A recognition of the collective and the extension of care beyond that of the individual have distinguished my experience in South Africa; the idiom “An injury to one is an injury to all” reverberates in every aspect of society. This awareness of a higher concern can be seen in the strength of this country’s movements where even the youth have the presence of mind to fight beside their parents. I see it in the strikes of mine workers and the burning of tires in protest. I see that it is all being carried out under a somewhat suppressive government that means that involvement and affiliation can come at a high personal cost. I think that my experiences in the United States have, alternatively, been characterized by a selfishness and complacency that I would not find here. I have begun to wonder if the United States will overcome this stagnation. I have begun to wonder if a society that expects you to stand alone is a robust society. I have begun to wonder to what extent this perspective has colored my actions, and above all, I wonder why the conditions that exist here do not exist in the states.
The Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity was met with a large degree of oppositions and limited substantive changes. This opposition came equally from the administration which it targeted and the student population in attendance at the university. Some of this opposition, on the part of the students, came in the form of tearing down the informal camp set up outside the Allen administrative building. Other, quieter but no less demoralizing opposition, came in the form of dismissals. I, for example, was quick to disregard the students and the workers they represented as being unorganized. I read their list of demands and found them to be ambitious bordering on impossible. Similar to my response to the idea of the living wage, I made statements along the lines that Duke and the economy at large could not afford that large of an increase in the minimum wage. In this way, I managed to excuse myself of any responsibility to participate in the mobilization that this small group of students was attempting to galvanize. I ignored the merits of the movement, and the relief it could have brought to the majority black and brown workers at a majority rich and white institution. I did not live the principle of the phrase “An injury to one is an injury to all”. To conclude, this type of commitment to the public interest is not something I brought with me to South Africa, but it is something I hope to carry with me back home.