The Tragic Fate of Steve Biko at the Hands of the Apartheid Police Is an Appalling Waste, but Let Us at Least Ensure That His Message Is Not Lost

Cape Times (South Africa), September 15, 2011 | Go to article overview
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The Tragic Fate of Steve Biko at the Hands of the Apartheid Police Is an Appalling Waste, but Let Us at Least Ensure That His Message Is Not Lost


The tragic fate of Steve Biko at the hands of the apartheid police is an appalling waste, but let us at least ensure that his message is not lost. If I am not mistaken, it was basically about self-belief. Of course he spoke of Black Consciousness - an idea critically relevant at the time and, it seems, just as relevant today; but not just for black people, not just for any particular group, but for all of us - all colours, all beliefs and in particular for all individuals.

The harsh but liberating truth is that if we do not take responsibility for ourselves, mentally, how can we expect to be effective? In the first place this is about attitude and not politics: we surely need to break out of the debilitating mindset of victimhood which blames others for our problems - whether teachers, parents, lovers, colonialists, apartheid, Zuma, capitalists, the list of potential excuses is conveniently infinite for any person or group that is firmly embedded in that mindset. They will always find something, somebody, some circumstance, to evade responsibility.

I understand that ideas of self-responsibility are likely to be interpreted first in physical terms, about securing personal comfort and wealth. Of course these things are important, but to fulfil them they need to be placed in the right order, as I believe Biko understood.

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