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Group Reads 2014 > A Dry White Season: Week 4

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message 1: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 1038 comments Mod
Although Brink started his story with an ending, I kept hoping for some form of literary trick to rescue Ben.
Some thoughts:
How did you feel about Emily?
Comparisons between the Bruwers and Ben's family?
Ben's daughters, Linda 'his' daughter and Suzette
Something that I must raise (probably because of what I do all day), did anyone ever think that Ben's communicated paranoia was excessive, and that his death was merely an accident?

Some other thoughts:

How do you differentiate personal morality from social morality? How do you uphold a moral code within a corrupt system?
Were white South Africans in the Apartheid era evil? Are we still? Does Evil exist? Or are Stolz and his lot merely representative of the corrupt system? Was the average South African uninformed?
Lastly, discrimination has existed throughout society and history. Dave and Buck spoke about the Jim Crow laws, we mentioned Naziism, the Romans executed the Christians, Australia had laws affecting the aborigines... How do we, as ordinary people, standup to this or prevent it?

message 2: by Buck (last edited Nov 25, 2013 02:33PM) (new)

Buck (spectru) Lisa wrote: "Lastly, discrimination has existed throughout society and history. Dave and Buck spoke about the Jim Crow laws, we mentioned Naziism, the Romans executed the Christians, Australia had laws affecting the aborigines... How do we, as ordinary people, standup to this or prevent it? "

I have always believed that society, human culture, evolves to the good. It's fragmented, changes in fits and starts, but ultimately I believe that we change for the better.

Some of us are activists, some of us are apathetic, but we can effect positive change by our attitudes, by not succumbing to social pressure to conform to old ways, just as Ben did what he thought was right for Gordon and his family. We don't need to risk our lives in order to change our culture. Those who do are heroic.

message 3: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) One thing that struck me, was the circumstances of Ben's death. We never know the details, just that he was hit by a car. We don't know who hit him or if it was a hit-and-run. We are left to think it was the secret police, but it could have just been an accident. Very ambiguous, cloudy - I'm sure deliberately on the part of the author.

message 4: by Adele (new)

Adele Mey (adlemey) | 485 comments Two things.

The narrator, Ben's writer friend, describes Ben at their last encounter as appearing thin, haggard, stressed, nervous. Yet when you read the story, Ben doesnt come across as looking/feeling the way he is perceived. I got the feeling from Ben that he felt cool calm and collected. It makes me think that maybe he did lose touch with reality.

Secondly, isnt it ironic that the secret police had to go to so much trouble trying to cover up what they did? That means they KNEW what they do is wrong. They claim that what they do is necessary for the greater good if the country. If that is so, why then must it be so secret? That proves to me again, the pure maliciousness, and hate, of this group of people. They knew what they did was wrong. There can be no excuse for their actions. Yes I believe in evil. These people were evil. They did what they did just because the COULD. They probably got a thrill out if it. Sadistic pigs. Upholding law and order? That equals crimes against humanity and can easily be compared to naziism.

message 5: by Adele (new)

Adele Mey (adlemey) | 485 comments I felt so bad for Ben after the deception by Suzette. He so needed the support and understanding he thought he was getting from her. And cruelly he realized he was all alone. Everybody left him.

Maybe he jumped in front of the car that ran him over? Goodness, he probably had enough motive to commit suicide.

message 6: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 1038 comments Mod
There are 6 stages of moral development according to Kohlberg
1) the obedience- punishment stage
I do right or I am punished
Like a small child
2) Self interest
What's in it for me?
Creche to preschool
3) social norms
Conforming to what is expected
Being a 'good girl' from school age
4) authority and social order
Listening to the law
Most people are here
5) social contract
Doing what is best for the world- saving the planet
6) universal ethical principle
Doing what is best for others often at your own expense and in spite of the law
Few people get here

Ben is operating at stage 5 from the start of the book, trying to look after everyone in his life, even those who he is not obligated to care for. He moves morally to stage 6, when he flies in the face of the law to do what is morally right.
Susan, his daughters and the dominee are all at level 4- the law is right.
Johan like his dad is higher minded.
Looking at this, and thinking about how frightening apartheid laws were, one gets the idea of how much courage and self sacrifice it took people like Ben and Gordon to stand against them.

I agree with Buck that Brink probably intentionally left us with the ambiguity of his death.

message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 1038 comments Mod
With regards to evil, there are many psychiatrists, particularly in forensics, who say that there are truly evil people out there, one lecturer once said- people without souls. I'm not convinced about this. I think that we are all born with the potential to work to the good or the bad of mankind. It is our inherent nature and our circumstances that lead us to take our moral choices.
I'm always chilled by George Orwell's phrase- Evil prospers when good men do nothing. One could argue that by not standing up to the Stoltz's in life.

message 8: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 1038 comments Mod
I do think that because of various secrecy acts and the fact that South Africans were kept separate, most white South Africans did not realize what was happening.i was young and remember very little. My mom reminded me of an incident. I was about 9 and there was a national election, our teacher asked us to go home and ask our parents who they were voting for, my mom says she was frightened and wondered if the teacher was looking for people opposing the nationalists. I don't really remember the fear.

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