One thing that makes the TRC testimonies so emotionally effective is the uniqueness of each story and what version of the truth they tell. Antjie Krog examines the personalization of individual’s stories especially when recounting the murder of Richard Mutase and his wife. What was particularly interesting about this story is that there are four different narratives of the events that happened on the night of the murders. The discrepancies between these stories seem to undermine the truth: the truth of the dead, the truth of the survivor, and the mission of the TRC. Through the analysis of these stories, Krog seems to be critical of the TRC and how the stories told, especially by those who committed violent crimes and advanced apartheid, alter their truth to cater towards the audience present at the hearings, as well as the “imagined audience”, who are those that these narrators think will appreciate the personalized story the most.
What was interesting to me was that in chapter 8 there seemed to be a distinction between the concept of a “story” and the “truth”. The stories told in regard to the Mutase murders are the best example of this because while the four stories have overlapping components, it is clear that the truth is missing when the stories start to differ from one another. The stories become more about proving which perpetrator is lying, versus what is the truth of the situation, which results in a lack of justice for the victims and their families.
There were many parts of the film Long Night’s Journey Into Day that were extremely shocking and horrifyingly true. These accounts of violence during the fight against apartheid presents the question of whether or not the crimes committed during this violent period, on both sides, are capable of being forgiven. Something that I noticed during this film is that during this time of violence, both parties had the same basic mindset: it’s us or them, kill or be killed, black or white. What the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) did well, in my opinion, was provide an understanding environment for those accused of crimes, especially those fighting apartheid. Whether or not justice was served by the commission is questionable, as seen through the hearings of those seeking amnesty and the interviews of the families who lost someone dear to them. The film left a strange, unsettling feeling as the answer is not clear. Justice is not clear cut, not black and white, rather it is a spectrum that depends on the parties involved and the crimes committed. As a side note, one thing I thought was particularly interesting was the statistic that out of the many people who applied for amnesty, 80% of those were black, which was such a jarring statistic to me since the white people in South Africa were the ones in power and they were the ones facilitating the large scale oppression of the majority population.
Ariel Dorfman’s “Death and the Maiden” explores the story of a traumatized woman in a former totalitarian regime. The irony of this play is that Paulina’s husband, Gerardo, is in charge of the government’s Truth Commission, which investigates the crimes and horrors of the former dictatorship in an effort to bring forth the atrocities and guilty to the public eye for purposes of justice, yet he doesn’t believe his wife when she exposes the man who raped and tortured her. At his defense, Gerardo’s view of justice and the law stands as a barrier from allowing him to completely and undeniably believe his wife, as his job in the newly democratic government is to search for the truth through witnesses and testimony in a professional courtroom setting. However, his definition of justice, which is a pretty universal view of practiced law, inhibits him from listening to his wife and poses the question of whether or not trial courts expose the whole truth of these kinds of situations. It also poses the question on whether or not Paulina’s truth would even be valid within the official court system even though she is clearly certain that her truth is the only truth. Who is protected from the law in theory versus in practice?
In Aeschylus’s The Furies, the concept of the patriarchy doesn’t fully extend to the exclusion of female entities in terms of law and politics. While among the gods, Zeus is the father of most gods and his word and will are practiced and held at the highest standard, as said by the god Apollo many times in his argument against the revenge-seeking Furies, some women in this society, and even among the gods, still hold some sort of powerful influence over the idea of justice. The goddess of wisdom, Athena, is sought out by Orestes for shelter and protection from the Furies, who are pursuing Orestes for committing matricide. The retributive justice that the Furies seek in Clytemnestra’s name asserts a high level of respect for women in society, especially mothers, which allows them to use the law and justice system to correct or settle wrongdoings done unto them. The goddess Athena also serves as a judge or mediator in the trial scene of the play, and her word is understood as the final say in the matter of Orestes’ fate. Athena seems to have more authority than the god Apollo does, considering Apollo and Orestes ask Athena for her guidance and judgement. While the women (or female entities) in this part of the drama clearly hold some sort of high authority, it is also clear that the patriarchy is still most powerful in Greek politics. Apollo often times refers to Zeus as the highest power and Athena casts her vote in favor of Orestes based on her relationship to her father Zeus and lack of relationship to any sort of motherly figure. Apollo even goes so far to say that mothers essentially have no role in parenthood, and are strangers to their children, only existing to birth and feed their young. The presence of a patriarchal society is also clear through the anger of the Furies, who furiously defend the concepts of motherhood and womanhood, and are angry and repulsed at the men in this play for holding little importance on the criminality of matricide. At the end of the play, Orestes is found not guilty and the power of the male authority is reinforced through this holding.