Philosophy – Rational Standard https://rationalstandard.com Africa's Top Liberal Commentary Site Wed, 20 Jun 2018 23:51:12 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 https://i2.wp.com/rationalstandard.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/cropped-RS-Logo.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Philosophy – Rational Standard https://rationalstandard.com 32 32 94510741 For An African Renaissance the State Must Die https://rationalstandard.com/for-an-african-renaissance-the-state-must-die/ https://rationalstandard.com/for-an-african-renaissance-the-state-must-die/#respond Mon, 04 Jun 2018 17:34:41 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7921 Written by: Simon Venter A common belief amongst the elite of the continent seems to be the creation (present or future) of a period fondly termed the ‘African Renaissance’. The fanciful notion of an African renaissance is arguably a laudable and attainable goal. However, for such a goal to be realised, there ought to first […]

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Written by: Simon Venter

A common belief amongst the elite of the continent seems to be the creation (present or future) of a period fondly termed the ‘African Renaissance’. The fanciful notion of an African renaissance is arguably a laudable and attainable goal. However, for such a goal to be realised, there ought to first be an examination of how the Renaissance came about, and what its legacy was. This is to ascertain whether, in fact, this is truly a worthwhile goal and not merely the idealistic ramblings of mere mortals’ intent on leaving some form of legacy worthy of remembering.

Contrary to the provocative nature of the title, this piece shan’t advocate for the death of the state but rather for the death of the myth of the state or central planning – although one might argue that that is a distinction without a difference. The aim of this is to illustrate the notion that for an African renaissance, one does not need a strong state or a massive superstate in the form of the African Union (AU), as seems to be the conventional wisdom, but rather one could do perfectly well with a small, decentralised, and near-pointless state. But first there needs to be a foundation laid as to what a renaissance would be and what the Renaissance was.

Spanning the period of the 14th to 17th centuries in Europe, the Renaissance left an indelible mark on Western civilization, and the world at large.

The Renaissance ushered in an age of innovation and tremendous wealth creation. The city-states of Italy provide a perfect example of the benefits of decentralised power, be it in the banking ‘empire’ of the Medicis or the trade ‘empire’ of the Genoese, Italy was a region of great innovation and progress despite political turmoil. Quite often the ‘Afrocentrist’ who speaks of the glorious African Renaissance fails to see the flaw in his advocacy for a golden age and the policies for which he advocates to attain said golden age; namely the creation of a massive African quasi-superstate (the AU on steroids, one might say) based upon some of the most anti-liberty notions known to man.

If ‘Afrocentrists’ were truly intent on an age of renewal, they would follow the example set by the Ancient Greeks and Renaissance Italians. Although their societies do not mirror ours, at least at face value; at their core, the pursuit of liberty for which they stood (however flawed the result may have been in the respective eras) is a universal principle worth pursuing. The inevitable retort to this proposition may be that liberty, as conceived as the free market, natural rights and decentralised power, are ‘Western’ concepts alien to the African context. From the perspective of the ‘Afrocentrist’, this would be a fair retort; however, it is not only hypocritical but so too is it ignorant.

On the point of hypocrisy: it is common (to the point of nausea) for the ‘Afrocentrist’ to expound notions – regardless of their semantic costume – that are themselves Western in origin, namely, Marxism, communism and socialism. The charge of ignorance rests upon points made by the Ghanaian economist George Ayittey, who argues that it is in fact socialism (in all its guises) that is alien to Africa – and one might say all of humanity – and that it is the free market and individual liberty that could better be described as positions more suited and natural to the African context – if not the world. A second and just as cogent point made by Ayittey in a speech on the failures of African socialism was the unironic replacement of the European monarchical portraits with those of Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx.

The African Renaissance Monument that overlooks Dakar in Senegal is an unfortunate symbol of the farce that is the ‘Afrocentric’ view of an African renaissance. On the one hand you have a noble ideal illustrated in a majestic statue that promises so much: a strong family reaching for the stars uplifting the youth. On the other hand, you have the reality that the statue was built by the North Korean company, Mansudae Overseas Projects. The contrast of the ideal with the reality, as represented by using a North Korean company and all that that symbolises (in a word, oppression) is almost too unfortunate to be amusing. For an elite intent on doing it the African way, it is a shame that the African way seems to be the same folly of Europe, Asia and South America (to speak in broad terms).

In summation, I think we should take heed of the wise words of Carl Jung from his book The Undiscovered Self on the dangers of the centralised ‘omnipresent’ state.

“The goal and meaning of individual life (which is the only real life) no longer lie in individual development but in the policy of the State, which is thrust upon the individual from outside and consists in the execution of an abstract idea which ultimately tends to attract all life to itself. The individual is increasingly deprived of the moral decision as to how he should live his own life, and instead is ruled, fed, clothed and educated as a social unit”

For there to be an African renaissance, the individual African must thrive; but not as a “social unit”.

Author: Simon Venter is a young artist and student currently studying a BA MCC at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. Simon’s main intellectual influence is Thomas Sowell.

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Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ Makes The Best Case For Libertarianism https://rationalstandard.com/machiavellis-the-prince-makes-the-best-case-for-libertarianism/ https://rationalstandard.com/machiavellis-the-prince-makes-the-best-case-for-libertarianism/#respond Fri, 11 May 2018 12:10:43 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7755 Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince has become one of history’s most controversial books. Its contents are seen as immoral to our modern sensibilities, but where the controversy arises, is the value of Machiavelli’s study. The Prince is not a normative book. While it may seem prescriptive, its use of historical case studies to illustrate themes betrays that Machiavelli is […]

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Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince has become one of history’s most controversial books. Its contents are seen as immoral to our modern sensibilities, but where the controversy arises, is the value of Machiavelli’s study.

The Prince is not a normative book. While it may seem prescriptive, its use of historical case studies to illustrate themes betrays that Machiavelli is being descriptive of what he believes causes power, not what one ought to do with it. It is agreed upon by many historians that Machiavelli was a republican, and didn’t genuinely support the actions in his book.

Rather, he was reporting on power as he observed it as a civil servant and scholar of history. While his intentions are unconfirmed in The Prince itself, this is not how he wanted people to live. He merely believed it was (is) the reality that unfortunately shapes human action. He was no fan of the use of brutality for power, but portrayed the methods used to achieve it in an honest fashion.

Machiavelli eliminated the illusion that power was divinely wrought and virtuous. The Prince outlines a guidebook to statesmanship, but every piece of advice is suggested alongside the historical case study that informs it. It is not so much that Machiavelli is telling the reader to seize power in this manner, but that this is the way that power is seized.

Machiavelli highlighted the importance of the actions of men. While fortune is the uncontrollable state of nature and society, the man is what acts within this state to achieve power. With the example of Agothocles’ ascension, Machiavelli explained how power is wrought most substantially through human action, and only a little by fortune. In this regard, Machiavelli can be seen as an early enlightenment thinker and perhaps even a forerunner to the Austrian economists who highlighted the role of individuals in economic action.

Machiavelli’s notion went against the commonly-held assumption that authority was vested in monarchs by God. Machiavelli does, in fact, write about religious authority, politely to avoid persecution, but illustrating quite succinctly how even the papacy utilised power like men.

Machiavelli’s innovation was his dispersal of Christian idealism in favour of realism. Instead of being something mythical or virtuous, he reveals that power is merely the domain of men and brutality. In so doing he demystified Christian idealism.

Jared Diamond put it succinctly: “[Machiavelli] is frequently dismissed as an amoral cynic who supposedly considered the end to justify the means… [in fact, he was] a crystal-clear realist who understands the limits and uses of power”.

Opposed to idealists, Machiavelli made many claims that seem immoral, but are merely reports of what he observed. When he reported that laws require arms and force, he was writing from experience and study. When he wrote that a prince must be simultaneously man and beast, he was writing from, and recognising, a context wrought from warfare and violence. Most apt of all, however, was his matter of fact statement that princes exist to oppress and that people only want to be free from this oppression, revealing rulers as malicious and not in the interest of the population.

The most valuable lesson of The Prince is that power can’t be trusted. It is inexorably linked to brutality and deceit. From this, we, as readers, are more prepared to distrust potential tyrants and conniving politicians. William Enfield, in fact, argues that Machiavelli was satirising rulers and their malice in The Prince, making it a form of rebellion against a system he despised. Rousseau wrote that the book was meant to incite a revolution and be used to help understand tyrannical monarchs.

Before hearing of Hayek, Mises, Rothbard and Nozick, my interest in renaissance history led me to Machiavelli. By truly appreciating the underlying message in The Prince that power cannot be innocent, one is inevitably set on the path to libertarianism. Power is the domain of the brute. In this way, government cannot be made up by the virtuous, because one must lack virtue to attain power in the first place. The Prince should lead us to distrust government, and those who call for government to be empowered.

Everyone should read Machiavelli, because it makes the case for why government is bad; or, at least, not virtuous. It also lays the foundation for the libertarian conception of the state.

Libertarians, especially, should read it so to remind themselves why we are libertarians in the first place: Power should not be trusted, and cannot be innocent.

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To My Fellow Anarchists: Stop The Infighting https://rationalstandard.com/to-my-fellow-anarchists-stop-the-infighting/ https://rationalstandard.com/to-my-fellow-anarchists-stop-the-infighting/#respond Wed, 09 May 2018 15:05:15 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7523 The prevailing political war is between the left and the right. I myself have partaken in this war, and it has made me realise one thing: we, as anarchists, are fighting the wrong battle. Anarchism spans the whole left/right political spectrum. From far left-wing anarcho-communism, through more centrist anarchist schools of thought such as anarcho-syndicalism […]

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The prevailing political war is between the left and the right. I myself have partaken in this war, and it has made me realise one thing: we, as anarchists, are fighting the wrong battle.

Anarchism spans the whole left/right political spectrum. From far left-wing anarcho-communism, through more centrist anarchist schools of thought such as anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-mutualism, all the way to far right-wing anarcho-capitalism. These diverse anarchist schools of thought have led to fierce debate amongst anarchists. Left-wing anarchists accuse anarcho-capitalists of not being real anarchists, as capitalism and private property rights are anathema to anarchism in their view. Anarcho-capitalists criticise left-wing anarchists of proposing inherently authoritarian systems of property redistribution and no individual freedom from the collective. What the vast majority of anarchists don’t get is we all can agree, or at least should agree, on one principle: voluntarism.

The subtype of anarchist thought that you subscribe to should actually be irrelevant. Whether you prefer an anarcho-communist society or an anarcho-capitalist society should not matter. All that should matter is that cooperatives are built on the foundation of voluntarism. In a society that respects the principle of voluntarism, individuals would be free to choose their cooperative of choice, whether it be a capitalist, a communist, or even a syndicalist cooperative. An anarchist world would allow all types of anarchist societies to flourish (or fail). Different anarchist societies don’t even necessarily have to exist in separate jurisdictions. You and your neighbour can belong to different cooperatives within the same jurisdiction, with the cooperatives logically working together to fund shared infrastructure (also known as panarchism). An anarchist world would thus also allow cooperation between cooperatives on a large scale.

Voluntary cooperatives are not the same thing as countries, though. Countries are inherently authoritarian and stand directly in opposition to the principle of voluntarism; the government apparently always knows what’s best for you. Voluntary cooperatives also tend to be much, much smaller than countries, which automatically makes it easier for people to decide which cooperatives they want to join. Smaller societies mean more societies thus more choice and more diversity. All in all, it means more competition which will inevitably lead to the survival of the fittest society in the long run through seeing which type of cooperative can attract and hold the most members. Survival of the fittest in an anarchist world does not equate to barbaric practices such as Apartheid or communism. That’s an authoritarian type of survival of the fittest.

If you think of the world on an international scale and ignore the inherently authoritarian nature of nation states regarding their citizens, we are already living in what I like to call a state of quasi-anarchy. Countries have to work together through bodies such as the United Nations to try and keep the peace and foster an environment of cooperation. If voluntarism prevails, countries (especially the large and culturally diverse ones) will cease to exist and smaller, voluntary cooperatives will arise, which will lead to the consequences described in the preceding paragraph.

Now, I need to make it clear that no cooperative will ever be able to always respect the principle of voluntarism as it should. People will also not be able to always leave and join new cooperatives at will. There will always be problems in society. Anarchism is not utopian. Utopia doesn’t exist. What anarchism is, is the voluntary cooperation of individuals. Humans band together in cooperatives because it is an evolutionary defence mechanism to do so. Of course, we can argue for days on end on whether collectivist anarchism or individualist anarchism will be the logical end reached when society starts functioning on the basis of voluntarism, but it simply does not matter to me at this point in time.

Individuals will choose the cooperative they prefer, and the best one will prevail. Personally, I believe that the logical ‘winner’ of competition between anarchist cooperatives would be anarcho-individualist in nature (voluntary cooperation and individualism are not mutually exclusive), for that is the logical conclusion of the utmost decentralisation of power and respect for the liberty of persons: the individual and their property are afforded autonomy. But that is a debate for another day.

The war we need to be fighting is not the war between the left and the right. It is a futile war. The war that is worth fighting is the war between authoritarianism and libertarianism. The political battle being fought as we speak is sadly a battle between left-wing and right-wing authoritarianism; two wings of the same sick bird. What matters now is that we first move away from authoritarianism towards libertarianism and eventually reach anarchism (which is just consent and liberty taken to their logical conclusions). Once that point is reached, we can start debating what type of anarchist cooperative is best and actually see which types of cooperatives survive the inherent competition prevalent in an anarchist world.

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Which Past Did We Have? Does the Future Have A Future? https://rationalstandard.com/which-past-did-we-have-does-the-future-have-a-future/ https://rationalstandard.com/which-past-did-we-have-does-the-future-have-a-future/#respond Sun, 29 Apr 2018 20:37:33 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7394 “The time form I am most interest in is the future as I will spend my whole remaining life in it.” Henry Ford The present does not exist. It is just the few seconds in which I drink my fifth glass of champagne, Pol Roger or Villiera preferred, the first bottle emptied is already history, the second to go […]

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“The time form I am most interest in is the future
as I will spend my whole remaining life in it.”

Henry Ford

The present does not exist. It is just the few seconds in which I drink my fifth glass of champagne, Pol Roger or Villiera preferred, the first bottle emptied is already history, the second to go still the future.

What is historical truth and can it serve as a fundamental for present and future creative  human activities, be they political or private, economic or artistic, for the benefit of coming generations? It is doubtful, as the German Baltic novelist and historian, Frank Thiess, wrote in his foreword to Tsushima, a novel about a maritime war [1], if an objective description of past events is possible.

No one has been present everywhere and no chronicler can do more than to use and to check the sources and materials according to their plausibility and presumed exactness. Often Weltanschaung, the ideology through which I tell myself how to look at the world, narrows the view and angle. Myths come in and strongly demand obeisance like the Voortrekker myth or the struggle myth. Written sources had been lost or deliberately destroyed as, often, in the moment of real change of power, witnesses are notoriously unreliable. Further then either the mass of sources or materials, especially hearsay and secondary sources, is so big that it cannot be reviewed anymore within a reasonable time, or the lack of sources is evident and suspicious. Subjective opinions, personal impressions and judgments based on a narrow range of knowledge obscure the matter. No hope exists to get a complete picture of events. The “whole truth” does not exist. Collecting pure facts is difficult enough, but evaluation is necessary and by evaluating I make choices, judgments and decisions about what was essential. The eminent German historian Ranke demanded that historians should describe events as “it has really been”. Impossible as the past becomes a myth or an assembly of different myths.

That is even more true if the past is demonized and watched through extremely ideologically-coloured spectacles. Then empty phrases, mostly politically correct ones, replace the honest, rational — not emotional — endeavour to describe and evaluate the past as exactly as possible. Emotional and ideologically-driven condemnation of a gone system do but should not replace or substitute rational analysis.

It is important to understand the essential [2] being of all the elements which characterize a past system and cannot be eliminated without losing or forfeiting the hard core of the matter.

The essence of communism, for example, is the despotism of enforced, artificial equality, the total disregard for the individual, values and traditions, the adoration of naked power, the bombastic belief in the possibility to remake and undo man and society, and the deep conviction that the past can be eradicated and a glorious future written on a blank slate.

To that, add a deep-seated inferiority complex and a pathological hate for all that is beautiful, straight, ordered and well-considered, and then you get nihilism a la Bakunin.

One of the consequences of those essentials is the total disregard for all kind of property rights. Destroying and annihilating and exterminating those rights and the bearers of the idea of those rights is therefore the logical way such politics are advanced. It is not ‘eating the rich’ but in reality starving the poor. All communist regimes showed us that the reds are incorrigible repeat-offenders. The only lesson we can draw is that not even the most stupid or impractical or horrible or destructive concept, one hundred times failed, saves against a next try. Therefore, well-armed citizens are necessary!

Political and economic systems may appear like a concave mirror [3] concentrating all beams on one point, with men working systematically through decades to build something valuable and lasting up, people not resting on their laurels, going on step by step, not discouraged by failures but motivated by even the tiniest successes, men who demand “learn and make it better” and only accept first-class endeavours or results, people who know how to critically evaluate results and above all themselves, men thinking of long-term gains not short-term profits, men only attracted to lasting structures and results, doing their duty, fulfilling duties before claiming nebulous rights, men able to put others on the right place, ready to accept independent opinions and inputs even criticism from subordinates. These are people who prefer to have no names but to create valuable structures and enterprises rather than cashing in on every day’s celebrity rent. “After a victory, fix your armour” is a Japanese proverb, and throughout the times we can recognize the ‘miraculous’ success of certain states or enterprises or systems within a few decades. No miracle, just intelligent discipline, industry, patience, foresight and trust and cooperation between a worthy elite and the nation.

Other systems are like a convex mirror, distributing the beams in all directions. Nothing is coordinated, people and elites are distrustful of each other, all rest on past laurels, corruption consumes substance and production, mediocrities fight the reformers with hate, character assassinations, intrigues, rumours and the whole vulgar arsenal of the petty-minded ones. Subservience, brown-nosing, spittle-licking, fear and empty aspirations are the prevailing sentiments and attitudes of the big number of underlings and sycophants occupying the public space. Men with honest aims, willing to work on meaningful reforms, incorruptible and with a clear and objective judgment are opposed tooth and nail with denunciations and slander; state capacities and resources are used for private gains, means and petty wars. “Yes men” are preferred, even if outright stupid or incompetent. Envy, wrongheaded ambition, laziness and fear prevail. Scoundrels earn millions to the detriment of the people, gain overnight fantastic jobs as underlings of some big-wigs, constructive initiatives decay in the morass of bureaucracy, the constructive-minded despair, emigrate or retreat into an ‘inner’ emigration and from below subversive forces nurture the hate of the people against the state and all its institutions. Cowards prevail, and taking responsibility is avoided at all costs. [4]

As Frank Thiess stated clearly: There is no absolutely perfect organization or political entity. Its value must be judged on how the (moral and material) energies of a nation are kept vivid and made most fruitful and productive. But absolutely wrong is every system which throttles creative initiative and destroys talents who could become historically significant if on the right spot and which prevents necessary actions as ‘certain circles’ would be not amused. [5]

If comparing these two systems sketched shortly al fresco we should ask ourselves if South Africa still has a choice and which future we will have or — better  — which future we creatively may be able to  build up.

References:

1) The war of 1904/05 between Russia and Japan. Tsushima, the novel of a maritime war, Paul Zsolnay Verlag, Wien, 1956.

2) Thomas of Aquino, De ente et de essential

3) A symbolic picture made by Frank Thiess, ibid, p15f

4) Of course, this is a description of the last decades of the Tsarist system and not of South Africa as of today. I do not want to be accused of hate speech.

5) Ibid, p18f

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Western, Individual Justice is Not Compatible with Socialist Justice https://rationalstandard.com/western-individual-justice-is-not-compatible-with-socialist-justice/ https://rationalstandard.com/western-individual-justice-is-not-compatible-with-socialist-justice/#respond Sun, 08 Apr 2018 17:26:06 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7491 Written by: Glenn Tungay Ed Herbst’s article on hate crime findings is an excellent analysis of the current failure of equitable and fair justice in South Africa. It highlights how, when social (communal) justice triumphs over individual justice, a nation is doomed to slide into abusive, segregatory and unjust totalitarianism. Marxist communal justice has so infiltrated […]

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Written by: Glenn Tungay

Ed Herbst’s article on hate crime findings is an excellent analysis of the current failure of equitable and fair justice in South Africa. It highlights how, when social (communal) justice triumphs over individual justice, a nation is doomed to slide into abusive, segregatory and unjust totalitarianism.

Marxist communal justice has so infiltrated the West’s thinking that even Christian leaders are willing to abandon the clear teachings of individual justice presented in scripture.

Western justice, which arose out of biblical teachings on justice, holds that no individual is complicit for any other person’s crime (sin).

Father, brother, close friend or another person of the same class or race — guilt is not imputed by association, but by individual action.

Even if one benefits from another’s crime, so long as one is not knowingly complicit, they are innocent. Likewise, a citizen is not held legally accountable for a state’s actions, even if they voted for it. And in the face of any accusation, one has the right to representation, to call witnesses, and to face ones accusers. One is considered innocent until proven guilty.

Social(ist) communal justice is the antithesis of Western, biblical justice. One only has to think of North Korea, where whole families are thrown into labour camps because one member is a Christian, to understand this.

Think of the USSR, when whole families were thrown in labour camps because a family member was accused of being a spy or having a counterrevolutionary ideology. Or the genocide of the million odd kulaks in the USSR that happened in the 1920s, simply because they were a successful farming class of peasants.

Social justice is built on the ideology of class or race warfare, and thus guilt is imputed by association to anyone of a class or race deemed guilty of an anti-party or anti-narrative ideological crime. Here individuals are considered guilty until proven innocent — and innocence is impossible to prove if they are already guilty by association.

The Christian church has to wake up. Guilt is not imputed by association to a race or class. We stand or fall on our own actions alone.

If we as the Church do not stand up for biblical justice, in the end we will simply be counted as one of the enemies of the ruling ideology — worthy of imprisonment, torture and death, simply because of our association with Christ.

This happened in the USSR and China. It can and will happen again if we, out of timidity or ignorance, go along with the socialist narrative of social justice.

Remember that Western law teaches that the individual carries no guilt for others’ actions, or for any association to others of our class or race, or even the actions of a political party.

And further, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Even if we are guilty by individual action, we stand uncondemned in Christ if we have confessed and received His forgiveness. And fellow saints, if they are in Christ — even those who have suffered by our direct actions – should forgive their brother or sister of their condemnation, just as Christ has forgiven them.

The Church must move beyond socialist concepts of communal justice, and be justice bringers to individuals — loving and helping one soul at a time.

Author: Glenn Tungay is a pastor and businessman living in Amanzimtoti, South Africa. He is passionate about individual justice, liberty and politics in general.

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Liberty Requires The End of Government https://rationalstandard.com/liberty-requires-end-government/ https://rationalstandard.com/liberty-requires-end-government/#respond Fri, 06 Apr 2018 11:10:18 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7330 Any resort to violence except for the purposes of self-defense is the clearest indication that the person does not possess the basic intelligence required to be a member of society. Unfortunately for us, most people fall into this category (we see this by the fruits of democracy, more and more government, and thus violence) and […]

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Any resort to violence except for the purposes of self-defense is the clearest indication that the person does not possess the basic intelligence required to be a member of society. Unfortunately for us, most people fall into this category (we see this by the fruits of democracy, more and more government, and thus violence) and therefore it is folly to think we can belong to the same polity as these people and be okay.

We need to start seriously thinking about how to form our own enclaves and how to defend these, whether or not the violent give their consent. We need to figure out how to rob the state of its power over us. Doing this is not just a matter of chasing some ideal state that we have theorised; it is actually a matter of survival and ensuring that our progeny live in peace.

As much as sovereign debt represents a claim on our as-yet-unborn descendants’ property, so too does the very existence of government. Government exists under the assumption that it can and should be able to tax your descendants. If getting rid of the debt is a moral imperative, so too is getting rid of government. We have observed that the long-term trend is that governments grow towards a point of crisis and, maybe, shrinks because of economic reality. But that only lasts for a while.

The reason I keep making the point about the size of government is because government can only grow at the expense of your liberty, i.e. more taxes, more regulations, more legislation etc. Any attack on your liberty is a direct, violent attack on you, the individual. It therefore follows that as much as the growth of government is a bad thing, so too is its very existence. There is no optimal government size in which all of our liberties are perfectly preserved. You, as an individual, have to accept that the only person who can defend your life, liberty and property is yourself and no one else.

Of course, this does not exclude cooperation with neighbours and relatives for self-defense, but once you give up control of the smallest part of your life to someone else, you are now part slave and can no longer call yourself truly free. That is how governments are born, when people give up the right to control some part of their own lives but not just that, in doing so give up their children and grandchildren’s right to the same.

The reality is that all of us are born governing ourselves like it should be. Some clever fellow is not content with this, however, and seeks to convince you that he can handle his own as well as your affairs. If you refuse and have not made adequate arrangements for your own defense, he simply tells you that he will be running your affairs from then on at the point of a spear, a sword, or a gun.

No sane person would call this state of affairs freedom. Furthermore, the man who is arrogant enough to think he can run the affairs of others must have something seriously wrong with his mind. Someway or another, though, more than 7 billion human beings live under these conditions, not because it is impossible to imagine a better way to live, but rather because it seems as if most of us are weary about having to think and do for ourselves. There’s a deep-rooted fear of taking charge over our own selves and a fear of our fellow man and what he might do with his freedom.

Finally, as an anarchist, people often assume that my individualist views imply that I am against cooperation with other people. This is not true. In fact, if I did hold such a belief it would directly contradict my pro-market views, for what is the market if not individuals cooperating for each person’s self-interest? The market is one part of how anarchy will replace government functions; the other parts include charity, volunteering, etc. and all of these will require cooperation with others. The crucial difference is that no one will lose their God-given rights in the course of this cooperation, unlike the “social contract”.

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The Virtue of Peanut Butter Sandwiches https://rationalstandard.com/the-virtue-of-peanut-butter-sandwiches/ https://rationalstandard.com/the-virtue-of-peanut-butter-sandwiches/#respond Tue, 27 Mar 2018 21:25:07 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7381 Written by: Simon Venter There is a serious flaw in the way people approach problems, or rather perceived problems, and the way they have a habit of advancing ‘solutions’ for which they may take no responsibility should they be wrong. This piece is an allegory. In early January my family and I packed up house […]

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Written by: Simon Venter

There is a serious flaw in the way people approach problems, or rather perceived problems, and the way they have a habit of advancing ‘solutions’ for which they may take no responsibility should they be wrong. This piece is an allegory.

In early January my family and I packed up house to move from Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal, to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. The day that the movers came to pack up our home, turning it into a house, arrived shortly before we were scheduled to depart for PE. Due to a miscommunication between my mom and the lady who booked Pickfords for us, the gentlemen responsible for moving our worldly possessions were under the impression that they had to be done with the house by midday, when that was not in fact the case.

It is due to this miscommunication that the virtue of the peanut butter sandwich comes to light. As the men had not planned to be in Hilton past lunch time, none of them had packed lunch for the day – it was six by the time they left – and since we were to leave for Bloemfontein the next day, all our food had been thrown out or was packed – that which would not perish. Leaving only a loaf of bread, peanut butter and syrup among a few other odds and ends.

Seeing the plight of the movers, one of my sisters was moved to ask my dad if he could go out and buy the men some refreshments, something to drink and some sandwiches, as she felt bad that we had bought lunch whilst they were hard at work on empty stomachs. Due to the obvious cost catering for about 12 hungry men would entail, my dad said no; a response that my sister found very displeasing. It was at this point that I recalled a few points made by Thomas Sowell about how those that perceive a ‘problem’ are more than happy to suggest a ‘solution’ if it does not come at their own expense or that they will not have to face the consequences if their ‘solution’ was not in fact a ‘solution’ and that what is most often the thing that works is the approach of trade-offs. One could also apply Nassim Taleb’s “skin in the game” principle.

In this case, the consequence my sister would not have had to face would be being out of pocket a few hundred rands. The ‘trade-off’ as suggested by me was that she makes a peanut butter and syrup sandwich (the title would have been too long) for the men as opposed to sitting back and feeling bad that dad had not followed her ‘solution’. Having followed my suggestion, with the only hurdle being using a plastic camping spoon to spread the peanut butter and syrup onto the bread, we commenced making the sandwiches. Once done she informed the men of the sandwiches that awaited them – sandwiches that they said tasted amazing – and just like that, instead of her suggesting ‘solutions’ for which others would have to foot the bill, she had taken the ‘trade-off’ and done something proactive that required her putting “skin in the game”.

It was this scenario, however small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, that sparked this thought process. This little scenario illustrated a bigger point; often people look at a situation and see something they think to be wrong (often with only partial knowledge of what is occurring), then without serious thought, they begin spouting forth ‘solutions’ that will not cost them directly, be it in terms of time, liberty or monetarily. For things ranging from the minimum wage to ‘solutions’ for climate change.

Hence, the virtue of peanut butter sandwiches: if you encounter something that you find concerning but your immediate response is to lobby for others to take responsibility and incur great risk and responsibility whilst you can carry on your merry way unscathed, then you have not helped but merely caused a moral panic. And moral panics seldom result in anything but authoritarian responses.

Whenever confronted with a situation that strikes you as worrisome, ask yourself, will you act out of guilt, or compassion. Depending on your answer, you will either have “skin in the game” or be playing with other people’s pieces.

Author: Simon Venter is a young artist and student currently studying a BA MCC at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. Simon’s main intellectual influence is Thomas Sowell.

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The Dangers of Power and the Glory of Liberty https://rationalstandard.com/dangers-power-glory-liberty/ https://rationalstandard.com/dangers-power-glory-liberty/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 11:37:34 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6761 Power Martin van Staden rightfully stated about the nature of government that “that those who are inevitably attracted to government are people who seek power. This is an absolute rule.” Sure, and people going to a steak restaurant are attracted to meat and people entering a liquor shop are attracted by alcoholic beverages, with me especially champagne. […]

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Power

Martin van Staden rightfully stated about the nature of government that “that those who are inevitably attracted to government are people who seek power. This is an absolute rule.” Sure, and people going to a steak restaurant are attracted to meat and people entering a liquor shop are attracted by alcoholic beverages, with me especially champagne. Politics won’t go without power but also not without law, constitutionalism and institutions.

Power is the capacity of one, a pair, a group or an organisation to command the behaviour of others without the necessity to convince them.

Power is not only related to political rule and force. We find it everywhere: in the family, in labour relations, and in schools. For the purpose of this article I concentrate on political power. That leads to the question of what the essence of politics is. The essence of politics is the distinction between friend and foe. Friend and foe and the criteria may change through the times, it can be republicans vs. monarchists, segregationists vs. integrationists, command economy vs. the free market, and today politically-correct totalitarian governesses vs. supporters of freedom and individuality.

Sometimes we wonder what in the past people thought worthwhile to fight against. But the political foe will always be the alien against whom in extremis a fight must be organised. That does not mean that it is always about war. Maintaining and choosing peace are also political decisions and the greatest danger to law, liberty, constitutionalism and institutions are never-ending wars without limits, borders and even a properly defined enemy as we see it since 2001 as ‘terrorism’ is in most cases one ill-defined term and not a concrete enemy.

If you wage war against an ill-defined term you will have war. But rulers do not always have to use the instruments of power, in many cases persuasion and convincing through debate and public discussion is an appropriate way to rule. Brute force may be the standard of all kind of tyrannies but even the most liberal and modest state cannot exist without institutions enforcing law and order; even an anarchic-capitalist one includes the concept of an order.

Everyone before starting to construct his “Weltanschaung” (worldview or ideology) must make the decision if man is fundamentally ‘good’ or ‘capable to become and do evil’. Utopian  ideologies like all kind of socialism maintain that man is basically good and only circumstances make him evil. The reign of terror and genocides this concept produced since the French Revolution is evident, but the Jacobin scum will never give up .

Power is an essential instrument in politics. As all instruments it can be used carefully and constructively, or abused.

A sceptical (in the sense of Karl Popper) view on the human being and his nature makes us recognize the need for law, constitutions and institutions.

Law

Law is the exact opposite of arbitrary behaviour. But we often see arbitrary decisions veiled in the dress of formal law. This is poisonous. Law is only ‘law’ if it is reasonable (measured on the basic believes and assumptions which led to its formulation), predictable, constant, measurable, reviewable (by courts) and generally valid. ‘Rule of law’ can never mean that the law makes itself efficient without a moderator. This moderator can always only be man. Rule of law is only secured if man consciously follows due process and rules. “Stick to the rules” if you win or lose is a most essential attitude and the essence of just rule. At present, in Germany, parliamentary rules were suddenly changed as they may benefit a new opposition party, the patriotic and pro-free market Alternative for Germany. That is the first step towards arbitrary and tyrannical rule.

Constitution

Carl Schmitt remarked that every state is a state of law and every state is a constitutional state. “Das Recht ist im Staat and der Staat ist im Recht”, a quip that cannot be translated without losing the sardonic sense. We may interpret this sentence in a libertarian but also in a very etatistic sense. For our purpose we should only speak of constitution if it is the fundamental law of a state, if fundamental rights are recognised, if the separation of powers is secured, if (most, I am a monarchist) office bearers can be voted in but most importantly, also be voted out, if the courts of law are independent, if powers are distributed between federal and regional, and if the rule of law is established in all institutions of the state. That still does not give us complete security against crass abuse of power.

Most important is that the citizens see themselves as such. This means they consider themselves courageous people endowed with specific political rights and duties, ready to exercise them and not vote as cattle or serfs. Finally, it is the freedom-loving  citizen who protects the law and guards the constitution. Tyranny only comes into being with ‘yes’-men. We must have the courage to say ‘no’ and ‘without me’.

Institution

A realistic, meaning a sceptical, view of human nature leads us to recognise the necessity of institutions. “Institutum” in Latin means an establishment, a custom, a way of life. Institutions support the human being, they serve him and preserve both his liberty and his independence.

The opposite of a legitimate institution is bureaucracy: the dominance (in ancient Greek language “cratos“) of administration, in reality the dominance of a self-serving, greedy, tax-consuming, incompetent, cancer-like growing bunch of suckers good only at chicanery and turning citizens into serfs. The development from the Roman principat, a monarchic order respecting liberty and the rule of law to the dominat, a bureaucratic, tyrannical, even totalitarian order is a warning. We may see this most dangerous tendency in all highly-developed states and especially in the European Union.

Bureaucracy, which in essence will always be socialist, is so dangerous that it finally consumes the whole body politic, society, culture, and economy. As the great Austrian writer Heimito von Doderer said:

“Socialism as a tremendous expense for the welfare of humankind which consumes itself so completely  that finally everyone has the remaining. Nothing.”

Bureaucracy is libertarians’, liberals’, and conservatives’ ultimate enemy. It’s very existence destroys constitutionalism, the rule of law, and law and order itself. It is the most arbitrary and stupid, inept, suspect and debile abuse of power. In fighting this monster, we are fighting the good fight.

Sources:

Hans Strotzka, Macht: A psychoanalytic essay, Paul Zsolnay, Vienna, 1985

Carl Schmitt, Der Begriff des Politischen, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, 1932

C. Northcote Parkinson, Parkinson’s law, Houghton Mifflin Comp, Boston, 1957

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Must Stupid Reign? https://rationalstandard.com/must-stupid-reign/ https://rationalstandard.com/must-stupid-reign/#respond Tue, 30 Jan 2018 20:04:05 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7208 On the sentence: the intelligent gives way the world domination of the stupid is built! Maria von Ebner – Eschenbach (19th century Austrian writer and novelist) Sometimes we ask ourselves why so many stupid people are in responsible positions. By “stupid” I do not mean people possessing a different opinion or ideology – I know very […]

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On the sentence: the intelligent gives way

the world domination of the stupid is built!

Maria von Ebner – Eschenbach

(19th century Austrian writer and novelist)

Sometimes we ask ourselves why so many stupid people are in responsible positions. By “stupid” I do not mean people possessing a different opinion or ideology – I know very intelligent Socialists (and stupid Conservatives) – but people of definitely below-average intelligence. But simple stupidity is also not the whole point. A simpleton who at least knows that he is one and therefore knows his place and does not forward any claims to society is not really dangerous and may life a happy life – at least not disturbing others [1]. The dangerous combination, the poisonous brew to borrow a phrase from Sir Karl Popperconsists of  stupidity in the sense of being inept to master rational questions, mixed with ignorance and arrogance. But it seems that this is a driving combination to the top of some (mainly political) hierarchies.

The whole thing was already some time ago scientifically investigated and has a name [2]. It is named the Dunning-Kruger-effect. This is a  cognitive distortion, meaning that relatively inept people posses the tendency to overestimate their own capacities and underestimate the capacities of others. This popular term derives from a publication by David Dunning and Justin Kruger, dated 1999. Within psychological literature it has not been used (maybe due to incompetence?) but is at home in academic and social media discussions outside of psychology.

“If someone is really incompetent then he not even realizes that he is inept. … The properties one needs to find a correct solution are exactly those you need to recognize if a solution is correct or wrong,” David Dunning says.

My addition is that you have to be learned and intelligent enough to recognize which challenge or question is beyond your intellectual capacities. That includes a certain abstention from vanity, as some people are to vain to admit to themselves or even to others that they have limits of erudition. As Otto von Bismarck remarked, vanity is the mortgage on the character of man which has to be deducted to get the net value.

Dunning and Kruger had recognized in previous studies that for example by learning a text, playing chess or driving ignorance leads to more self confidence than knowledge. So knowledge is not only power but also a burden. At Cornell University both scientists researched that effect in further tests and concluded in 1999 that less competent persons:

  • Tend to overestimate their own capabilities;
  • Do not recognize or see superior capacities with others;
  • Are not able to measure the amount of their own incompetence;
  • may through education and training not only raise their own competence but may also learn how to evaluate others and themselves better.

In other words, they might be able to go from puffed-up know it all (like me) to a decent, rational thinker (like me). My personal addendum is that nothing makes one more eager to make a decision than a profound under-nourishment of real information. That seems to be the ‘recipe for success’ of some generals and many politicians.

Furthermore, this lack of competence and intelligence seems to go hand-in-hand with the tendency to command other people around. Therefore, we may see such people blossoming in all types of authoritarian structures. On the other side, hierarchical systems are necessary and (modestly applied) most useful.

Popper reminded us [3] to teach the student how difficult it is to gain secure knowledge,  but the plethora of 3/8 more deformed than educated, half-wits, loud mouths and busy bodies forms a phalanx eager to steamroll the educated ones. Also, the outstanding French diplomat and statesman Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord is reported [4]   to have made  a distinction as follows: intelligent and industrious at the same time does not exist (as the clever ones avoid work and can easily burden the stupid’s with it), intelligent and lazy he is himself, stupid and lazy may be useful for representation and protocol but stupid and industrious is a dangerous combination and the Almighty lord shall protect us then.

Dunning and Kruger did show that weak performances go much more hand-in-hand with over self-confidence than strong performances. Maybe real achievers are just more modest than the mediocre ones. [5]

The challenge is to select the right people, to have good schooling from the very beginning, to emphasize classical and philosophical education, and to strive for clean and decent heads of organisations. Because one thing is true always: ”The fish always rots from the head” and first class bosses have first class colleagues, employees and civil servants and second class ones, third and fourth class subjects. As Machiavelli taught us, “if you like to judge a prince, look at his courtesans”. If we look around, it does not look pleasant. And so we are back at Ebner-Eschenbach’s quote that giving way to inept men and idiots established their dominance. But why should that be ?

But we, the normal citizens, shareholders, or whatever, must stop being too polite to such people. Finally, there is only one good but harsh answer we should give the arrogant debili, inepti et suspecti , the one answer Charles de Gaulle gave them: “Ils sont censé allez merde”.

1) Horst Geyer, Ueber die Dummheit (On stupidity), VMA publisher, Wiesbaden, p 307f

2) Source: Wikipedia article on the ‘Dunning – Kruger’ effect.

3) The Open Society and its Enemies II, Francke, Munich, 3rd edition, 1977, p 353

4) Geyer, ibid, p 25

5) In the year 2000, Dunning and Kruger received the satiric Ig-Nobel prize in the field of psychology for their study.

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The long shadow of dwarfs (Part 2) https://rationalstandard.com/long-shadow-dwarfs-2/ https://rationalstandard.com/long-shadow-dwarfs-2/#respond Sat, 27 Jan 2018 19:49:40 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=6660 To the true, the beautiful and the good. – inscription on the Frankfurt Opera house After having discussed in part 1 the aesthetic foundations of liberty, and one typical popular musical phenomena, yours truly likes to turn to the question of why tastelessness prevails at the moment, and why some of those phenomena die young. […]

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To the true, the beautiful and the good.

– inscription on the Frankfurt Opera house

After having discussed in part 1 the aesthetic foundations of liberty, and one typical popular musical phenomena, yours truly likes to turn to the question of why tastelessness prevails at the moment, and why some of those phenomena die young. I will then turn to glorious news (as I dare to be an optimist) of the development of fantastic young Opera singers in South Africa.

Making money with nihilistic art production is the one and only triumph of cultural Marxism. It did not abolish the materially rich; it made them vulgar like any gutter-boy. It shows us physically that richness has nothing to do with elegance or nobility. And more: you can become rich by producing and managing empty, lousy, and ugly works of art. Of course, all conservatives and other decent people did know that already, but the Marxists and Nihilists proofed it on the living object.

My domestic from Malawi dresses more elegantly and stylishly then 95 percent of Viennese women, and about the remaining 5 percent I am not quite completely sure. In addition they, made it a reality that it is not longer reluctantly admissible to be mean in order to get rich, but that it is totally all right and admissible in being at the same time rich, mean, and vulgar. That is the best prerequisite for culture managers, especially in the field of music. The more empty and devoid of quality, the better.

The result is that everything – nearly everything – can be sold to rich and middle class and poor alike, if it just has the right (i.e. trendy left) cheeky slogan attached. T&Cs apply: if you challenge the emptiness and obvious vulgarity, you are a fascist.

Upon entering museums of modern art, or listening to the supposed more or less melodic noises, yours truly cannot stop laughing. But the best – the really best, the very best – are the large depots there all the gems of modern painting and sculpture which even nihilist art managers do not dare to sell, expose, or to exhibit, are stored.

You need a lot of good Champagne to survive that visual or noisy  ‘aesthetic’ experience. But with about three crates of Pol Roger and a beautiful girl on your side (or wherever it may be tolerable), looking at it or listening to it could then be very amusing, as modern art and, especially, designed ‘plastic’ music have no moral effect, nor any spiritual effect – just the need to make your champagne bottle go ‘bop’!

If we no longer cultivate music, we produce noise from the caves. [1]

You may ask what that has to do with liberty or economic considerations for a free market system? First, we cannot be truly free and rational acting humans if aesthetically rotting in the gutter, and, second, it warns us that even in the framework of a spontaneous and free economic order, aesthetic nonsense may happen and should be avoided as it finally subverts liberty and order.

But why do some musical phenomena die young or take drugs up to the upper edge of the lower chin? No one is more critical of his own products and creations than one who really wants to achieve and is culturally consciousness of his own qualities. But those who most intensely feel the huge gap between their puffed up status, the propaganda, and the empty wind made among them are celebrities and global icons, who often have quite limited or even poor substance. No one who at least tries to achieve something  meaningful in art can live and survive with that very big discrepancy, and no big numbers on pay cheques can redeem that feeling of emptiness and inadequacy which knocks on the door daily and mercilessly. They must then escape from a false, fake world into an even more unreal dream world. Drugs and alcohol are then easy remedies. “The emptiness empties any substance” [2] and then destroys the remaining. But the manipulators of nihilistic art production – and a public which does not dare to say ‘no’, and swallows every bit of nonsense and noise out of fear of being called reactionary, outdated, un-hip, fascist and so on – are all also guilty.

The circle is closed and perfect. The clueless and the cowards finance the nihilist machinery, which employs producers of noise and nonsense, which serve the base needs of the masses, who are then motivated to finance more of the same. The whole thing is redundant but profitable and therefore works ad repetendum.

But not with people possessing a rational and aesthetic standard. The task is to make their standard dominant.

And with that said, we march into the realm of brilliant young classic musical singers in South Africa.

Of course, my few sentences cannot be an anthology of all those marvellous artists, but I may name a few – with an heart-felt apology to the unlisted – and introduce them shortly. The readers’ interest is encouraged: Google, social media, and ClassicFM may give you a plethora of further information. “El lucevan le stele”…

The Gauteng Opera is an all-round performing arts and entertainment company focusing on opera-related productions, concerts, and events in South Africa. They not only do performances, but also organize an Academy for talented young singers and train and develop for the Opera of the future, do auditions and various events. You may meet them online and see and hear them on the 18th of July in Johannesburg presenting La Boheme.

Pretty Yende is surely one of the most outstanding lyric coloratura sopranos of the present Opera scene. Coming from Piet Retief, she discovered classic Opera by coincidence. Over years and years, she trained and developed her voice, won prizes and eminent competitions, until a few years ago she achieved a break through at the Metropolitan Opera in Le Comte Ory. She is based in Milano, and covers the Italian and French repertoire. Her CD Pretty Yende – a journey gives fabulous examples from various roles she performed. I wonder if we will hear her once as Isolde. Many people believe that one is born with a great voice – this is not quite so. It is a very difficult and demanding task to form a natural talent. The quip about success being 90 percent transpiration and 10 percent inspiration is most true in that musical realm.

Levy Strauss Segkapane is a young lyric tenor performing the Italian repertoire, especially Rossini. He has already sung many roles throughout various European opera houses. At the age of 27, he already has a wonderful lyric voice, which is most promising. Recently, he impressed as Conte de Liebenskof in Viaggio a Reims and Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola. Juan Domingo Flores, watch out!

Pumeza Matshikiza is a soprano who studied at the University of Cape Town College of Music, graduated cum laude under Professor Virginia Davids, then at the Royal College of Music, London, with a full three-year scholarship, and in the Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House, where she made her début as a flower maiden in Parsifal. She released her debut studio album, Voice of Hope, in 2014 containing both classic arias and African popular and traditional songs.

Stefan Louw is an outstanding tenor, singing both heroic and lyric tenor roles like Alfredo in La Traviata, Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly, or Cavaradossi in Tosca. He is also active in popularizing the Opera genre; for example he founded a non-profit organisation called Sempre Opera, which produces operas in South Africa. The launch concerts for Sempre Opera took place in March 2012 in Pretoria and Johannesburg. He has produced a series of concerts called Aria! Opera for Everyone, which ran in 2013 and 2014 at the Roodepoort Theatre in Johannesburg. In 2014, he started the non-profit Big Wig Opera company, also based at the Roodeport.

Noluvuyiso Mpofu is from the Eastern Cape near Port Elisabeth. In summer 2016, she won the 2nd prize at the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition held in Cape Town. She is a lyric coloratura soprano, and recently sung Gilda in Rigoletto, Clara in Porgy and Bess and Micaela in Carmen. I believe she is a great promise.

Siyabonga Maqungo is a lyric tenor who, after his study at the North-West University, gained a stipend for Cologne to do a Masters at the prestigious Kölner Hochschule für Musik und Tanz. During summer 2015, he made his debut as Alfred in Die Fledermaus at the  Staatstheater Meiningen, a theatre with a very long tradition of cultivating opera. His first fixed engagement started there in the season of 2015/2016, where he appeared in five productions, singing (for example) the Normanno in Lucia di Lammermoor and the Conte Almaviva in the Barbiere de Seviglia. Check him out!

Nombuso Ndlandla is also from Piet Retief, and a promising lyric coloratura soprano, but I believe she also has a dramatic touch. She also studied at the North-West University, also got a stipend to Cologne to finish her studies, trained by Professor Protschka She concentrates in Belcanto and music of Händel, Vivaldi, Mozart and Bach. She is promising and we hope for a break through.

Jaques Imbrailo is a classic baritone. He grew up on a farm in the Free State province of South Africa, and first got into singing on a dare, at age 11, during open auditions after a concert by the Drakensburg Boys Choir. He later went to university to study law, but took singing lessons on the side, earning both a BA Law degree and a BMus degree at Potchefstroom Campus in South Africa, in 2002. Later, he studied at the Royal College of Music in London. His first major success was his performance as Billy Budd in Britten‘s opera at Glyndebourne in 2010. He has performed in Debussy‘s Pelléas et Mélisande with the Welsh National Opera and at the Aalto Theatre in Essen, Germany, Mozart‘s Don Giovanni with the Scottish Opera, Così fan tutte with the Houston Grand Opera, Die Zauberflöte with the Welsh National Opera, Le nozze di Figaro with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Purcell‘s Dido and Aeneas with Rome Opera.

Musa Ngqungwana is a bass baritone coming from Port Elizabeth. He graduated with Honors in Performance (First Class) from the University of Cape Town, and is also a graduate of the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) in Philadelphia. He wrote his memoirs, Odyssey of an African Opera Singer: From Zwide Township to the World Stage, which was published in 2014. His performance highlights have included the roles of Talpa in Puccini’s Il tabarro, Count Waldner in R.Strauss Arabella, the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Lorenzo in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi, and Zuniga in Bizet’s Carmen, plus the following roles during his time at the Academy of Vocal Arts: the title role in Verdi’s Oberto, the four villains in Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann, Gremin in Tschaikovski’s Eugene Onegin, Sancho Pança in Massenet’s Don Quichotte, Samuel in Verdi’s Un ballo in Maschera, and Les Comte Grieux in Massenet’s Manon, and many many other roles and appearances.

With pleasure we may recognize a blossoming culture of classic singing among young or younger singers dedicated to the great musical heritage of Europe. Ex Africa lux!

  1. For an anthropological overview: Stanford and Forsyth, A History of Music, Macmillan & Co, London 1950; Chapter I and II. Music is more than just rhythm, voice, melody and instruments made with and by the hands and a more or less insecure and timid combination of that factors.
  2. My strongly subjective translation of Martin Heidegger’s sentence “Das Nichts nichtet”.

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