n English in Africa - The public, the private and the power of love : decisive tensions in Michiel Heyns's

Volume 39, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



In 1939, as Europe lay shadowed by the frightening reality of a militant Fascist totalitarianism and was about to enter a cataclysmic struggle for the survival of individual freedom, E. M. Forster published his famous essay "What I Believe," which opened with the significantly paradoxical statement: "I do not believe in Belief" (Forster 77). While, as David Medalie (38) has pointed out, Forster has often been hailed as a spokesman and defender of (the ideology of) liberal humanism, this striking opening statement in fact introduces not a defence of one ideology against another, but a scepticism towards ideology, a stand against any universalized public claim to social wisdom. Instead, Forster intimates, the individual practice of "[t]olerance, good temper and sympathy [...] are what really matters" (77). In 1941, as Britain girded itself with its own wartime propaganda, Forster would unapologetically reiterate (in a paper entitled "Tolerance"): "I have lost all faith in positive militant ideals; they can so seldom be carried out without thousands of human beings getting maimed or imprisoned" (57).

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