Thursday, August 07, 2008

Big Sign that “reconciliation” is part of the lingo, even when used trivially

CAPE TOWN, Aug. 7 — After resolving my first traveler’s dilemma upon landing in Cape Town, and setting off in a cab for Obs (short for Observatory, as in, the neighborhood where lots of young people and students live, not a building housing a telescope), a sign with the word “reconciliation” caught my eye. It turned out to be an ad for tax or accounting services, from what I imagine is the South African equivalent of H&R Block, seeking customers in anticipation of the upcoming filing deadline.

Somehow, despite the accounting connotation of the word “reconciliation,” the usage didn’t seem quite appropriate, given the starkly different, and probably more frequently used, connotation of the word here in South Africa — as used in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the process it fostered.

But perhaps the word’s mere inclusion in the vernacular — in a billboard ad, and splashed across the inside pages of the Mail & Guardian and The Cape Times ¬— suggests that it is ingrained enough to be trivialized. While I suspect that few South Africans, if any, would claim that post-Apartheid reconciliation is “complete,” and in that respect trivializing the process with an ad arguably hurts it, anything that keeps it at the top of people’s minds are perhaps not all bad.

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