Good and bad ideas

Despite media manipulation, the protesters are in the vast minority and are purely using their radicalism to hold the university hostage.
Despite media manipulation, the protesters are in the vast minority and are purely using their radicalism to hold the university hostage.

Good ideas are forged in competition with their opposition and flourish in the free market of ideas through the reasoning of rational individuals. Bad ideas are kept alive through a dogmatic and total adherence to an ideology without or in spite of reason. The ideas ruling the protests of 2015 and the Left of the University of Cape Town (UCT) are bad ideas.

Like the free market, a free exchange of ideas results in a process of removal and evolution. Bad ideas are removed through abandonment due to reasoning, or they evolve into better ideas. Countless ideas have formed throughout history. Many have been put under heavy scrutiny and many have been discarded, even forgotten. There is also a fair share of ideas that have not been allowed to be put under scrutiny by the ideology itself. To name a few of these ideologies: Medieval Inquisitions, Nazism, Soviet Communism and the Transformation Narrative on South African campuses today.

Thankfully, society at large has faced the demons of the first three schools of thought, and while we may err, we tend to hold these ideas to be destructive and undesirable. The reason for this is that while the ideologies forbade scrutiny, hindsight has allowed us to scrutinise the failures of these systems. A system or idea only improves under criticism. Anything that refuses criticism stagnates and decays. This is why the systems mentioned inevitably failed – they faced the natural transience of an ideology that refuses to evolve.

For these ideologies, evolution was impossible. Evolution of an ideology requires deep reasoning by its adherents and observers in order to transform it, or utilise it, in a manner in which it will benefit society. Nazism, inquisitions and Soviet Communism went against this form of reasoning by their very nature. They saw the ideology in its perceived form to be the end-all. This is why they died. Like a lion contented to eat one last buck, they withered and died.

The Transformation Narrative will die eventually, but if any of the other examples are anything to go by, a lot of destruction will be wrought on human society in the process. Adherents of the Transformation ideology, those identifying with the Left, FeesMustFall, RhodesMustFall… disregard and condemn all manner of criticism in a radical religious fervour highly similar to that of Nazi supporters. To them, they are the only right, and nobody is allowed to say otherwise.

The problem in my home university, UCT, is that the Transformation Narrative is being allowed to wreak havoc, a transient and destructive foray into a society that they will inevitably destroy unless they step back and analyse their beliefs logically and clinically.

A logical analysis of the Transformation Narrative will benefit everyone in one form or the other. Either the ideology will transform to something a bit less vitriolic or it will dissipate as its supporters grow conscious. The problem with this hope is that it requires the Student Left to be capable of logic and reason, something that they have yet to prove.

This is why society cannot rely on internal good graces to hold back a brutal movement. Like all ideologies, the Transformation ideology needs a counter narrative, to give students an alternative as well as to temper the Transformation narrative into something a bit more congruent with reality. With their heads in the clouds, what the Left really needs is someone to lasso them back to the ground, so they’ll stop kicking people in the face.

Like any large movement, the student Left will have a number of members who can be swayed to reason. Due to easily curable naiveté, or other reasons, many people identify with the Left out of ignorance. Currently, many of these people aren’t being given the opportunity to change as a counter narrative to the left is not allowed on campuses.

To remedy this, students who oppose the dominant ideologies on campus need to start standing up for themselves. Leaders, willing to put their necks on the line to oppose the left, need to appear to dilute the vile radicalism on campus. Only if a competitors forms can students be given a decent ability to choose their preferred ideal and only then will the left be forced to mature, or wither away in the face of a better alternative.