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Group Reads 2014 > A Dry White Season: Week 3

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message 1: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 1038 comments Mod
We are over halfway there and the fear is escalating.
Ben has decided to pursue answers- any thoughts to why?
Do you think he is over his head?
Any further thoughts about Melanie?
We see 3 Families in this section, are there differences?
Again, authority figures disappoint, any thoughts as to why?


message 2: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 1038 comments Mod
This section kept reminding me about the Steve Biko scenario. Biko was tortured in prison and left for over a day with a severe head injury. He died while in medical care and there was something about a doctor calling this 'natural causes'. In our ethics classes in med school, we were asked why we thought the doctor did this. Was he corrupt? Was he paid off? Was he afraid of those in authority? Or did he simply not regard Biko as a human being?
I get the impression that it was a combination of all of the above. This is chilling, both in life and in fiction, if you cannot trust authorities (the police, the church, the medical profession), who can you trust?
Ben's situation calls two quotes to mind.
1) Orwel: Evil prospers when good men do nothing.
I don't think Ben is fully aware of what he is up against. I think initially he believes it's a few corrupt people and not a corrupt system. He is a good man, he tackles injustice.
2) Shakespeare: I am in blood stepped in so deep, returning now is as easy as going over.
This is how I felt by the end of this section; how could they possibly get worse?


message 3: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 1038 comments Mod
With regards to the DuToit family, I was impressed by Johan's behavior. He may have seen Jonathan as a friend, a contemporary. I am impressed that he was proud of his father and supportive. Ben himself leads by example, expecting the best from those around him. I have no idea though, how his marriage had lasted to this point.


message 4: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) It was sad that Ben's family, aside from Johan, did not support him. They did not share his feelings at all. Linda was somewhat sympathetic, but for the most part Ben's family, his wife and in-laws, his coworkers, almost everybody endorsed the premise of apartheid. Why was Ben different? He didn't seem to recognize that we was. He never made an argument about racial attitudes.

Social pressure to conform to the customs is strong, especially if those customs are the law of the land. Still, it was distressing to me not only that Ben's extended family didn't share his motivations, but they actively opposed him, were ashamed of him, some were appalled by him. They had no recognition that he was struggling for truth and justice.


message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 1038 comments Mod
I think there was an attitude of 'the government must be right' exhibited by his family and friends, why then go against it.
I wondered if Ben went against the grain because this was someone that he cared about, that he would have done this for anyone and that, for him, the fight was not about race. We see in Ben's teaching and in his dealings with his son, that he pushes boundaries and expects more of others, yet I also think that he expects the same of himself; if this had happened to Johan and not Jonathan, he would want someone to investigate. Because it happened to Jonathan, he will be that someone.
Johan is proud because he too cared about Gordon and Jonathan. I found Linda difficult to understand, she supports Ben, yet doesn't support him, she seemed to be afraid of her husband. As for Susan, Suzette and the rest; it could be many things- it could be a matter of race, of conformity, of why bother. I didn't, at this point, feel that they were afraid of consequences.


message 6: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) Lisa wrote: "I think there was an attitude of 'the government must be right' exhibited by his family and friends, why then go against it.
I wondered if Ben went against the grain because this was someone that ..."


I agree with you.

Ben didn't take Jonathan's and Gordon's race into account. He didn't care about their race, which seemed to be an unusual point of view. To everybody else, race was the overriding factor. Ben got involved because he know and liked them. But what happened to them happened because of race. Ben's family may not have supported him but they probably wouldn't have opposed him if he had been trying to help a white person in trouble. I don't think Ben ever argued with anybody about overlooking Gordon's race, or even mentioned it, did he? It wasn't a racial issue for him, but it was for everybody else.

In the book, racism is not the issue, I guess. It is about the corruption of power when one cannot openly oppose government.


message 7: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) Lisa wrote: "Again, authority figures disappoint, any thoughts as to why? "

Just like Ben's family and coworkers, those in authority support the values of apartheid. As doctors, lawyers, clergy, etc. they are not just members of the club, they are its pillars. Hillary Clinton used the phrase "a vast right-wing conspiracy." Once the dogma is integrated into ones thinking, he is blind to all else. Entertaining contrary thoughts, no matter how obvious, is blasphemous.


message 8: by Irene (new)

Irene (zavrou) | 122 comments Buck wrote: "It was sad that Ben's family, aside from Johan, did not support him. They did not share his feelings at all. Linda was somewhat sympathetic, but for the most part Ben's family, his wife and in-law..."

In reading the comments in this section it would appear that the general opinion is that only black people suffered at the hands of the security forces. White, Indian, Coloured people who seemed to be supporting the causes of the black people were also in extreme danger and could suffer in just the same manner as Jonathan. It is possible therefore that Ben's family were afraid of what might happen to him and them. Fear can make people behave in an unseemly manner even taking the side of the oppressor.


message 9: by Adele (new)

Adele Mey (adlemey) | 485 comments Race was not an issue for Ben. Humanity was the motivation behind his actions. It was because Ben knew Gordon to be such an inherently good man that Ben saw the injustice of the treatment Gordon received from the secret police.

I dont think Ben's family was afraid of the consequences of supporting him in his quest. They felt they were too good to get involved. They didnt see any reason to get involved because its not their problem. They thought that if people got into trouble, it must be their own fault for getting into it and must now pay for their actions. And that was obviously what was happening with Gordon and his wife (in their eyes).


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