Zander Janse van Rensburg
Our former president Mr. Nelson Mandela had a dream for sustainable transformation through the integration of all the diverse cultures in the bounds of South Africa. He attempted, with great success, to instill a culture of integration through his carnal politics. When I refer to carnal politics I liken it to Carnal Hermeneutics. Carnal Hermeneutics is a notion, conceptualized by a philosopher Richard Kearney , which refers to a person’s ability and necessity to interpret the world through sensation: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Conversely, the sciences, philosophy included, has for the last couple of centuries over-emphasised the mind as the epistemological center of the universe. Currently, the science is becoming more aware of the carnal properties of embodied life and research. Awareness of embodied life has empowered researchers to better understand discriminatory factors in research and practice.
Philosophers, like Kearney, remind us that our bodies are mediators of knowledge and this mediation also facilitates knowledge of the other; which, in turn, acts as a proxy in deciding whether we receive others with hostility of hospitality. As a result, this philosophy may enable individuals to become more susceptible to strangers and less prone to unfair discrimination. In this sense, we see Madiba as a perfect example, when I think of him I remember a man always among people, and especially children, of all races and classes. Madiba is always commemorated for his interactions with people on a personal and carnal level which enabled Madiba to access the hearts of many South Africans, and those around the world.
Madiba and language
In this frame of mind, Madiba also had an exceptional approach to language; he keenly said that
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart”.
While imprisoned in Robben Island Madiba captured the attention of his prison guards by learning and speaking Afrikaans, he knew that he would be able to reach his captors by adopting a hospitable attitude mediated by Afrikaans. Understanding and experiencing a culture is mediated by considering the language of that culture, language mediates understanding. This is a valuable lesson from one of the most compassionate liberators in history, Madiba showed that one cannot ensue a message of liberty without sympathizing with those you are attempting to reach.
No language is superior
When one embarks on a study of the lexical and structural meaning of a specific language and its reciprocity with the macro culture of that language one will soon reach the conclusion that no language is superior above another. Every language is born in the midst of a specific culture and later the language reinforces the culture or sub-cultures of that language. Unfortunately, in the past, malicious forces didn’t share in these values and caused division between cultures and language causing irrational discrimination by using language as a mechanism.
Multilingualism as a mode of transformation and social integration
Therefore we must take up the lessons taught by Madiba through his way of life. Language users, practitioner, administrators, and teachers should encourage others to learn other official languages of South Africa, at least those that we are surrounded with. We must create opportunities to get to know others, to receive them in hospitality so that we can become accustomed to other cultures. Every South African should be perpetually vigilant about the fact that language usage, the way we perceive language, how we research language, and how we teach language could have a lasting effect on how South African integrate and systematically eradicate discrimination. So take time every day to learn a new language, make an effort to converse in multiple languages, because you may never know when the opportunity may come to touch the lives of others through a few phrases.
 Kearney, R. 2015. What is carnal hermeneutics?. New Literary History, 46: 99-124.