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Mick Jagger is perhaps an improbable source of intellectual insight, but the rock star is likeably unpretentious in saying of the past that it’s "a great place and I don’t want to erase it or to regret it, but I don’t want to be its prisoner either". It’s not true of everybody, of course; history’s miseries provide a surfeit of regrets, none accessible via the delete key. As for being imprisoned by the past, who would really want that? Yet what’s depressingly clear from debate in 2018, especially about "empowerment", is that so few South Africans find it possible to break out of the dungeon of racial ideas forged in the past. Such thinking thrives on the common-sense thesis that the appearance of things is the truth. Under apartheid, people were what they looked like, and were treated accordingly. Despite being common citizens, people are still, officially, what they look like, and are so treated. And this by the bald standards of the founding document of such egregious sociology, t...

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