Sunday, October 28, 2012

Arguing with the ANC

A large part of politics is all about debate, the cut and thrust of fine arguments, the use of reason tinged with lots of bullshit in attempts to sway your opponent’s beliefs ... 
Years ago the old Nationalist regime ran out of arguments, reason and even bullshit and it became impossible to argue with them. If you tried you were simply dismissed as a Catholic, a Liberal, a Fellow-traveller or a Communist in that order of increasing opprobrium. It’s thus interesting to observe that, now that the African National Congress has happily abandoned any pretence at morality, or the practice of higher forms of thought, or indeed even the operation for which they were elected, viz. basic governance, they too are becoming increasingly difficult to argue with.
In essence, whatever you say, they have three responses, in this order, trotted out without consideration for such silly concepts as relevance ...
1. You’re suggesting that life was better under the previous apartheid regime;
2. You’re suggesting that nothing has been achieved since 1994;
...  and, the ultimate stinger, the thought-killer to tear apart any remaining threads of debate:—
3. You’re a racist.
For my sins I recently entered a mild email debate around the merits of a contention by Howard Zinn, that ‘civil disobedience’ is actually a Good Thing. I wrote:
“I think Mamphela Ramphele got it right when she said that SA’s problem is that the Codesa negotiators never set any sort of civil education in place. None of them ever sat down and said to each other, ‘but SA’s never been a democracy, the people don’t understand democracy.’ They thought it would be enough to put a great constitution in place and use the IEC to teach everyone how to vote. They forgot that very few Africans had been brought up to an understanding of modern democracy or civil rights or civil whatevers. The ‘mixed race’ peoples came from different cultures that had all been strangled during the slavery era, and left with a kind of depauperate Westernism and strongly authoritarian religions in place of those cultures; the Afrikaners came out of a tradition of paternalistic and religious authoritarianism second to none, and the Engelse were by-and-large either descended from the entreprenurial merchant class or from Irish navvies, and either way ‘rights’ were something you had in the home counties and need not worry about here in case the Boers or the Darkies wanted them ...
“That’s why we are ruled by an authoritarian, militaristic ‘liberation movement’ that has no understanding of democratic politics or civil liberties ...” etc etc. 
Well, I had no idea of the politics of my audience until one lady sent this as part of her first reply:
“There is a preoccupation in SA to point fingers especially at the new government and the fallacy that things were better before ...”
ANC Argument #1 ... 
I responded and duly received the following as part of her second reply:
“Are there any achievements and progress in our country? I can clearly see them. Why are they not evident [to you]?”
ANC Argument #2, right on schedule.
It was a bright sunny Sunday afternoon and I decided at that point that I really wasn’t prepared to spoil my day, so I abandoned the debate.
Now I’ll never know if I am a racist or not.

– Kaartman, October 2012

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