Steve Biko would feel the same today, but my sense is that he probably would.

That said, there are many thought provoking ideas in his writings. I’ll highlight this one for consideration:

“In rejecting Western values, therefore, we are rejecting those things that are not only foreign to us but that seek to destroy the most cherished of our beliefs-that the corner-stone of society is man himself-not just his welfare, not his material wellbeing but just man himself with all his ramifications. We reject the power-based society of the Westerner that seems to be ever concerned with perfecting their technological know-how while losing out on their spiritual dimension. We believe that in the long run the special contribution to the world by Africa will be in this field of human relationship. The great powers of the world may have done wonders in giving the world an industrial and military look, but the great gift still has to come from Africa-giving the world a more human face.”

(“Some African Cultural Concepts”, I Write What I Like, Steve Biko, Edendale 1971)

An idea that a Crunchy Con can appreciate.


One Response to “I Write What I Like”

  1. Brian Augustine Says:

    Love you Daddy and Mommy! I miss you! It sounds like you are having a good time!
    Rachel 🙂

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