Nonviolence

Disgrace was written in 1995, the year Nelson Mandela was elected. Of course temptation to take revenge on the white community was great. Crime rates in that period skyrocketed of course and many wealthy white people moved to gated communities. Lucy, the protagonist’s daughter did not.

1) From a moral, religious or simply human standpoint:

Like everybody I felt outraged by the passage when David and Lucy are attacked and I thank Coetzee for leaving us in the company of David the whole time hence not witnessing directly the rape scene even though we later get more details. Lucy mentions, for instance, the hate and desire to hurt and subjugate, the disturbing fact that it was more than just some perverts yielding to their deranged animal instincts. If Lucy’s neighbor, Petrus, has anything to do with what happened to Lucy and her dad, which is very likely the case, both Petrus and the trio of sadistic rapists deserve to be hanged or at least serve life penalties. Moreover, as a reader I assume one is on the side of Lucy who has not done any wrong and we do not see as legitimate that now that his shackles are gone Petrus’s rise to power should be at the expense of David’s daughter.

2) From a materialistic or historical standpoint. (*Not for the squeamish)

If colonial “penetration” and its monstrous offspring, apartheid, had been as violent and shockingly inhuman as the rape of Lucy, the question might then be why shouldn’t post-apartheid black South Africans be expected to take back what was stolen from them – land, for instance – by any means necessary including violent and inhuman ones?

David seems to suspect that Lucy wants “to humble herself before history” (p160). Whether it is guilt, masochism or extreme lucidity, Lucy seems ready to put up with whatever happened and might happen, to her dad’s despair.

Unlike Lucy, we – and by ‘we’ I mean the West and the Westernized – seem to take it for granted that in the case of decolonization, the formerly oppressed ought to take the high road, forget or at least forgive and move forward with whatever is left just like acclaimed nonviolent heroes such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and in this case Mandela did. Interestingly, the latter actually resorted to terrorism his fight for freedom even if we tend to forget about that. Who are we to decide that vengeance or redistribution was not necessary and what are the reasons we can provide?

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