“I think another country is possible” – Sharlene Swartz’s Another Country: Everyday Social Restitution launched in Cape Town
The Book Lounge recently played host to Sharlene Swartz and many guests at the Launch of Another Country: Everyday Social Restitution.
In conversation with struggle stalwart Denis Goldberg, an impassioned Swartz relayed her experiences as a white woman living in South Africa in relation to the other races in the country.
The Professor of Sociology began by sharing an anecdote of her experience in Zurich where as a 21-year-old white woman she for the first time experienced the hatred and anger of another white person because of apartheid. “He spat on my shoe and slammed the door,” she recalls. It was an eye opening moment for the author who went on to say, “The book is a spit on the shoes of white South Africa.”
Swartz explained that the book aims to restore humanity and to encourage dialogue between South Africans who wouldn’t generally speak to one another. She asked average, everyday South Africans what kind of South Africa they would like and summarised their responses: “Everyone wanted a country where they could feel like they belong.”
According to the research Swartz carried out while writing the book, close to 70 per cent of South Africans say that “we should forget the past and move on”. The book asks: “How do we move on when so many black South Africans are living an inferior reality?”
After a detailed introduction to the book and the questions it seeks to answer, Swartz revealed the crux of the book, suggesting that “everyone can do something [about restitution], not just the government”. She proposes a working definition for social restitution as, “Acts and attitudes towards making things right for the past … to recognise human dignity.”
After Swartz’s brief introduction and summary of the book, she invited Goldberg to comment on the current social situation within the Country. The founder of the organisation, Community HEART reminded the audience that, “the apartheid regime killed between ten and twelve thousand people, yet people still talk about a bloodless revolution.” He argued that “this is one of the causes of anger today – saying black blood doesn’t matter”.
Further defining social restitution, Goldberg puts forward that “we know what our society ought to be and also what it is … we need to bridge the gap between is and ought through social action ie social restitution”. Goldberg describes the book as, “refreshing and remarkable” saying: “Sharlene has shown us how to speak frankly.”
Another Country recommends about 200 practical, financial, and symbolic ideas that regular South Africans can use towards social restitution. Swartz also introduced an app that allows one to find these numerous suggestions. The book synopsis concludes, “There is something for everyone to do – individuals and communities, alongside government and institutional efforts.”
Swartz closed off the evening saying, “I think another country is possible, that’s why I wrote the book.”
Kasuba Stuurman (@kasuba_sun) tweeted live from the event:
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- Another Country: Everyday Social Restitution by Sharlene Swartz
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