Narrative Pulse – Voices of opposition

picture of tony leon

Tony Leon , the vocal leader of the opposition party to the African National Congress , the Democratic Alliance , announced his resignation from the party's leadership position yesterday (read about it here ). South Africa has a love-hate relationship with Leon. On the one hand he has revamped an organisation that was shattered shortly after the 1994 elections into a viable opposition voice to the majority party. Then, on the other hand, he has led the party into a reputation for being a bunch of belligerent nay-sayers who sniff out possible political scandals with wolf-like veracity.

I'm not sure the country knows how to deal with him and his party. In listening to talk radio today, some callers banished him to irrelevance and others damn near sobbed in sadness over his resignation. My personal take on the resignation is that, as a country, we'll be losing the prominence of an important voice.

DA rally Like him or not, Leon is no doubt one of the country's best debaters and public speakers. With relative ease he can weave fact, opinion and progressive argument into his oration. He has been a useful benchmark as we've forged our democracy. My concern is that when he steps down in May 2007 we potentially lose the benefit of a powerful opposition voice in the country's political landscape.

Such voices are vitally important, though rather unpalatable sometimes. You see,the South African discursive landscape is much like a personal narrative. As we make sense of our lives and the world around us, we attempt to integrate the differing "voices" at our disposal into a coherent "story" of how we see the world, ourselves and our place in the Story. On one hand you have a tendency to form a dominant story about an aspect of your life. As information is processed that seems to affirm this story, it gains dominance over other potential alternative stories that counter such a story. Technically, the dominant story subjugates the alternative story.

Alternative stories are vital to our functioning as rational, logical human beings. We need to be constantly integrating or rejecting alternative stories in a Hegelian manner to make sense of our world. Without them we stand to lose perspective on our world.

And so, in the case of Tony Leon, I'm saddened that I may not be able to hear his voice, often embodying an alternative story of what is happening in our country's narrative pulse. I'm even more perturbed by the speculation and conjecturing that his successor should be chosen on racial grounds so that the DA can gain some ascendency amongst black south African's and not on the basis of how this person will be best embody the opposition voice.


Images courtesy of Curiouser and Curiouser1


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