And here’s a phrase that I have come across and said way too many times this year- “This world is fundamentally broken.” With that said, what are the implications of such a broken world and what brokenness can we zero in on during the time the book Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton was written.
The external brokenness in this literary work is easy to identify. What it comes down to is racism. I believe everyone will agree that it will be an impossibility to talk about the book without bringing this issue to mind. The problem of racism is a prominent and blatant one. That’s exactly what Apartheid was- racism. And that is exactly what the greatest external brokenness of that period was. And Paton’s answer and solution to this fundamentally global problem is one that is extremely idealistic- forgiveness. It doesn’t make sense. Forgive the oppressors? Logic would dictate that this would be the last possible answer anyone would come to after hundreds of years of abuse and being beaten down time and time again. But the catch is that it happened. And the bigger mystery is that it happened successfully and still serves as an example to be followed in conflicts by the rest of the world everywhere. It happened and it was successful. The ideal was achieved, even if for a while. That is Paton’s solution. A solution that unbeknownst to him was to be carried out at the moment of judgement. A solution that he himself helped create. A solution that makes no sense. A solution that brings light back to humanity and highlights all that is not yet wrong with humanity. A solution deemed impossible, carried out by an entire country. A demonstration contrary to the adverseness of human nature that we are used to and a demonstration that underlines the best of humanity.
The internal damage is a bit more complicated. But then again, it’s overly blatant as well. The internal brokenness in my opinion in the book is greed. It is greed alone that led to the system of Apartheid. It is the greed to be wealthy that caused the upper class to push down the ones below them. It is greed alone that corrupted. It is greed alone because of which money became a symbol of corruptness and negativity. But then again, it is also greed because of which the human race has progressed as far as it has. One can argue that without greed society would not have needed to develop. Ruthless greed brought on weapons that can destroy the world, but it also brought on advances that can sustain the world. It single-handedly destroyed the world and also gave us ways to sustain it. And thus the solution that Paton hints at for this problem is not very apparent. It’s easy to shift into the spiritual domain at this point and yes, I believe that ultimately, that is the key to fixing not only this, but every inner brokenness. But perhaps a more direct way he offers a solution is by stressing how greed must never cross certain boundaries. We can’t stop being greedy, but we can stop it’s effects if we take into account that in being greedy for something, we must never hate someone else.
That is the answer that I can derive as a solution to this problem from the book. And that is the solution that I will personally try to live by as I progress through life from now on. Maybe it won’t change the world. But even if it impacts a handful few, that raises the potential threshold for revitalizing change by leaps and bounds. That is the ideal I strive for.