The work of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has generated a great deal of interest in the role of forgiveness in politics. More specifically, it has raised the question of whether forgiveness should be a constitutive part of reconciliation processes between groups. In this paper, I argue that it should not, and that it might be both more useful and more realistic to consider something like Adam Smith’s notion of ‘sympathy’ instead. The first part examines the arguments for and against policies promoting political forgiveness. The second part suggests sympathy as an alternative. The third part considers and rejects some objections to the employment of sympathy in this context.
On the Benefits of Sympathy for Political Reconciliation
My purpose in this paper is to assess the plausibility of three claims asserted by Wilhelm Verwoerd in his book Equity, Mercy, Forgiveness: Interpreting Amnesty within the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2007) in support of the granting of amnesty by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Amnesty in this context refers to conditional amnesty: immunity from prosecution and punishment, conditional upon the full disclosure by perpetrators of the details of their wrongdoing, extended to individuals who had committed gross human rights violations between 1 May 1960 and 10 May 1994. Verwoerd rehearses several arguments that have previously been advanced in support of conditional amnesty, but his original contribution consists in asserting three claims concerning its moral status. These are that the granting of amnesty: (1) satisfies the demands of equity; (2) constitutes an act of mercy; and (3) amounts to forgiveness of perpetrators. I seek to show that, considered separately, each of these claims is false and that, asserted together, they are inconsistent.
Revisiting Arendtian Forgiveness in the Politics of Reconciliation
The idea of forgiveness is omnipresent in the transitional justice literature, yet this body of work, taken as a whole, is marked by conceptual, terminological and argumentative imprecision. Equivocation is common, glossing moral, theological, therapeutic and legal considerations, while arguments proceed from political, apolitical and even antipolitical premises. With forgiveness as a praxis linked to reconciliation processes in at least ten countries, concerns have grown over its negative implications for the relationship between the state and victims of state-authored injustices. Many of these debates reference Hannah Arendt. Drawing from a range of Arendt’s published and unpublished work, this article challenges the academic claim that forgiveness has no place in the politics of reconciliation. Through this ‘returning to the source’, it presents a promising mode of thinking about political forgiveness in contemporary Settler-colonial states.
Responding to Dirty Hands in Politics
How should citizens respond to dirty-hands acts? This issue has been neglected in the theoretical literature, which has focused on the dilemma facing the politician and not on the appropriate responses of citizens. Nevertheless, dirty-hands scenarios pose a serious dilemma for the democratic citizens as well: we cannot simply condone the dirtyhanded act but should instead express our moral condemnation and disapproval. One way of doing this is through blame and punishment. However, this proposal is unsatisfactory, as dirty-hands agents commit wrongdoing through no fault of their own. I argue that we ought to make conceptual space for an idea of no-fault responsibility – and a corresponding notion of no-fault forgiveness – according to which we can hold agents to obligations without blaming them.
This article looks at the significance of local circumstances, including direct encounters between victims and assailants, in the genocide process. In what scholars term “the micropolitical turn in the study of social violence,“ the argument here considers the encounter from the perspectives of both constituent parties. Assailants often acted before they thought, raising questions about the premise of intention and calculation that anchors the defining Article 2 in the United Nations Genocide Convention. Victims in local encounters express in their accounts a recognition of their assailants and describe what amounts to a betrayal of the trust they invested in their compatriots. Expressions of recognition in witness accounts attenuate victims' resentment and recrimination, opening a space that permitted possibilities for postgenocide reconciliation and even qualified forgiveness.
Soul Retrieval in Neo-shamanism
It has been generally agreed that rituals of healing work through transforming the embodied self; thus, they are especially fit to be analyzed as rituals in their own right. This chapter focuses on the ritual of soul retrieval as it is practiced by Western urban neo-shamans. It argues that apart from giving the patient new memories and new narratives of the self, this version of soul retrieval works by staging a formalized context for forgiveness, here conceptualized as reconciliation between the self and the mundane and divine others. It is argued, however, that the mechanism of this healing ritual is better understood in the light of New Age ontologies of the self, consciousness, and the divine, making ‘ritual in its own right‚’ a good first step towards re-engaging with the social.
Historical Fiction by Altarriba and Keko
] by Montesol and El Perdón y la furia , [Forgiveness and Fury], with text by Antonio Altarriba and drawings by José Antonio Godoy ‘Keko’, coinciding with the Prado's exhibition Ribera: Maestro del dibujo [Ribera: Master of Drawing]. 5 In 2019, the
Deevia Bhana and Emmanuel Mayeza
In this article we focus on sixty South African primary schoolgirls’ experiences of male violence and bullying. Rejecting outmoded constructions of schoolgirls as passive, we examine how girls draw on different forms of femininity to manage and address violence at school. These femininities are non-normative in their advancing of violence to stop violence but are also imbued with culturally relevant meanings about care, forgiveness, and humanity based on the African principle of ubuntu. Moving away from the discursive production of girls’ victimhood, we show how girls construct their own agency as they actively participate in multiple forms of femininity advocating both violence and forgiveness. Given the absence of teacher and parental support for girls’ safety, we conclude with a call to address interventions contextually, from schoolgirls’ own perspectives.
Both the texts and music of Bach's St Matthew and St John Passions portray the Jews in deeply negative ways, baying for the blood of Christ. While there are strong arguments against seeing these works as having any kind of positive influence on Jewish–Christian relations, there is also an argument for examining the different layers of texts – from the Gospels to contemporary Lutheran poetry – as well as diverse musical expression in both works in order to elicit and understand profound, universal themes of sin and repentance, confession and forgiveness, life and death. Public performances of the Passions need to be undertaken responsibly with detailed programme notes and talks that draw out the journey of the individual worshipper and tackle the difficult problems of the Gospel texts and the music.
The Hebrew Bible is a compilation of literary ‘fictions’ and poetry that evoke ‘the truth of the human condition’ (Elena Ferrante). This article retells the story of the Book of Jonah from the first-person perspective of ‘Jonah’. The fictional narrative is rooted in the language and themes of the original biblical text. Jonah is still angry with God's forgiveness of the Ninevites, and readers’ complicity in the always-recurring flight from taking responsibility to act against evil in the world. As Jonah tells his story, he regresses into a manic state that parallels chapter 2 of the biblical book. The narrative moves into reflections about humanity's lack of compassion for the natural world, and Jonah's fears about the forthcoming ‘ecocide’ of the planet.