Social – 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 Social – Rational Standard https://rationalstandard.com 32 32 94510741 Arguments Are Everything, Identity and Emotions Are Nothing https://rationalstandard.com/arguments-are-everything-identity-and-emotions-are-nothing/ https://rationalstandard.com/arguments-are-everything-identity-and-emotions-are-nothing/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 22:37:58 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7703 Written by: Ryan Rutherford Not long ago I had an all too dishearteningly common online interaction, one that provides as good an entry as any into a discussion attempting to contrast those elements constitutive of ideal discourse with the ignoble forces militating against its realisation. More importantly, these starkly discrepant approaches possess ramifications beyond what might […]

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Written by: Ryan Rutherford

Not long ago I had an all too dishearteningly common online interaction, one that provides as good an entry as any into a discussion attempting to contrast those elements constitutive of ideal discourse with the ignoble forces militating against its realisation.

More importantly, these starkly discrepant approaches possess ramifications beyond what might at first blush appear to be an academic exercise in the etiquette of intellectual engagement.  This extended reflection was prompted by the fallout from an article I posted on Facebook by a British legal scholar critiquing the ANC’s intention to expropriate land without compensation as a means to redress historical injustice.

The piece made mention of the importance of private property and the ANC’s binding commitments to various international statutes protecting this fundamental right.  The debate that subsequently ensued, involving a personage with whom I was “friends” solely on that social media platform, was thoroughly unpleasant, to write the least.  His initial salvo was to claim that whites lose all neutrality when discussing the land issue, and went on to accuse me of indulging in “white supremacist” thinking.  Throughout our exchange, this self-proclaimed academic never once addressed the substance of any of the points made by the legal scholar, nor any of those I volunteered to elaborate upon my views in furtherance of trying to have a meaningful debate.

Instead, I was subject to increasingly deranged vituperative abuse and the repeated imputation that my worldview stemmed entirely from my racial identity. 

This deeply frustrating exercise represents in microcosm what is the increasing norm in South African political discourse, with the land issue often providing the emotive spark facilitating the sharp slide into racialist degeneration.  When Alf Lees of the Democratic Alliance denounced bank nationalisation as a “mad idea” in Parliament, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi took umbrage at being criticised by a white man.

The demagogic leader of the EFF, Julius Malema, launched a campaign to unseat Nelson Mandela Bay mayor, Athol Trollip, because the DA refused to support expropriation without compensation, consistently emphasising that he is targeting Trollip because he is a white man, and declaring in a speech that he wants to “cut the throat of whiteness.”

Former ANC Secretary General, and current Minister of Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe, told a conference gathering that some white farmers were “greedy” because they were opportunistically buying up land when it became available.  How dare they?!  This is just a very limited summary of the kind of race-inflected sentiments regularly spewed forth from major politicians, with Malema being the worst offender by some margin, but certainly not alone in his race-baiting antics.

What my experience with that Facebook fanatic and the vile pronouncements of these political figures have in common, is that they are engaging in a classical logical fallacy known as an ad hominem.  They are directly attacking a person, that is, rather than the substance of their ideas.  Considering the explicit racial dimension to these attacks, and the general tenor of hateful vitriol directed against whites that appears ever more pervasive in this country, Malema and co are in addition peddling the kind of imbecilically vicious racist pabulum that purveyors of identity politics have so insidiously perfected.

While the identity politics brigade are particularly prone to subverting even the minimal standards conducive to meaningful discourse, they are certainly not alone, thus it is perhaps worth tarrying a moment on the basic template that should underpin good argumentational form.

An elementary point of departure in this regard is the notion that one either has good reasons for believing something, or one doesn’t.  Therefore, screaming that one’s interlocutor is a racist or a sexist or an ignoramus because they may hold contrary beliefs, or even for simply asking one to justify one’s beliefs, is not providing reasons, nor presenting anything that can even charitably be described as an argument.  And yet this is so often exactly how “conversations” proceed on the Internet, a medium of ostensibly unparalleled world-inclusive communication, whether referring to Facebook, Twitter, or any other cyber locale where large numbers of people digitally congregate. To reiterate, and taking only a random sampling, if one believes in god, the wonders of the free market, that 9/11 was an inside job, that women are smarter than men, that Trump is the best president ever, that Richard Dawkins is a racist, simply stating so, no matter how heartfelt one’s commitment to any of these views, is simply never good enough.

The onus is always and everywhere on the person making a claim to buttress it with evidence and logical reasoning.  To consider it rude or offensive to be expected to provide justification for one’s views is at best hopelessly oversensitive and, at worst, not understanding the rudiments of sound argumentation.

But as my afore-detailed experience makes clear, often something far less innocent is at play in derailing potentially fruitful exchanges.  The pernicious ulterior motive I have in mind is rooted in identity politics, a worldview that admittedly allows for a range of differing interpretations, but can usefully be defined as a perspective holding that a person’s essential characteristics, or indeed the most important traits defining them, are inextricably bound up with membership in some collective.

That we are all members of multiple groups, in the present author’s case those with a Y chromosome, the cis-gendered club, and the Caucasian fraternity, among others, creates some obvious problems, but intersectionality has thankfully stepped into the breach to provide a kind of arithmetic to calculate what combination of groupings renders someone the winner in the victimology Olympics.

But I digress.

Identity politics can be, and is, employed by members of both dominant and previously marginalised groups, whether referring, in the American context, to the white identity politics that helped propel Trump to the White House, or the black nationalism promoted by the Black Panthers.  In South Africa, the AWB and EFF are both ardent proponents of identitarianism, although obviously from different ends of the racial spectrum.  Giving such salient credence to group identity, whether as a defence mechanism for the one making claims or deflecting those made by others, is the surest way to reduce conversations to mere unhinged mudslinging contests where someone’s statements are not seen as a good faith attempt at putting forward legitimate reasons for thinking in a certain way, but instead as intrinsically tied to their race, gender, national identity, sexual orientation, or any other perceived identity marker.

As my own aggravating encounter with that putative academic so vividly showcased, one of the most poisonous aspects of adopting identity politics as a guiding epistemological principle is that it reduces everyone else to the same lowly level of unthinking anti-intellectualism.  To such beings, it is quite inconceivable that anyone could see the world differently, and might genuinely be interested in conducting a good faith discussion about ideas.  I, too, simply had to be motivated primarily by my identity, and to perceive all others as similarly inspired, as this was how he monomaniacally navigated the world.  The intellectual and moral corruption, not to mention outright totalitarianism, entailed by this outlook can hardly be overstated.

Subscribing to an identitarian prism is not just intellectually lazy, dishonest, unfair, inhumane, regressive, and reactionary, among other deplorable attributes, but has potentially far-ranging social ramifications.  This is particularly problematic in South Africa where centuries of stringent racial categorisation, the most pernicious form of identity politics, was used to justify egregiously oppressive policies directed against the majority black population.  After this shameful history, for such a society to again reduce everyone to their membership in a racial group is to seriously court repeating, if not in important respects risk dangerously emulating, the mistakes of the Apartheid government, from which nothing good can follow.  Trafficking in identitarianism is not just dangerously reductive, a sure-fire way to atrophy one’s capacity for critical thinking and self-reflection, the cornerstone of thinking in any meaningful sense, but is liable to engender an irrational and overarching hatred of the other that will almost inevitably culminate in violence or physical oppression, possibly on a vast scale.  Witness the sickeningly destructive antics of Fees Must Fall, the outrageous acts of vandalism and land occupations and looting stoked by the EFF in the last few months, or, further afield, the stomach-churning carnage witnessed in Charlottesville last year when white supremacists, the ideological mirror image of the FMF/EFF types in this country, went on a brutal rampage, leading to the death of a young woman and injuring many others.  These actions were not mere aberrations, but stem inescapably from an underlying weltanschauung positing the primacy of some kind of collective identity over a commitment to appraising everyone as an individual.

If South Africa is ever to transcend its seemingly intractable fixation on racial collectivism, the same conceptual scaffolding that has for so long brought so much grief and suffering, not to mention warped the moral sensibilities of all those beholden to this toxic identitarian strain, a thoroughgoing commitment to evaluating a person’s arguments and intellect will have to be vigorously pursued and consistently upheld.  In short, we should ardently and unapologetically advocate for a culture where the content of someone’s character means everything and their melanin quotient means absolutely nothing.

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An Open Letter to President Ramaphosa https://rationalstandard.com/an-open-letter-to-president-ramaphosa/ https://rationalstandard.com/an-open-letter-to-president-ramaphosa/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 19:22:00 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7938 Written by: Hügo Krüger Dear President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa Last Thursday you gave a very reasonable speech to the Afrikanerbond in Cape Town. It was a breath of fresh air to listen to you. I sincerely hope that the call for unity and cooperation will lead to action and that it will not cause further […]

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Written by: Hügo Krüger

Dear President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa

Last Thursday you gave a very reasonable speech to the Afrikanerbond in Cape Town. It was a breath of fresh air to listen to you. I sincerely hope that the call for unity and cooperation will lead to action and that it will not cause further mistrust in our government.

I am an Afrikaner that grew up during the 1990s in a time of enormous change in our society. South Africa is a multi-cultural, -ethnic, -tribal and –linguistic society that always has the risk of falling back into tyranny. Very often this risk does not appear because of deliberate government policies, but rather because of a failure to act. This has been my assessment of the ANC in the last eight years. I hope that your leadership will not be a repetition. South Africa simply cannot afford another Jacob Zuma.

You were right last night to cite the Broederbond as the essential vehicle that the Afrikaners used to uplift themselves after the scourge of the Anglo-Boer War. You were right to mention that the Afrikaner elites at the time did not want to give black South Africans the same rights that they demanded from the British. You were also right to mention that the Broederbond laid the essential philosophic ideas behind Apartheid and that they were eventually forced to give it up during the 1980s.

You asked us to reflect on our history and the Broederbond as an organisation. I hope to do so with this letter. I hope to start a dialogue.

Much has been said in South Africa about the minds of the oppressed people, but few words have been written about the minds of the oppressor. Why can human beings be swept up by emotion, into nationalism, and eventually commit atrocities while remaining good people? A reflective insight into our own human nature is needed for all South Africans if we are ever going to draw any conclusions from our complex and difficult history. Afrikaners, as you said, in particular, have to reflect on their past, but I hold that all South Africans should listen.

We need to understand that oppression is not committed by evil men, rather by good men who believe sincerely in bad ideas. Oppression is often supported by powerful quasi-religious benevolent ideologies. The Nazis, for example, had a view of a final solution, the British carried a white man’s burden, the French were on a mission to civilize the natives, the Russians wanted an egalitarians society, America is spreading democracy in the Middle East, China is spreading development throughout the world, and the Afrikaners imposed Apartheid as a tool to give self-determination to all South Africa’s tribes while priding themselves on their victory against British colonialism. Atrocities of this nature are almost always committed by a victim mentality and as late as the 1990s when I was in school you should see how the painful memory of the Anglo-Boer War was still used to further nationalistic ideals.

This was how the Afrikaner elites tried to justify their policy to their people. The Broederbond used high school teachers, the Dutch Reformed Church, the universities and all institutions of authority to further their indoctrination. The ideology of Apartheid was a powerful one that still carries its ramifications in modern South Africa. Segregation was not a unique experience to South Africa, but the doctrine of Apartheid was a form of segregation of a particular kind – a segregation of the minds of South Africans. It was a social engineering that affected our society on a deep psychological level. The mind is the most power tool that humans have and very often, as Steve Biko said, it is the tool of oppression. Today, most Afrikaners will admit that Apartheid was morally wrong, but in retrospect, I probably would have supported it had I been subjected to the same strong indoctrination of the Broederbond.

Since the days of the Frontier Wars, the Afrikaners have always seen themselves as a persecuted minority and this group psychology is what has influenced the decisions of its leaders. It was, therefore, no coincidence that the Afrikaners selected those who they did during the Apartheid era. It was a response to the decision of the colonial government to take them to fight for Britain in the 1st and 2nd World Wars, to put down the Rand Rebellion, the memory of the concentration camps, Amajuba, the Great Trek, Slagtersnek and, yes, it was also furthered by a belief in racial superiority combined with a deep Calvinist religion and a global fear of communism. Combine this with the reality of how whites were chased out of post-colonial Kenya, Mozambique, Angola and later Rhodesia and you have the perfect recipe for strong ideologies to take hold. I should be very clear that an explanation for Apartheid cannot ever justify its crimes and the injustices that non-white South Africans and blacks in particular faced.

The Afrikaners throughout our history have had essentially two fears, as Alan Paton described it: The fear of the native and the fear of the British. To put in in modern terms, the Afrikaners are scared of losing their land and their language. If the ANC does not take these legitimate fears into account, then they will find even more resentment from the Afrikaners.

The Afrikaners’ strategy to deal with these matters has always been to go into the laager mentality. This was the symbolism at Blood River. This is the strategy behind Solidariteit and AfriForum. It explains why Afrikaner students will fight tooth and nail to not have Afrikaans removed from universities. Or why they are so angry when their monuments are vandalised, their history criminalized, or when there is a perception of unequal application of the law. Many Afrikaners held these sentiments to one degree or another during the last 24 years. If we make a cynical extrapolation from these events, then it is not difficult to see how some Afrikaners can still see themselves as victims despite having economic success.

This is not a unique to Afrikaners. Most minorities in the world will have this phenomenon to some degree, be it the Kurds in Turkey and Iran, the Jews in Israel, Catalans in Spain, the Scots in the UK or the Pashtos in Afghanistan. Put a minority under stress and you will always find a tribal laager reaction. It is a group survival mechanism. This is why a movement like Solidariteit exists. They have almost half a million members at this stage, and it will only grow if the ANC does not negotiate.

The Afrikanerbond no longer plays a meaningful role in our society. They lost their legitimacy in the eyes of the Afrikaners in 1994. The reason for this is not so obvious among the Afrikanerbond and the NG Kerk. They are still living in denial of their own irrelevance. Most Afrikaners of my father’s era have deep resentment for the Broederbond. They essentially asked his generation to serve South Africa by implementing conscription. Their own sons were sent to safe locations in the country or had the opportunity to study overseas and thus avoiding military service all together. You will find few names of Broederbond soldiers written at the Border War memorials at the Voortrekker Monument. The soldiers on the wall are from families who had no significant political influence. They are often poor and from working-class white areas. After 1994, the Broederbond apologized to black South Africans for the crimes of Apartheid, but they, until today, never had the guts to look their own people in the eyes and tell them that they misled them. You can see the resentment by looking at how the numbers of the Dutch Reformed Church has declined.

My suggestion is that you negotiate with Solidariteit. The Secretary General, Flip Buys, is a decent and reasonable human being. The existence of Solidariteit did not simply come into play by accident. They came from a labour movement of poor and lower-middle class Afrikaners who were replaced as the government pursued their transformation goals. The organisation is well-positioned today in most sectors of Afrikaner society. They might also have the recipe for black South Africans to get out of the dying and unsustainable poverty that they find themselves in.

Since 1994, the life of many Afrikaners has significantly changed. Many Afrikaners are well-off and all estimates show that our wealth has skyrocketed after 1994. Afrikaner kids are no longer encouraged to go into the military or public service. They are, instead, encouraged to go out and start their own businesses, study mathematics and science or to get experience outside of South Africa. They are encouraged to work hard to not be a victim of BEE and as a result entrepreneurial ventures have sprung up.

Yet, despite the wealth, we are still complaining ‘met ‘n witbrood onder die arm’. The reason is that Afrikaners feel culturally isolated from South Africa. They feel that the government does not give them recognition for their contribution to building up the country. This is especially true when city names are changed, history books are written and recognition is given by government only for individual achievements. In short, the Afrikaners feel left out of the national narrative. The Afrikaners have, like most South Africans, a culture of honour – they value recognition. The ANC is quick to rightfully point out black achievement, but it constantly debates away white achievement as nothing more than ‘privilege’. Is it no surprise then that white South Africans and Afrikaners in particular do not want to cooperate with the government?

On the economic front, the Afrikaners do not need any special treatment from the government; all that they are asking for is fair treatment in theory and in practice.  If the Afrikaners are honest to ourselves then we will admit that Transnet, Iscor, Sasol, the Post Office and even the old Defence Force were essentially affirmative action schemes to advance Afrikaners during the last century. These were never wealth-creating professions, but they did offer protection against the deep cracks of our society. Black South Africans deserve the same, but they need to realize that true wealth creation will only occur once we get a scientific, mathematical and business culture going. This is where most of our energy should be going to.

The Afrikaans language was part of the vehicle that led to the technological development of many Afrikaners. It made the scientific and mathematical terms culturally relevant and took the culture from essential poverty in the beginning of the last century to a culture that developed nuclear weapons and petrochemicals within just one generation. The ANC has to reflect on their attitude to language. It has been the elephant in the room when it comes to South Africa’s bad mathematical and scientific results during the past 24 years. We can’t have all 11 languages at our universities, but a solid foundation in the home language, based on scientific and not ideological reasoning is required to develop the culture. Black South Africans have a rightful and justified fear that language can be used to segregate society, but the benefits of mother tongue education during the foundational phase remains scientifically valid. They owe it to their children.

Many Afrikaners are prepared to acknowledge that our wealth came about as a result of Apartheid and that black people were unjustly excluded from many endeavours of life, but I cannot personally accept the principle that the benefit of one necessarily has to come at the cost of another. The annals of history have shown that this can only lead to moral mutual destruction. We cannot leave our children to inherent a country where the history of another generation will be written in the bloody ink of our own spite.

I am not opposed to affirmative action if it is done in a non-racial and decent way. You will find much support among Afrikaners for it. Many of them are prepared to use their skills to contribute to the upliftment of black South Africans, but they would want for it to be done in the right way. They do not want future policies to exclude their children from active participation in society. The current approach does.

My view is influenced by that the late Dr. Neville Alexander who spent time with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. He held that the reason why Rwanda spiraled into genocide was because they essentially continued classifying people in the same fashion as their colonial masters did. He warned that South Africa’s then-affirmative action policy will create divisions and that it had ‘genocide potential’. This view is also held by Judge Chris Greenland of Zimbabwe, who was the first black judge in all of Southern Africa, and a personal friend. I recommend that you also hear his views on land reform. He is prepared to assist South Africa with a legal model so that we can prevent the calamity that destroyed his home country.

There are other historical examples of where classification-based policies can rip a country apart. The most notable examples are the high support for Hitler in the Sudetenland when Czech citizens were offered beneficial treatment in then-Czechoslovakia, the inequality in Malaysia between the Chinese and Malay, the treatment of the Ibos in Nigeria, the situation of the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria and, of course, the genocide of Rwanda. I can even add Donald Trump’s rise in America to the list. In all these examples, the victim mentality arrived with people who were economically better off. They felt targeted by race-based policies, even as inequality grew in their favour.

The idea that the whole society can be divided into four categories was at the heart of the Apartheid ideology and the ANC has in the last 25 years perpetuated this notion.  Namibia, a country that also experienced Apartheid, has far fewer racial problems than we do, because they decided to get rid of this unjust categorisation from the onset of their democracy. France, my country of residence, outlaws raced-based categories in in their constitution and so does Germany. Their children are raised as Namibian, French and German respectively – regardless of their skin colour. It is not that racism doesn’t exist in these societies; it is simply that government policies take a principled stance against classification while it can still implement affirmative action.

Forcing black, Indian, Coloured and white South Africans to classify themselves is simply morally wrong. It is an injustice that might even have legal grounds in our constitution and, more importantly, it is perpetuated through the ANC’s vision for South Africa.

My request to your, Mr. President, is that you also reflect deeply on the ANC’s fanatical pursuit of transformation, and ask if it is not at the heart of the failings of our government and social services, mainly because it is based on the premise that redress can only be done by using the same categorisation that Apartheid policy was built on. We owe it to our children to find another more humane way.

If dialogue leads to action and if our policies are based on humanistic, reasonable and scientific principles, then I can assure you that you will find support from even the most conservative Afrikaners. I am also prepared to talk to you as we go into the next election cycle. You opened the door to a historical opportunity; let’s walk through it together.

Yours sincerely,

Hügo Krüger

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An Open Letter to Men https://rationalstandard.com/an-open-letter-to-men/ https://rationalstandard.com/an-open-letter-to-men/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 14:55:33 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7521 Dear Men, Today I urge you to, instead of reacting defensively like the alpha male you aspire to be, to just read and contemplate. Listen to what I’m going to tell you, and then take a day or two to think about it. Take some time to ruminate over how patriarchal cultural stereotypes of men […]

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Dear Men,

Today I urge you to, instead of reacting defensively like the alpha male you aspire to be, to just read and contemplate. Listen to what I’m going to tell you, and then take a day or two to think about it. Take some time to ruminate over how patriarchal cultural stereotypes of men are busy killing us. We are busy killing each other without realising it.

I’ve always been a staunch proponent of the view that patriarchal cultural stereotypes of men lead to a deterioration of men’s mental health and can subsequently cause us to take our own lives. From a young age, the vast majority of men are taught that they’re not allowed to show emotion, that it is not okay to not be okay, and that the alpha stereotype should be strengthened through our behaviour at all costs. A recent report by Africa Check stated that, in 2012, 14 men on average killed themselves each day in South Africa. The male death rate for suicide was 21 per 100 000 people. That is a rate five times higher than the female death rate by suicide of 4 per 100 000 people.

research report by Samaritan puts the factors contributing to male suicide into the following categories: psychological and personality factors; masculinities; relationship breakdown; and emotional lives and social (dis)connectedness. Some factors related to cultural patriarchal expectations that increase the risk of male suicide are, in my opinion, the following:

Social perfectionism (psychological factor)

Men must always meet the expectations of others.

This is quite telling.

Men are expected to always be emotionally resilient and unemotional, and that we cannot bulge under pressure. These expectations based on male cultural stereotypes are not only perpetuated by men, but also by women.

Perceived burdensomeness (psychological factor)

The expectation of men to be the perfect alpha males leads to men feeling inadequate because they feel incapable of meeting such expectations, in my opinion.

Hegemonic masculinity (masculinities)

This refers to the current form of masculinity held in highest regard by society. Again, we deal with societal expectations of men.

This form is characterised by traits such as striving for power and dominance, aggressiveness, courage, independence, rationality, competitiveness, not perceiving or admitting anxiety, just to name a few.

Hegemonic masculinity is associated with emotional control and power, and men who fail to gain such control actually allegedly use suicide as a way of expressing or regaining control. Men use more lethal methods of suicide than women, and it is hypothesised that this can be an expression of masculinity.

Providing for the family (masculinities)

Men are still expected, in many societies, to be the breadwinner in their family. Hands-on caring for children is seen as non-masculine, and women generally enjoy higher societal recognition accorded to their role as mother.

This specific factor is not only harmful to men, but also harmful to women, as men are expected to be the head of the household as well, and that wives are supposed to be subservient to them.

Bodily expressions of masculinity (masculinities)

A lot of expectations regarding bodily expressions of masculinity include risky behaviour.

Uneasy about talking about emotions (emotional lives)

We live in an era of a changing emotions culture, which is a good thing. However, a lot of men in their mid-life phase are struggling to adjust to this change. While they know that talking is good, they struggle to adjust their behaviour accordingly.

Men are, in general, much less likely than women to hold a positive view of accessing formal support for emotional difficulties. Many men do not describe relationships based primarily on talking about their feelings. Men seek unconditional acceptance or, put another way, seek a no-questions-asked type of relationship. I think you can see how this can be very problematic

One thing that is as clear as day when considering the above-mentioned factors is that men are expected to act in a certain manner that is almost devoid of engaging with their emotions constructively. Society has created the typical male stereotype, hegemonic masculinity, that holds men to a certain unrealistic and unhealthy standard.

This is what is meant by patriarchy having a detrimental effect not just on women, but on men as well. These standards are ironically being upheld by men themselves, and to a certain degree by a lot of women as well. In the words of Jane Powell, head of the male suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM.):

“The simple, numerical fact of the matter is that men are dying by their own hand far more than women. We need to tackle that immediately.”

Prevention is the only solution to suicide, and the only way we can prevent more men from feeling inadequate and unworthy is to stop expecting stereotypical cavemen attributes from them. Yes, the typical alpha male characteristics evolved as an evolutionary survival mechanism, but these traits have become redundant in the modern age. We also developed critical reasoning abilities, and we should use them to identify characteristics that are now more harmful than beneficial. We also need to stop with the bullshit narrative that men aren’t allowed to not be okay, but more specifically, that men aren’t allowed to show to others that they’re not okay.

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Ethical Journalism: Significant Moments in SA Media History https://rationalstandard.com/ethical-journalism-significant-moments-in-sa-media-history/ https://rationalstandard.com/ethical-journalism-significant-moments-in-sa-media-history/#respond Sat, 02 Jun 2018 13:12:41 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7885 “To publish such a story about a sister company required rare courage, professionalism and principle from News24 editor Adriaan Basson and his team. They had informed their boss, Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman, that this bombshell was coming and no attempt was made to dissuade them from doing so.” Anton Harber Daily Maverick 24/11/2017 “There has […]

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“To publish such a story about a sister company required rare courage, professionalism and principle from News24 editor Adriaan Basson and his team. They had informed their boss, Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman, that this bombshell was coming and no attempt was made to dissuade them from doing so.”
Anton Harber Daily Maverick 24/11/2017

“There has been a gradual but systemic assault on journalism at Independent since Survé took over the group. There are good journalists and editors who are left quite helpless as their proprietor rides roughshod over any semblance of editorial independence. And there are good journalists and editors who have aided and abetted Survé. And although some of those editors and journalists have been able to reconstruct themselves outside of Indy, it is the staff of the Independent’s newsrooms right now that emerge worst off.

Because it’s not just about the credibility of Independent titles. It is about the credibility of the news media as an institution. And such wanton disregard for editorial independence severely damages the practice of journalism in South Africa.”
Editorial Mail & Guardian 26/4/2018

In September 1996, Naspers faced a significant ethical and generational crisis.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had announced its intention to investigate the role of the media in supporting apartheid.

Matters came to a head on Friday 25 July 1997 when Ton Vosloo, the Executive Chairman of Naspers, formally declined an invitation from Denzil Potgieter, Chairman of the TRC’s Media and Communication Committee, to make a submission in this regard.

In his letter to Potgieter, Vosloo said that he saw no reason for Naspers to participate in the TRC media investigation because the company had never been guilty of any contravention of human rights or other abuses and therefore had no reason to confess or apologise.

In his letter he also said that Naspers, as a company, could not respond on behalf of its newspapers and their editors because they were independent and, should they respond, they would need to do so individually.

Enormous tension

This created enormous tension within the company’s publications which culminated in 127 Naspers journalists – in their individual capacity – from both newspapers and magazines, making a submission to the TRC in which they retrospectively apologised for the supportive role that Naspers publications in the past had played in the evolution of apartheid.

Their submission was welcomed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu on behalf of the TRC.

Tim du Plessis was one of the Naspers journalists who signed a submission to the TRC and both he and Vosloo have contributed chapters to the definitive book on modern Naspers history ‘n Konstante Revolusie: Naspers, Media 24 en Oorgange (Tafelberg, 2015) which was collated by Professor Lizette Rabe, head of the Department of Journalism at the University of Stellenbosch.

In his chapter, Du Plessis strongly emphasises that Naspers never retaliated in the slightest way against the signatories and, from then on and as always, their upward progression within the company depended purely and entirely on merit.

This is my translation from Afrikaans of what du Plessis wrote:

“A very important point to be made, is that these ‘rebels’ never suffered any retribution. In fact, no one has any knowledge of signatories who were victimised. Three years later, Kruger and Rossouw became editors of Beeld and Die Burger respectively. Four years later I was appointed as editor of Rapport, and later also became editor of Beeld. Esmaré Weideman, then co-editor of Drum, not only became chief editor of Media24 family magazines, but is the chief executive of Media24 now. Michelle van Breda became editor of Sarie. Many of the rest were promoted to important positions, such as deputy editor, assistant editor and news editor. Landman was later appointed as a director of Media24.”

That commitment to ethical journalism is further emphasised in one of the anchor quotes to this article where Anton Harber points out that this approach encompasses  even those who, as both whistle-blower and journalist, broke a story which caused their employer significant embarrassment. He was referring to the article which revealed, for the first time, details about the alleged collusion between Naspers and the Gupta-owned ANN7.

The fact that they could do this without fear of retribution, tells you everything about the Naspers commitment to ethical journalism.

Without government funding

Naspers was started without government funding in 1915 and in the ensuing 103 years no editor was dismissed.

Tony Heard‘s departure from the Cape Times in 1987 was widely perceived to be because his political views were at odds with those of his employer’s management team.

Sekunjalo Independent Media started in 2013 when, with the help of initially-clandestine and widely-questioned Public Investment Corporation funding, a self-acknowledged Zuma-faction acolyte and confidante of the late Brett Kebble, Iqbal Survé, was given control of the largest group of English newspapers in the country.  In the following five years, two editors, Alide Dasnois (Cape Times) and Wally Mbhele (Sunday Independent) were dismissed. In each case the dismissals were devoid of ethical merit.

Furthermore, in that time another ten senior news executives have terminated their association with Survé: Janet Heard, Martine Barker, Chris Whitfield, Moshoeshoe Monare, Makhudu Sefara, Philani Mgwaba, Karima Brown, Vukani Mde, Steve Motale and Kevin Ritchie.

The exodus continues unabated.

Gasant Abarder, who absconded from his post at Primedia at the invitation of Iqbal Survé to become the replacement editor for the dismissed Alide Dasnois, is working out his notice in his current position as executive editor: new media at ANA Publishing, a magazine division of Independent Media. He will then join the communications department at the University of the Western Cape

The editor of the Sunday edition of Weekend Argus, Yunus Kemp, has already left to join a public relations company in Cape Town.

The editor of the Saturday edition of Weekend Argus, Chiara Carter, has also tendered her resignation and will be joining the Daily Dispatch in East London as deputy editor.

That’s three senior news executives based at Newspaper House in Cape Town’s CBD, severing their ties with Iqbal Survé within a matter of weeks, and two are leaving their primary vocation – journalism.

Nothing remotely like this is happening or has happened a kilometre away at Die Burger.

Seminal moment

A seminal moment in South African journalism was reached when, in strong contrast to the ethical approach towards editor independence adopted by Ton Vosloo during the TRC hearings, Iqbal Survé’s editors were recently forced to publish articles attacking Sam Sole, Tim Cohen and Ann Crotty as ‘Stratcom journalists’. All three are esteemed journalists with impeccable career records stretching over decades yet they were reprehensibly equated with journalists who betrayed their colleagues during the apartheid era by working with the security police.

Inevitably, because the African National Congress plays off a 52-race card deck, the headline on the Cape Times front page lead on 23 April read:

“Sekunjalo, Indy, Survé subjected to racism

STRATCOM-ESQUE DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN CONTINUES

LAST week, Independent Media journalists reported on an apartheid-era-style dirty tricks operation aimed at Independent Media, Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, Sagarmatha Technologies, AYO Technology Solutions (AYO) and Dr Iqbal Survé.

This disinformation campaign, originating from journalists at competitor media houses (Ann Crotty of Tiso Blackstar, publisher of the Sunday Times, Business Day, Financial Mail, etc and Sam Sole, from amaBhungane) has similar patterns to Stratcom.

Stratcom was a media strategy run by apartheid securocrats using journalists in mainstream media to discredit prominent individuals and organisations that fought against apartheid, thereby undermining the legitimate fight for freedom and democracy.”

What is unsurprising with such propaganda attacks is that the article carried no byline – not even the anodyne ‘Staff Reporter’.

Defamatory and disgusting

SANEF, the South African National Editor’s Forum, condemned these attacks on Sole, Cohen and Crotty:

“SANEF believes to equate this unlawful and corrupt institution with the work of critical journalists, playing their watchdog role in investigating private sector irregularities, is not only defamatory, but disgusting. This is a sad day for South African journalism.”

In Surve’s defence, Adri Senekal de Wet risibly called for fake news to be ‘criminalised’.

Nothing remotely like this has happened in the 103-year history of Naspers.

In summary, the supposedly independent editors of the SIM newspapers were side-lined and the company owner took control, abusing his media influence and authority in order to defend and promote himself. Is this not ironic given the statement made by Survé in December 2013 that he guaranteed the independence of his editors.

In a letter to his staff he wrote:

“I want to assure all staff of my sincere commitment to the editorial independence of this group and the right of its journalist to do their work without fear or favour. This means no journalist has to fear when writing a story if one or more of the companies in Sekunjalo Group is involved.”

Do least harm

One of the basic tenets of ethical journalism is ‘do least harm’ and, with the clear approval of Iqbal Survé, the editor of the Cape Times Aneez Salie has used his editorial influence to target white South Africans, particularly the farming community and has weaponised the newspaper in this cause.

I call them ‘Headlines of Hate’, the routine Cape Times front page leads which seek to create the impression that white South Africans are innately racist and I have photographed many examples.

Salie’s former co-workers say this is in reprisal for the way he and his former wife, Shirley Gunn, were treated when they were arrested as MK operatives on the watch of National Party police minister, Adrian Vlok.

Let me give you an example of two white South Africans, entirely innocent of any crime, whose lives were shattered when they were falsely accused of racism by Sekunjalo Independent Media’s answer to the New Age.

I broke the news of Chad de Matos who was incarcerated in one of the world’s most dangerous prisons, Pollsmoor, without ever having spoken to or touched his lying accuser. De Matos was targeted by reporter Carlo Petersen not only because he is white but because he was studying at  the University of Cape Town which became the target of a venomous campaign by Petersen and his editor Aneez Salie – a campaign that carried the imprimatur of Iqbal Survé. That nefarious campaign has been made a matter of record by Jonathan Jansen, Rhoda Kadalie and UCT honours student Ricky Stoch.

More than a dozen fake news articles about the alleged racist assault by De Matos remain on the IOL website and they will be the first thing that any prospective employer will pick up in a due diligence Google search about him.

The second person to suffer as a result of the white-baiting campaign by the Cape Times to ratchet up ethnic hatred was a dentist in the Defence Force, Dr Jan van Tonder. As always the article was by Carlo Petersen and the intro read:

“The case of a vicious assault on a gardener with a sjambok is but one of 10 recent “race related” attacks in Cape Town suburbs, district prosecutor Nathan Johnson told the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court yesterday.”

After these initial articles, nothing further was heard, either from Petersen, the SANDF which would have taken the matter further had Petersen’s articles been true or the Chief Public Prosecutor in the Western Cape.

Weeks and then months went by without any further news of this shock/horror ‘racist attack’ and, when enquiries were made, the truth emerged.  These articles by Petersen about Dr Van Tonder were as devoid of truth as his articles about Chad de Matos.

What is relevant however, in the basic tenet of ethic journalism – Do least harm – is that the falsehoods about Dr van Tonder, like the falsehoods about De Matos, remain a permanent record on the IOL website. Iqbal Survé subsequently promoted Carlo Petersen from reporter to senior editor for his sterling contribution to ethical journalism in this country.

What is ironic is that the people who abused their power and influence to persecute De Matos and Van Tonder and to demonise institutions like UCT also claim to be admirers of Nelson Mandela while undermining one of his goals and ideals – nation building through reconciliation.

Nothing like this has ever happened at Naspers and does the difference not come down to the leadership of the two companies? In the afore-mentioned book compiled by Professor Lizette Rabe, two stalwarts of ethical journalism, Raymond Louw and Tony Heard, praise the role that the Naspers newspapers played in bringing universal franchise democracy to this country. In his chapter, Heard writes:

“Finally, Naspers’s evolving actions and attitudes in that era helped to lead to that rarest of things in history: It nudged an important section of the public, in the spirit of Mandela, to rise above perceived immediate interests, and to go for real long term goals.

‘May we all build on that as Naspers passes its century mark.’”

Survé routinely lashes out at Naspers despite the fact that Sekunjalo is less transformed than the Afrikaans company but I leave you with two telling sentences in the current debate about the attempts to get the PIC to invest civil servant pension money in the Sagarmatha African Intergalactic Unicorn Highway and associated business ventures:

Sam Sole – amaBhungane

“That does not alter the fact that the PIC investment was going to increase Ayo’s net asset value by more than 8000% and its projected earnings by more than 800%”.

Dewald van RensburgCity Press

“Ayo shares this week crashed 40% to R25 each, meaning the PIC has lost R1.8 billion on the deal, unless the share price recovers.”

Iqbal Survé would no doubt categorise both Sole and van Rensburg using the pejorative ‘Stratcom’ but, in the end, it all comes down to how you define ‘ethical journalism’ doesn’t it?

In closing: As I write this article on 3 May – World Press Freedom Day – I am reminded of the nefarious and sordid fake news front page lead in the Sunday Independent with which Sekunjalo Independent Media sought to undermine Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidential campaign by portraying him as a serial adulterer who preyed on financially-vulnerable woman students.

The process I have seen evolving at the Cape Times is the same process I watched evolve at the SABC under the likes of people like Snuki Zikalala, Jeffrey Twala, Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Jimi (the door or the window) Matthews – incumbent staff are persecuted and ethical news gathering and dissemination is abandoned as is investigative reporting. Since Iqbal Survé took control of the Indy newspapers, reporters from this company have not featured in the annual Taco Kuiper awards, a competition now dominated by Naspers reporters.

I am also reminded, on World Press Freedom Day, of how Iqbal Survé articulated his inviolate principles of ethical journalism in a letter to his newly acquired staff who, in December 2013, numbered a lot more than they do now:

“All our stories must adhere to the highest standards required.”

“This means they have to be balanced, fair and accurate. What they can’t be is one sided, inaccurate and prejudicial. I have always valued the principles of transparency, fairness and independence.”

“As executive chair, I will uphold these values and expect all of our journalists and editors to do the same regardless of which story it is they cover.”

And, in an interview with Mandy de Waal for Daily Maverick shortly after the news broke that, with the assistance of civil servant pension money, he had as an overt supporter of the ANC bought the largest group of English newspapers in the country, he memorably said:

“If you know anything about me you know that I operate with incredible integrity.”

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Why The EFF Seeks To Make South Africa Ungovernable https://rationalstandard.com/why-eff-make-south-africa-ungovernable/ https://rationalstandard.com/why-eff-make-south-africa-ungovernable/#respond Fri, 25 May 2018 07:44:22 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7077 Earlier this year, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) called on matric graduates to simply arrive at universities to register at the door. It is important to understand that these calls are not designed to help, but rather aim to create chaos. The method proclaimed is completely at odds with universities’ enrollment methods due to the […]

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Earlier this year, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) called on matric graduates to simply arrive at universities to register at the door. It is important to understand that these calls are not designed to help, but rather aim to create chaos.

The method proclaimed is completely at odds with universities’ enrollment methods due to the advent of the internet. The call is obviously ridiculous and would cause utter chaos when students (and I mean actual, accepted students) arrive to register, but this is not by accident. No, in fact, the EFF want chaos.

To explain, consider the position in politics which the EFF occupies. They are a radical far-left (self-proclaimed ‘Marxist-Leninist-Fanonian’) party that originally splintered off from the dominant African National Congress (ANC). The aim of the party was to attract disillusioned ANC voters by propagating left-wing populist policies such as Zimbabwe-style land reform, nationalisation of industry, and various other socialist policies. In doing so, they embody what a populist party is and, so do their tactics: appealing to the working class and the poor, preaching extreme policy changes and campaigning to make a big, visual presence.

With that being said, the EFF only got just over 6% of the vote in the last general election and just over 8% in the last local government election. They don’t govern a single municipality and the most power they have is begrudgingly being part of coalition governments in a few municipalities as well as having a sizable presence in the National Assembly. This is frustration to the party as, without power, little can be done to actually implement the party’s radical agenda. This is why, when populist parties can’t win at the ballot, they take to the streets.

At this point, it is interesting to cast our gaze to Europe.

Most European countries have in the past 10 years seen a gradual rise in right-wing populism. This comes in various forms. Traditionally, the moderate populist parties have gained greater electoral success. Examples include UKIP in Great Britain, The Finns Party in Finland, Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV) in the Netherlands and Alternitive für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany. All of these parties are Eurosceptic and campaign prominently on issues of immigration and the preservation of national heritage. The PVV came close to being the largest party in the Netherlands in their last election, The Finns Party was recently part of a coalition government in Finland and UKIP still holds a plurality of British seats in the European Parliament. As can be seen in these cases, the populist parties have all gained fairly significant degrees of political success, but notably, they all generally represent a more conservative and nationalist bent on their countries’ politics. All of these parties are moderate enough to have gained large support at the ballot box, but what of the more extreme, far-right parties that exist in Europe? How do they compare to the EFF?

To answer this, one should take the Greek far-right party Golden Dawn as an example. Even by European standards, Golden Dawn is extreme: they are essentially a neo-Nazi party. Their flag resembles a Swastika and their leader, Nikaolos Michaloliakos, is a Holocaust denier. Their members have been accused of crimes against migrant communities in Greece and they often use rhetoric advocating the idea of reclaiming lands previously held under Alexander the Great.

Golden Dawn, like the EFF, has only achieved very minor political fortunes receiving 6-7% in Greek elections, but despite this, they have injected themselves into the Greek political scene through their actions outside the ballot. Golden Dawn are known from their street demonstrations and even violence. Golden Dawn members have often been implicated attacks on migrant communities in Greece and one was even tried for attempted murder. Perhaps one of the most telling moments was when its spokesperson, Ilias Kasidiaris, assaulted an MP of the Communist Party during a live television debate.

This is obviously a very extreme example, and it should be noted that UKIP, AfD, and more mainstream populist parties are lightyears apart from Golden Dawn ideologically. But the general trend in Europe among extreme nationalist parties has been to make a name for themselves on the streets first. Only after that can they compete at the ballot box. That’s why a party with views as extreme as Golden Dawn can get as much as 7% of the Greek vote. The same thing has happened with other street-groups-turned-parties such as Britain’s British National Party, National Front and Britain First as well as the English Defence League. In South Africa, we have our very own Golden Dawn: the Economic Freedom Fighters. A extremist political party that does not yet have enough votes to implement its agenda. The EFF wants chaos because it wants to make a name for itself.

Another interesting comparison to make here is the reaction of the mainstream parties to the rise of the populist right. In Britain, UKIP once posed a very serious threat to the Conservative Party, particularly their Eurosceptic voting base. The tactic employed here has been to lambaste the populists with ad hominem attacks while silently adopting their own policy. David Cameron once called UKIP voters ‘A bunch of fruitcakes, looneys and closet racists’ and yet, in 2015, due to enormous pressure from UKIP, Cameron promised a European Union referendum which ultimately led to Brexit. This worked remarkably well for the Conservatives, as UKIP’s vote share was completely decimated once the EU referendum took place. As party leader Paul Nuttal put it, UKIP was ‘A victim of their own success.’

In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte also faced the prospect of losing votes to the PVV and so adopted a stricter attitude on integration of Muslim migrants in the Netherlands while simultaneously lambasting PVV leader Geert Wilders who had been calling for the same thing.

In the ANC’s last national conference, they have completely outdone David Cameron and Mark Rutte in their adoption of expropriation without compensation, as well as the promise of ‘free’ education. Up until now, these two issues were what the EFF used to differentiate itself from the ANC. If the ANC does indeed carry through with these policies, the EFF will find itself increasingly irrelevant. The only way to counter this is to ramp-up their extremist views and cause chaos in the streets, just like Golden Dawn. It’s all part of their plan, and South Africans should be aware of this.

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Malema and the Myth of Whiteness: An Eastern Cape Case-Study https://rationalstandard.com/malema-and-the-myth-of-whiteness-an-eastern-cape-case-study/ https://rationalstandard.com/malema-and-the-myth-of-whiteness-an-eastern-cape-case-study/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 16:24:38 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7804 The fascist myth of “whiteness” (and other variations) has been used over and over again by Julius Malema to gain media attention. Dabbling in this myth has ensured headlines, but has also exposed a fatal flaw in Malema’s politics. Fundamentally, he and his followers lack the imagination and backbone needed to deal with the real […]

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The fascist myth of “whiteness” (and other variations) has been used over and over again by Julius Malema to gain media attention. Dabbling in this myth has ensured headlines, but has also exposed a fatal flaw in Malema’s politics. Fundamentally, he and his followers lack the imagination and backbone needed to deal with the real problems facing the Eastern Cape voter. We’re not fooled.

As far as Julius Malema is concerned, “whiteness” is such a terrible, oppressive system in the Eastern Cape, the only way to deal with it is to remove white men from democratically-elected leadership. Or, to put it more, precisely:

“We are cutting the throat of whiteness!”

Malema, March 2018

But does “whiteness” exist in real life? Or is “whiteness” just some made-up, mythical nonsense to score political points and get media attention? My answer: we only have to look at the current state of education in the Eastern Cape to see how “whiteness” is a completely made-up idea that has zero relation to reality.

For years now, the EC has been plagued with overcrowded classes, textbook shortages, poor facilities in the form of mud huts and decaying school buildings. The charity, Equal Education, recently conducted a survey of the province’s schools to test how well they complied with the governments basic standards.

The results were shocking. Most schools didn’t have running water, and in one case nearly 300 students had to share a single toilet. Electricity was erratic, often only supplying the admin blocks, but not classrooms.

Yet, many of these schools weren’t even on a waiting list for upgrades!

It is thus no surprise that the Eastern Cape consistently places last in matric pass rates – but it is the African National Congress (ANC)-affiliated teacher union, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) that has continually created massive blocks to actions that would remedy these problems.

For instance, according to the education budget, in theory, there should roughly be about one teacher for every 28 students. Yet the province is plagued by ghost teachers and supposed temporary teachers that eat up the staffing budgets of schools – which is why in reality, you will be hard pressed to find schools that even approach classes that small.

Now, of course, pearl-clutching supporters of Malema from the depths of Houghton will simply argue that this is just a legacy of Apartheid, and that Sadtu is a revolutionary movement that only seeks to liberate the masses from the terrible clutches of “whiteness”. Yet, every time (very rarely!) the province plucks up enough courage to carry out an HR audit, it is hit by go-slows and outright violent strikes, courtesy of Sadtu. In fact, the last time the provincial government tried to carry out an audit, administrators had to take along a police escort to protect themselves against Sadtu protestors.

Likewise, when leaders have publicly stood up to Sadtu, things have not gone well. Education department head, Modidima Mannya, for instance, had announced he would tackle the problem of teacher allocation and other HR issues. He didn’t last long, and was quickly forced to resign after Sadtu pressure. According to a Sadtu spokesperson at the time, this was done to “save education in the province”. Naturally, the ANC didn’t even attempt to support Mannya.

Of course, our pearl-clutching apologists would lament that “white supremacy” has ensured that the province is poorly-funded and has created a system loaded against “the black child”. Again this is just a variant of the “whiteness” myth. Financial mismanagement has led to even former model C schools struggling with overcrowded classes due to teacher post funding problems.

The tragedy is that the money does exist to make the necessary improvements to education in the province, yet, routinely, the education budget is under-spent by massive amounts, in some years, by the tune of R530 million. The fact is, the province is resourced enough to make serious and lasting improvements to the standard of education. However, thanks to Sadtu interference, the chances of this happening are slim to none. As Equal Education noted, the ANC/Sadtu-dominated Eastern Cape education system “plans to fail.”

The bottom line is that “whiteness” is just a myth. But it is a dangerous myth, because it allows political opportunists like Malema to dabble in fascism. It means they don’t have to demonstrate real political courage and face down the ANC affiliate, Sadtu. Instead, they take the easy route: they use inflammatory racist conspiracy theories like the “whiteness” myth, to disguise their lack of backbone to deal with the real problem at hand. Expect more fascist nonsense like this as 2019 nears.

This article is dedicated to all the hard working teachers and students of the Eastern Cape.

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Zachie Achmat May Be A Hero, But He Is Quite Clueless About Free Speech https://rationalstandard.com/zachie-achmat-may-be-a-hero-but-he-is-quite-clueless-about-free-speech/ https://rationalstandard.com/zachie-achmat-may-be-a-hero-but-he-is-quite-clueless-about-free-speech/#respond Tue, 15 May 2018 19:00:46 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7430 Written by: Ryan Rutherford In 2016, the Gauteng Health Department relocated nearly 2000 psychiatric patients from Life Esidimeni facilities to underfunded and poorly equipped NGOs.  As a result of this callously negligent decision, 144 extremely vulnerable people perished.  This was yet another example of heinous dereliction of duty, if not worse, by an uncaring, inefficient, and thoroughly inhumane […]

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Written by: Ryan Rutherford

In 2016, the Gauteng Health Department relocated nearly 2000 psychiatric patients from Life Esidimeni facilities to underfunded and poorly equipped NGOs.  As a result of this callously negligent decision, 144 extremely vulnerable people perished.  This was yet another example of heinous dereliction of duty, if not worse, by an uncaring, inefficient, and thoroughly inhumane government.  What has come to be referred to as the Life Esidimeni Tragedy, and the subsequent inquiry into how such a colossal loss of life could have happened, has understandably dominated headlines in South Africa for the better part of two years. In early February, the state vowed to pay each claimant from the tragedy R200 000, but on 19th March retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, who headed the inquiry tasked with probing the circumstances around the Health Department’s ill-fated transfer scheme, ordered the state to pay each victim’s family R1.2 million in compensation.

As a response to this development, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille tweeted that while it was “good that the families of the Life Esidimeni victims have received a measure of justice and compensation,” she wanted to know what they did “before these tragic deaths, to raise the alarm about their loved ones starving + living in profound neglect?” The condemnatory responses were swift, with her own party’s spokesperson, Refiloe Nt’sekhe, calling Zille’s remarks “unfortunate”, inappropriate” and “inefficient.” It was also reported that the leader of the Democratic Alliance, Musi Maimane, did not support her views.

Among the strongest reactions to Zille’s comments was from Zackie Achmat, renowned social activist and a member of the UniteBehind Organising Secretariat, who declared his intention to lay a complaint with the Human Rights Commission against the Premier. Zackie Achmat is undoubtedly one of the finest South Africans in existence, a man whose tireless efforts on behalf of those with HIV ensured that millions of people gained access to life-saving drugs initially denied to them for years by the ANC government.  Whatever his admirable personal qualities and tremendous success in fighting for a better country, Achmat’s actions evince a troubling tendency in South Africa for government agencies to be called on to adjudicate matters of expression. If one finds Zille’s opinions troubling, or even completely egregious, then by all means make this known in any public forum of one’s choosing. To instead seek public censure for someone’s opinion sets a dangerous precedent, one that has been in ever-increasing evidence in South Africa over the last few years.

That the Human Rights Commission exists in the first place is highly problematic, serving as it all too often does in the capacity of the language police, but its selective condemnation in the context of contemporary South Africa is particularly worrying. Julius Malema, the firebrand leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), regularly makes the most repulsively racist statements directed at whites. His most recent outrage was at a rally where he declared an intention to “decapitate whiteness,” a statement with clear genocidal implications. The head of the Human Rights Commission has admitted that the organisation received seventeen complaints about Malema’s vile demagogic spewing, but has yet to take any action against him. This is not the first time Malema has made statements that serve only to incite hate and sow racial divisions. On the other hand, and this was particularly the case in 2016, often very innocuous or ambiguous statements by white people, or admittedly racist opinions by figures with barely any public profile, led to them losing their jobs, or receiving hefty fines, as in the case of Penny Sparrow. If the Human Rights Commission is going to justify its existence, at the very least it needs to take action against all public officials who declare openly racist statements, rather than almost exclusively those with a melanin deficiency. Based on its recent track record, the Human Rights Commission, a quite Orwellian name to be sure, should be re-dubbed the Anti-White Censorship Commission, because that appears to be its practical function, whatever high-minded sentiments it purports to be defending.

Setting aside the failures of the Human Rights Commission to serve as a fair arbiter in disputes about what kind of language constitutes hate speech, even were it to function in a more even-handed manner, its very existence should be called into serious question for those who value free speech.

Not only is this an intrinsic human right, recognised as such by the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, among other major international bodies, and a cornerstone of democracies the world over, but, as Sam Harris once pointed out, free speech should be seen as the master value, the one that makes all the others possible. Without allowing everyone to freely express their opinions, society loses the ability to have the necessary and always ongoing conversation among its citizens about the best way to live. To block this discussion is, again according to Harris, akin to placing a brick on the horizon to the future, a vivid metaphor that powerfully captures what is at stake in debates around free speech.

Any government that attempts to regulate what people can say, think, read, watch, or listen to is never a friend of freedom, whatever reasons it might articulate to justify such intrusions.  The remedy for bad speech, however one defines this, is always more speech, and never less. It would also do well to remember that empowering a government to curtail someone else’s free speech today could very easily become the harbinger for your own speech to be criminalised tomorrow. The slope in this area is indeed most slippery. In a legendary, if apocryphal, defence of free speech, the great Enlightenment philosophe, Voltaire is alleged to have stated that, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” In today’s South Africa that sentiment is almost entirely absent among major politicians and media figures, with even iconic champions of human rights joining the censorship bandwagon. If we do not at least try to live up to Voltaire’s injunction, the road to true freedom and a better society for us all could well become definitively closed off.

Author: Ryan Rutherford has an honours degree in english literature, worked for almost six years as a teacher in South Korea, recently completed a master’s degree in international relations at the University of Cape Town, and is an increasingly impassioned defender of individual liberty and Enlightenment values at the expense of irrational identitarianism of all stripes.

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Liberals Triumphant in Debate at Cape Peninsula University of Technology https://rationalstandard.com/liberals-triumphant-in-debate-at-cape-peninsula-university-of-technology/ https://rationalstandard.com/liberals-triumphant-in-debate-at-cape-peninsula-university-of-technology/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 18:17:47 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7745 On the 4th of May, the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) held a lively debate at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) on the topic of classical liberalism versus social liberalism. Representing classical liberalism was Neo Mkwane, Chair of the Western Cape DASO and at the Rational Standard. Representing social liberalism was Lindokuhle Matanzima […]

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On the 4th of May, the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) held a lively debate at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) on the topic of classical liberalism versus social liberalism.

Representing classical liberalism was Neo Mkwane, Chair of the Western Cape DASO and at the Rational Standard. Representing social liberalism was Lindokuhle Matanzima Sixabayi.

The debate comes at a time when many liberals are feeling dissatisfied and worried about policy changes in the DA. For many of us, the DA seems to be sacrificing liberal principles for votes.

One such example is from Van Damme, who said:

“As a political party, with the objective of national governance, we need to move away from rigid liberal ideology towards a liberal approach that is more relevant to addressing the inequality in South Africa. This is not a rejection of our liberal values.”

Except for a few individuals, it seemed that the DA was moving away from liberalism and embracing pure social democracy.

The debate at CPUT, in many ways, was a watershed moment. I went to support a few of the individual DASO members I know to be real liberals and to support my ideology, but I was also using the event to gauge the future leadership of the official opposition.

‘Classical’ liberalism vs ‘social liberalism’

It is important to distinguish these different conceptions of liberalism. Politicians often confuse their own views for the views of their adopted ideology and, while people should be free to support certain coherent policies on their own merits, one shouldn’t ascribe to them the wrong ideology.

Liberalism, first and foremost, is an ideology that promotes individualism, free markets, free speech, the rule of law and rational discourse.

‘Classical’ liberalism could be seen as a strict adherence to the original tenets of liberalism. It takes the principles and comes to the conclusion that to achieve the rule of law, free markets and individual freedom, one needs a small and effective government that respects property rights and liberty.

‘Social liberals’ are pro-free market, but they are also willing to compromise in the name of material equality. They believe that material inequality prevents freedom and that the government should intervene to remedy this state of affairs. In practice, social liberals and social democrats have the same policies, but different intentions. Social liberals must always ultimately concede to the original principles of individual liberty, while social democrats must concede to popular vote.

Because social liberals, thanks to John Rawls, have a freedom principle, they can be considered liberals. It also means that the second one of their policies can be proven to violate that freedom principle, they must concede it.

The debate

The run up to the debate seemed much more contentious than the debate itself. Lively arguments came to life on social media, permeated with memes, in-jokes and trash talk.

The debate saw Mkwane make a great case for classical liberalism – excellently basing his argument on the ideals of liberty: leave people alone until they threaten harming others.

The principle was able to counter all opposition on the floor. Sixabayi even started using it to base his own arguments on.

The most resonant point that Mkwane made, however, and one that the audience really seemed to gel with, was the self-determination of individuals.

What I gathered from the reactions of the audience and from the debate, was that South Africans are stick of a paternal government that tells people how to live their lives and how to run their businesses. The mood of the room was that government should stop babying its people and needs to leave them to run their own lives.

There were a few naysayers in the room, but by the end, even Sixabayi was supporting more classical liberal policies than social liberal policies.

In fact, the only disagreement was on grants and progressive taxation – and Sixabayi said vehemently that tax across the board should be lower. And because there are classical liberal welfare schemes, the social liberal camp can still be pulled solely onto the classical liberal side.

It is clear from this that while there may be many aesthetic differences, classical liberals can convince social liberals to adopt better policies.

Conclusion

It was a fun evening but beyond that, it made me realise that there is still hope in the DA. The youth want freedom, not a nanny-state and the more confident the real liberals in the DA become, the more they can begin to reclaim the party from its illiberal ways and thus put South Africa on  a better path to liberty and prosperity.

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What We Can Learn From Orania https://rationalstandard.com/what-we-can-learn-from-orania/ https://rationalstandard.com/what-we-can-learn-from-orania/#respond Thu, 03 May 2018 10:11:43 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7666 We can study philosophy and politics for years on end to build ourselves a set of beliefs backed up by the full force of logic and argument. However, there are times in life when you see with your own two eyes the cold, hard reality which rattles the cage that contains your political views. You […]

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We can study philosophy and politics for years on end to build ourselves a set of beliefs backed up by the full force of logic and argument. However, there are times in life when you see with your own two eyes the cold, hard reality which rattles the cage that contains your political views. You may not change your mind, but at the very least you will rethink your views, perhaps to try and see things from a different perspective. My trip to the town of Orania in the Northern Cape was such an experience.

For those who have not heard of Orania, I would suggest reading up a little bit before reading this article (this talk at the Property and Freedom Society gives a comprehensive overview), but here is a brief summary: Orania is a small town in the Northern Cape on the western bank of the Orange River. The town in notable in operating almost completely independently from South Africa’s government. This is because the town was founded as place to preserve the Afrikaner culture and language. Residents of Orania must apply to live in the town and hold a share in the Orania Company which owns the land on which the town in situated. By doing so, Orania is an example of a community which is completely privatised and functions relatively independent of the South African government. The only exceptions to this would be if a major crime were committed in the town (the South African Police Service would be called) or during South Africa’s national elections in which Orania residents vote.

At first it may be easy to ask, “why would one want to live in Orania?” It is a town with less than 2,000 people in the harsh climate of the Karoo semi-desert. Judging by any other South African desert town with similar statistics, it might seem like a strange place to want to move to.

Orania, however, is different. I was very impressed at how pleasant the town is. It is a clean, idyllic place with a few local shops and bars (which supply beer from Orania’s two different breweries) and one can see from the outset that it is a place which its residents are invested in.

Putting aside the attraction of Orania from the point of language or culture, Orania is probably the only town, village or settlement in South Africa where the residents do not have to worry about crime. Crime is probably the single greatest pox on the life of a South African family trying to go about their daily lives. It is not pleasant to have to worry about one’s sister or daughter walking home at night, or living behind high walls, keeping a watchful eye out for one’s valuables. The effect that crime has on the lives of every single South African is vast and tragic. Those who have been victims of a crime will know the terrible effect it leave on your psyche afterwards. Although I only stayed in Orania for two nights, those two nights were the first time I ever did not have to worry about leaving a door of a room or car unlocked, or leaving my phone on a table, or walking around at night. It was alien feeling, but it was quite remarkable not having to worry about something I had worried about at least subconsciously for most of my life. The existential threat crime has on the lives of South Africans is bigger than we realise and it’s important not to fall prey to the Stockholm Syndrome of believing that we should settle for a life of fear.

One of the most interesting sights that I saw in Orania was a sign outside a local bar with a message written in English, French, German and Dutch, which said the following:

Note to all white journalists from Europe:
Please leave your prejudices at the entrance.

This should be advice not only to foreign journalists with a political agenda, but also any South African who comes to Orania with certain preconceived notions. Here I’d like to address the elephant in the room: Why am I – a South African who lives in a pluralistic society – speaking so highly of a place defined by an ethno-linguistic background? To answer this, there are a few things to note here.

The first is that Orania is in its nature the perfect example of a private community preserving its language and/or culture not because of government help, but rather in spite of government. Orania is not putting forward arguments that they are owed something by the government, rather, they simply want to be left alone. On the basis of private property, the town is a model for the libertarian answer to the preservation of culture and language for those who would wish to do so.

This is extraordinarily important as there are minority groups around the world who may have to follow a similar model to Orania. Think about the thousands of tribes of North and South America, or India, or Asia. Even in Europe there are minority groups like the Basque, Romansh or Sami who find themselves at the mercy of the majority group who have little interest in preserving their language or culture. Perhaps this is why Orania has developed a friendship with the community of South Tyrol in Italy. This can be applied closer to home as well: Orania has also developed agreements with Mnyameni, a Xhosa community in the Eastern Cape, as well as a Khoisan group situated near Springbok. This was because, to quote an Oranian local, “They are also fed-up with local politics”, and no doubt communities such as theirs could benefit from the same relative independence from government.

Orania is also exciting for another, more monetary reason. The town has been using its own “currency”, called the Ora, for which they print notes with a rate of 1 Ora = 1 rand. The Ora is technically a sort of coupon (creating another currency would be illegal) but many prices are listed in both Ora and rands with the price in Ora being a slightly cheaper as well as there being no bank charges for withdrawing Ora. This has done wonders to stimulate the economy of the town. In addition to this, libertarian economist Dawie Roodt has been helping the town set up the e-Ora, a cryptocurrency for the town. Naturally, libertarians who share my disdain and suspicion of centralised monetary control should be jumping for joy here as it is a wonderful example of competing currencies and a more free market orientated monetary system.

There are no fences around Orania – the R369 runs right through it – and visitors are welcome. Perhaps it is because of these innovations that Orania – despite its negative press coverage – has been visited by a number of high-profile politicians. Nelson Mandela visited Hendrik Verwoerd’s widow Betsie in 1995, Jacob Zuma engaged with the community in 2010 and even Julius Malema, who was somewhat unexpectedly treated to some koeksisters and coffee when he arrived unannounced, and left on a more positive note. Orania is not a community that concerns itself with race, rather, it is cultural and linguistic preservation that it cares about. It has welcomed visitors from the opposite side of the political spectrum with open arms. To ignore facts like these is to be nothing but prejudicial.

So my advice is this: before you criticise Orania, at least do yourself the favour of visiting it, and when you do so – as the sign says – please leave your prejudices at the entrance. To quote a certain Orania citizen “The biggest experts on Orania are the who have never been here.” I hope journalists around the world will try not be one of those experts.

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Reengineering Discourse https://rationalstandard.com/reengineering-discourse/ https://rationalstandard.com/reengineering-discourse/#respond Thu, 26 Apr 2018 21:51:09 +0000 https://rationalstandard.com/?p=7475 First of all, I must acknowledge that social media platforms have made positive contributions to our society. The #MeToo movement, for example, and the sheer consciousness regarding sexual assault and rape it generated speaks volumes for the power of social media. People inside warzones can Tweet their experiences to us so that we can at […]

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First of all, I must acknowledge that social media platforms have made positive contributions to our society. The #MeToo movement, for example, and the sheer consciousness regarding sexual assault and rape it generated speaks volumes for the power of social media. People inside warzones can Tweet their experiences to us so that we can at least empathise with them and attempt to understand their plight. Social media platforms have, however, had a detrimental effect on a crucial aspect of society: discourse.

Let me make one thing very clear: I do not exempt myself of the accusations I’m going to put forth in this piece. I myself have signalled virtues as a means of rebutting another’s argument, made inappropriate jokes (a lot of them), insulted people, and showed utter disregard for nuanced and in-depth discussions. And that’s exactly why I quit social media. And a bunch of other reasons, which Dr Cal Newson will tell you all about in this video:

Social media has become a cesspit for virtue signalling and empty political rhetoric backed by empty emotion-laden narratives. Twitter and Facebook have reached the point where they’re seen as the golden sphere for discourse, when in actual fact they’ve turned into sewers of back and forth ad hominem attacks driven by nothing than cyber confidence, the levels of which are exponentially increased by the “firewall” protection that the cyber divide puts between us and our “online nemesis”. Donald Trump used social media to steal user data and manipulate voters because that is where voters are most gullible: in cyberspace. Cyberspace and the level of arrogant confidence it has allowed us to have in our own views has dumbed us down.

We’ve moved from the Age of Enlightenment, where academics and those with a real thirst for knowledge steered society forward through using empirical data, to the Age of Intellectual Laziness, where ideas and opinions put forth are not evaluated according to any measure of objectivity whatsoever, but rather by who opened their mouth and spoke their mind. We live in an era where constructive debate has been rendered extinct, for the very process of validating ideas and opinions now rests solely on judging physical attributes rather than the merits of the ideas and opinions themselves. Sure, bias does exist and without a shred of doubt influences people’s views, but presuming that alleged bias fully debunks a person’s viewpoint(s) is the epitome of intellectual laziness.

Avoiding debate that requires high levels of critical reasoning skills has never been so easy. Privilege does exist, but pointing it out does not invalidate someone’s view(s) by default. It may lead the person perceived as privileged into a process of introspection and revaluating their own views and that’s good, we all should constantly reconsider the views that we hold, but thinking that pointing out privilege is an actual valid rebuttal to an argument is far below the level of reasoning capabilities that we as the human species should have achieved by this point in our evolutionary timeline.

When is the last time people picked up a book or went onto an online academic journal site, and actually read literature where the research and findings presented were not intended to enhance political narratives, but to educate and broaden perspectives? When is the last time we were more interested in actual facts rather than who holds the moral high ground in an argument?

I’m not making a case for Stoicism here (I’ll do that in another piece). I’m simply trying to convince people, myself included, that we should stop being wilfully ignorant and narrow-minded arses that thrive in our own arrogance on our social media profiles, and start rethinking the way we go about discourse. Kill your Twitter account and create a profile on www.debate.org. Stop your YouTube video and pick up a book. Log out of Facebook and go onto www.jstor.org. Let’s start reengineering the way we go about discourse for, if not for our own sake, for sake of discourse itself.

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