OPINION: Garvey and son

I realise halfway through my interview with Julius Garvey that it was a mistake to question him firstly about his views of the relevance today of Pan Africanism, rather than exploring the defining relationships of his life and philosophy.

Because it is in the account of those relationships that one begins to understand how the theoretical views one holds are honed by practical life experience, especially human engagement.

“The other basis of an African philosophy is the relationship to the environment. We consider God is the universe, not some entity outside that created the universe and went away and is up there watching us. The relationship we have with the universe is that if the universe is supporting us then we must respect the universe and must learn from the universe.“So we are a natural people, we learn from nature. We’re interested to imitate nature and not in transforming nature.

“A lot of Western philosophy is about this superior intellectual mind which can master both your own body and nature and then you can have perpetual prosperity. That’s what drives the western industrial machine. That’s a paradigm which is dying because it’s killing the planet, it’s polarising humanity and destroying plant species.”

Julius says his father’s conception of Pan Africanism included a transformation of humans. “The transformation of man is one of the key things that Pan-Africanists haven’t caught on to. is because our minds have been captured.

“My father used to say ‘look, the whole world is run on bluff’. What the white man is doing is a shell game , it’s not real, it’s an artificial construct, it has nothing to do with you as a human being, with your needs to be happy in your environment. There’s nothing within European society that does that, apart from anti-depressants and the entertainment industry, and that’s reality. It’s not reality, it’s a pseudo-reality. Reality is when you look in the mirror in the morning and you’re god-damned depressed because you have to go to a meaningless job or have no job or you’re in a hostile environment.”

I ask him finally if his marriage to a white woman did not debunk the promotion of the idea that blackness must be front and centre of society.

“No, I don’t think so. I believe in one race, the human race, I believe in a non-racial society. I don’t believe in an advantage for any particular race. It’s not that there needs to be prejudice against Europeans, I think we need to be pro-African, without being negative to anybody else.

“Marriage is a very personal thing, nobody knows where you are at any particular point in time in terms of your needs. That’s up to the individual. I would never tell my son whom to marry. It’s very much the same thing in terms of sexual preference nowadays.

“Mixed marriages have been going on since the world began. You see it all over the world. In the US, a significant percentage of black people are mixed. You don’t see it as much on the other side but a significant percentage of white people are mixed too.

“Marcus Garvey had to deal with a specific problem at a specific time. Like Steve Biko, who said, ‘I write what I like’, well I speak what I like. It is in my father’s vein and philosophy.” — rayh@dispatch.co.za

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