Surreal, and worth reading this piece by Richard Poplak for The Daily maverick:
“Amid all of this skullduggery, it would be interesting to know what kind of country we hope to become”
Surreal, and worth reading this piece by Richard Poplak for The Daily maverick:
“Amid all of this skullduggery, it would be interesting to know what kind of country we hope to become”
“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
The old man turned off the radio
Said, “Where did all of the old songs go
Kids sure play funny music these days
They play it in the strangest ways”
Said, “it looks to me like they’ve all gone wild
It was peaceful back when I was a child”
Well, man, could it be that the girls and boys
Are trying to be heard above your noise?
And the lonely voice of youth cries “What is truth?”
A little boy of three sittin’ on the floor
Looks up and says, “Daddy, what is war?”
“son, that’s when people fight and die”
The little boy of three says “Daddy, why?”
A young man of seventeen in Sunday school
Being taught the golden rule
And by the time another year has gone around
It may be his turn to lay his life down
Can you blame the voice of youth for asking
“What is truth?”
A young man sittin’ on the witness stand
The man with the book says “Raise your hand”
“Repeat after me, I solemnly swear”
The man looked down at his long hair
And although the young man solemnly swore
Nobody seems to hear anymore
And it didn’t really matter if the truth was there
It was the cut of his clothes and the length of his hair
And the lonely voice of youth cries
“What is truth?”
The young girl dancing to the latest beat
Has found new ways to move her feet
The young man speaking in the city square
Is trying to tell somebody that he cares
Yeah, the ones that you’re calling wild
Are going to be the leaders in a little while
This old world’s wakin’ to a new born day
And I solemnly swear that it’ll be their way
You better help the voice of youth find
“What is truth.”
Written by Johnny R. Cash • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, BMG Rights Management US, LLC
The first record I ever owned was a 45 single – What is Truth by Johnny Cash. I heard the song when I was about 10 years old, and nagged my parents to buy it for me. It’s interesting how many of the themes in the song have persisted as unseen threads through my life.
For now, I simply want to think about the refrain: What is Truth?
Reacting to a post by Gillian Schutte of Media for Justice – on the irrevocable guilt of whiteness – I examined myself only to find too much defensiveness. So I pose the question: what if I’m wrong? Let me for a moment stop my irritability and look at my own conscience, suspend judgement like a good Pyrrhonist and argue my opponent’s point of view.
It is in this context that Johnny Cash’s words came back to me: old, familiar words: What is Truth? Do I really believe my own arguments, or are they merely self-deception? My response to Schutte’s blog is a useful opening onto the hidden back yard of my mind, full of rusted views and the brambles of outworn certitudes. It’s good to head into the strange yard which seems to have no boundaries, no parameters: you could lose yourself there, in a place with as many questions as answers. This isn’t to say, of course, that my position should be too-swiftly abandoned for Ms. Schutte’s, or that a better-argued view has more merit. Whatever truth may be it is certainly not dependent on the most sophisticated arguments.
According to the Gospels, Pontius Pilate asked, What is Truth? – unable to grasp it even as the Incarnate Truth stood before him.
I read this interesting perspective by Koketso Moeti – a challenge to my own rant against Schutte’s argument that all whites are racist:
“For me, there’s nothing casual about racism, so it’s a phrase I deliberately choose to not use. And I point this distinction out to show just how the use of language can reinforce ideas that there are “better” ways to be racist, when in actual reality both subtle and explicit racism contribute to the maintenance of an oppressive system. And in that is the power of language, its ability to reinforce oppressive power dynamics or make light of oppression and entrench harmful racist behaviours. Sociologist Pierre Bordieu argued that language is not only a means of communication, but also a medium of power through which individuals pursue their interests. His work explored how “linguistic exchanges are relations of power”, meaning language can be used to both produce and reproduce structures of domination. This is particularly notable in South Africa, considering the country’s socio-historical context of racial oppression. And because the perpetrators don’t use explicitly racist language, those that do become the evidence that they (subtle racists) aren’t racist and they are not like “those” white people. So the subtle racists are allowed to get away with it. And in this process also marginalising black people’s experiences of racism as invalid, as the imaginations of an “aggressive”, “dangerous”, “divisive” and “dangerous” black.Yes, in one of the conflicts, a whole executive director of an organisation invoked every tired trope to dismiss my reaction to their choice of language in a meeting. The kind of knee-jerk responses of “whites who acknowledge their privilege” and would never use words like k****r or monkey”, but still ensure that white superiority is protected and well-defended.So instead of jumping on an “anti-racist” bandwagon at the first sign of explicit racism, I suggest that whites like my colleagues instead step back and use it as an opportunity to try and understand how, on a daily basis, they unconsciously do the same thing.They should reflect on how performing anti-racism at any sign of explicit racism actually does nothing, when in their everyday lives they are keeping the machinery of racial oppression well-oiled.”
Koketso Moeti is the founder of amandla.mobi.
OMAR AL-BASHIR is wanted for genocide and crimes against humanity: he has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for directing a campaign of mass killing, rape, and pillage against civilians in Darfur. The ANC-led government (the same government which prevented the Dalai Lama from coming to South Africa) would sooner welcome him as a guest of honour and withdraw from the ICC than see justice done.
“Amnesty International on Friday denounced government’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying it was a “deep betrayal of millions of victims worldwide”.
Does justice trump peace? For another perspective on South Africa’s abandoning the ICC, see http://mg.co.za/article/2016-10-25-icc-is-too-focused-on-africa-must-take-the-blame-for-sas-departure
“All of those familiar with the 2013 movie, Elysium, the striking Marxist under- and overtones highlight what is commonly known as revolution. Besides rampant EFF rantings, South Africa seems nowhere near such a devastating fate, though the growing class differences leaves the cynic wondering.”
I have just finished reading a distressing article on rape in Diepsloot Township north of Johannesburg, by Mia Malan:
Perhaps just as disturbing is the fact that a new, purpose-built luxury suburb has been established right alongside Diepsloot:
If ever there was a concrete example of The Gini coefficient – the gross and crass disparity between the “have’s” and “have-nots”, this is surely it’s shining example.
Business Day reported:
“At the heart of (Steyn City) lies Palazzo Steyn – a private residence for Mr Steyn, which is rumoured to have cost more than R150m… It has been reported that Mr Steyn’s house has a garage for 33 cars, a wine cellar, seven bedroom suites, and is situated above a man-made lake.”
The Two Oceans Vibe article continues:
“At 900 hectares, Mr Steyn City will be roughly three times the size of Dainfern estate. Development will cost a jaw-dropping R6 billion before construction on residences has started. According to designs, a wooded parkland will account for half the estate, with roughly 11,000 residential units built around it.
“Apart from a private hospital, two private schools, and multiple office parks, the estate will sport a 70km track for off-road cycling, and a 42km route for runners.”
(Read more at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diepsloot)
Contrast the above description of Steyn City with this about Diepsloot:
“Diepsloot is now home to about 150,000 people; many of them live in shacks 3m by 2m assembled from scrap metal, wood, plastic and cardboard. Some families lack access to basic services such as running water, sewage and rubbish removal.”
Is it just me who senses an obscene juxtaposition of opposites here? Just across from this extravagant, faux-paradise, over the very, very high walls bristling with cameras and electric fencing, is a settlement characterized by conspicuous poverty. And this state of affairs is ubiquitous in South Africa: there is a proliferation of walled, exclusive Elysiums: equestrian estates, golf estates, wine estates, game farm estates … bastions of luxury, safety and security raised against the danger and chaos of broader society. Reading between the lines and stripping away the euphemisms which obscure our motives, one may hazard a guess that there will be a lot of white South Africans retreating behind Mr Steyn’s high walls, if only because the demographics of South Africa is still so indelibly connected to income. Certainly the black middle-class is expanding, but I cannot help guessing that these walled enclaves maintain a residual racially skewed demographic. But in a society as violent and structurally misshapen as ours, who could blame the monied classes for retreating into secure havens? isn’t this what the walled cities of Europe sought to achieve? Not exactly: our luxury ghettos are established to exclude our fellow citizens, not the Infidel, foreign invaders from distant lands. The walls raised in South Africa are raised against eachother, for the safety and luxury of an elite class. All such walls must face the danger the inhabitants of Elysium faced. Walls and security cameras and guards will not create social cohesion, and without that, safety within our enclaves is simply one more fantasy of the magic kingdom.
As I explore my disquiet, I question whether we South Africans are just too habituated to profound inequality to care about such contradictions. I discovered that I am certainly not alone in sensing something is amiss: there has been criticism of Mr Steyn’s somewhat megalomaniacal project:
Inevitably money – especially white billionaire capital – can be very persuasive, and with the late President Nelson Mandela’s apparent blessing upon the Steyn City project, I guess disgust voiced will be disgust ignored.
“These developments just cater for high-income category individuals [and] they do tend to create isolated places of residence.. It is going counter to the kind of character we’re trying to establish and the kind of city we’re trying to establish.”
In the Russian republic of Tatarstan there is a bizarre, purpose-built mini city called Innopolis. It too is a magic-kingdom: a surreal, soulless place. The utopian dream-city is an old idea of course. In England, “Welwyn Garden City was founded by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the 1920s following his previous experiment in Letchworth Garden City. Howard had called for the creation of planned towns that were to combine the benefits of the city and the countryside and to avoid the disadvantages of both.” (Wikipedia). Note the philanthropic tone of Howard’s vision.
There are many peculiar manifestations of the “dream city”: the architectural sterility of Brasil’s Brasilia (which, incidentally, is serviced and maintained by dirt-poor workers in a shantytown outside Brasilia); the Tellytubby weirdness of Canberra, and the failed dream of Le Corbusier’s Banlieues all come to mind. But the fortified, exclusive and exclusionary walled suburb (or city) in the South African context has a peculiar perversity about it because of our historical, formalized disparity, social separation and exclusion. Apartheid after all meant separate development; one could argue that the New South Africa excludes people through an apartheid based on class and money – a no less damaging and heinous form of social violence and threat to social cohesion. There is much in the media and in academic discourse to support this view.
But it’s okay: there is a good-neighborliness extended from Steyn City to the people of Diepsloot. Shall we assume there is nothing patronizing or condescending about all this?
“Delivering Happiness to Diepsloot’ is a much anticipated annual Steyn City CSI project aimed at improving lives by ensuring that Primary School Learners receive an early Christmas gift. Over 9000 Primary School learners from seven different schools within the Diepsloot community received a backpack with goodies and stationery sponsored by Croxley.
“The day started at the Steyn City’s Equestria Center where all volunteers and sponsors gathered in preparation of delivering happiness. A convoy of trucks and vans filled with the “Happiness Crew” drove to Diepsloot, arriving to excited Learners who were singing songs of praise and thankfulness as they lined up to get they’re backpacks. Croxley representatives Sarah Sebetola (PR Co-ordinator) and Mojaki Finger (Commercial Director) were among the volunteers. Steyn City ambassador and Metro FM radio personality, Tbo-Touch, , Olympian Gold Medallist Roland Schoeman and 21 Icon and social entrepreneur Thato Kgatlhanye were among the celebrities that helped to hand out the backpacks.
“The Learners were very excited to receive the backpacks while posing with the celebrities. Just when they though the give-aways were finished, Father Christmas with the help of the Happiness Crew handed out packets of candy adding to the cheer and excitement.”
An important book:
DIEPSLOOT by Anton Harber
Fears that development will build a new apartheid in South Africa
Pricey insta-cities in Johannesburg offer oases for residents but not those who build them, by Ryan Lenora Brown
“Diepsloot, a vast expanse of more than 150,000 people living in corrugated steel shacks, is right next door. A holdover from the apartheid regime that forced blacks to live in designated areas far from urban centres, the contrast between Diepsloot and Steyn City is a jarring reminder that Nelson Mandela’s promise of equality for all is far from fruition.”
Corporate social investment
During the “Struggle Years” – both in South Africa and in what was essentially her colony -SWA-, the unpopular military incursions into the townships were deliberately and I believe cynically PR-managed by what was known as “Com-ops” or Communication Operations. It was the occupying force’s version of Mao’s “winning the hearts and minds of the people”. Soldiers would play soccer with the local kids, there were ameliorative events and hand-outs. The objective was to diminish the rejection of and hostility towards the military – and alien- presence. I don’t believe there is a one-to-one comparison With the Steyn City CSI initiative, but it’s hard not to see a similarly disguised intention. Why does it smack of those shameful colonial practices of giving a few cheap beads to ‘the natives’ in exchange for their land and their good will. We still here echos of this today: any condemnation of colonialism is inevitably met with the rejoinder, “but look at all the good the colonizers did for Africa! They built clinics, roads, railways…”
The difficulty created for a curmudgeon like me is that indeed there are benefits for the residents of Diepsloot. Every now and then, like the emissaries of a medieval palace, the royalty envoys emerge from their opulent, fortified enclave to bestow gifts and good will upon the poor and needy. Patronizing perhaps, but an essential PR strategy nonetheless.
The whole social responsibility aspect of the Steyn City project – as intended I believe – effectively disarms and disconcerts the cynic in his disavowal. How can you condemn Mr Steyn’s magical kingdom when he is doing such magical things for the children of Diepsloot? Look how happy the children are! And what good have you, O curmudgeon, done for Diepsloot?
You can read more about these carefully orchestrated acts of philanthropic kindness at the Steyn City website: “Due to the enormous scope of the development, job creation and local community empowerment opportunities within the neighbouring greater Diepsloot region are key areas of focus for the developers.” (Do I detect a neo-feudal arrangement here, with the serfs working on the estate of the lord of the manor? How fortunate they are to build and maintain his palace, to gain entry to tend his manicured lawns!).
“(Diepsloot) witnessed Johannesburg’s largest Christmas gift drop ever as a helicopter and seven large trucks driven by Father Christmases descended on Diepsloot to give presents to the children, some of whom had never experiences (sic) a Christmas before. The event was covered by TV, radio and print, and gave journalists the opportunity of a lifetime – a helicopter flip to view the Christmas drop from the air and take aerial photographs.”
Manna from helicopters, so to speak.
I cannot fully explain my disquiet, but it persists. Like most white South Africans, if I don’t get over it, I’m sure I’ll nevertheless learn to live with it. Surrealism is our milieu.
My disquiet of course counts for nothing. You need to ask a Diepsloot resident with a gardening job in Steyn City whether he approves or not. Ask one of the children given a backpack full of Christmas goodies whether she is happy.
At Holy Trinity Catholic Church In Braamfontein, Johannesburg, there is a white crucifix which seems to stand like a silent sentinel over a troubled city. I often wonder what this Christ has witnessed through the years, like The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde, where the statue of a prince looked down upon a city full of violence and unhappiness, the juxtaposition of insane wealth and abject poverty. Does he pity us? Judge us? despair at our stupidity? Why is his head turned slightly away, and downwards? Is he turning from us, as if watching has become too painful? Why is His head not turned upwards – to heaven? Longing for his agony to end, is he yet reluctant to abandon those in the street below?
These last few weeks the pale, naked, crucified prophet would have seen running battles with student protesters and police: rocks hurled and stun grenades thrown; rubber bullets and teargas fired. He would have witnessed vehicles set alight, windows smashed, buildings and books burned, and everywhere kindness and respect sacrificed on the altar of militant, often racist, at times anti-semitic vitriol.
The crucifix is looking worn and vulnerable from years of exposure to the sun, wind and rain – the city’s extremes take their toll- although it is easy to imagine the erosion of Christ’s features is due to some inner weight of woe. This is the Crucified Savior of the world: fixed by nails to that cross in Braamfontein, is He weary from watching the street below? Is He exhausted from his long crucifixion, which every day and night demands he bear silent witness to the folly of men? He has seen the worst brutality of apartheid: other students and police and soldiers, other blood. Not a day has passed when He has not observed the perpetual scandal of poverty. He has seen untold numbers passing by: businessmen, imams, politicians, students, professors, hawkers, beggars, drug dealers, prostitutes, priests, freedom fighters, soldiers, street-vendors, rubbish collectors, terrorists, thieves, police, the elderly, youths, children. It seems little different in this respect to another City, long ago, where Jesus was also raised up on a cross.
(I think so.)
By Steven B Sidley, October 2016
“A crowd of belligerent Fallists enter a lecture hall and point at the white students – ‘We have no reason to co-exist peacefully with you, ever’. Another young white, left-wing student in a politics class tries to make a point in an interactive session and is told, ‘Shut up, you white bitch, your view is irrelevant.'”
Sidley’s article is a bleak reflection on the increasingly intolerant and violent tone evident in the current wave of student protests (and the proliferation of toxicity in social media). Some quotes from the “GroundUp” website:
“Protesters announced that they would continue disrupting lectures, both in classrooms and online, until their demands are met.”
“The student groups paralysing our higher education system have shown no qualms about their methods: destroying buses, cars, libraries, administrative offices, and works of art, manufacturing petrol bombs, looting sections of Johannesburg, harassing ordinary staff with clubs and threatening the children’s creche at the University of Cape Town. At CPUT, they locked two guards into a burning building, fortunately failing to take their lives.”
– From “UCT: the silence of things not being attempted” By Imraan Coovadia, Ground Up, October 2016
“Whites Are Racist Until Whiteness is Defunct.”
“All whites are racist.”
These two statements by Gillian Schutte of ‘Media for Justice’ (http://www.mediaforjustice.net) and published in The Citizen (Jun 17, 2016) are deeply problematic, if only because the word “racist” is not simply a neutral description of a certain kind of individual (for instance, Saying “She is a pilot”, “The man is a schizophrenic” or “the youth is a party-goer”).
Other statements by Schutte include:
“The only race struggle whites should engage in is to obliterate the whiteness they are born into … with no expectation of ‘exceptionalism’ or accolades for being a good white.“
“What use are good whites anyway, when 22 years later nothing much has changed for the majority of black people in SA?”
The usefulness of “good whites” in Schutte’s utilitarian view is judged by “nothing much (having) changed for the majority of black people in SA”. Firstly, are people (white, black or otherwise) to be valued only for their usefulness? And if after 22 years of democratic rule “nothing much has changed” this must surely indicate a much broader range of causes, not the least being scapegoating (see: René Noël Théophile Girard:
“all conflict originates in mimetic desire (mimetic rivalry)”; “In Girard’s view, it is humankind, not God, who has need for various forms of atoning violence. Humans are driven by desire for that which another has or wants (mimetic desire).” – Wikipedia
Words are rarely if ever neutral symbols: many words are abused and their meanings easily distorted.
“In the late nineties, conservative John Bunzel, a former member of the US Commission on Civil Rights, wrote that President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race should call for an end of the “corrupted usage” of the word “racist” especially when used as an “accusation” or “smear word” because: “[It] breeds bitterness and polarization, not a spirit of pragmatic reasonableness in confronting our difficult problems.”
“…the constant use of such incendiary and dramatic language often takes us away from the root of the problem, and takes us away from the fight for racial justice. I’m not advocating we take the racist moniker from those that truly deserve it, like Adolf Hitler and white supremacist David Duke. But the word racist has gone from being used to describe the harsh discrimination of the Jews, to a sort of catch all phrase for anything that is racially negative, stereotypical or just deviates from what we have deemed to be the “politically correct ” racial transcript.
“A lot of times when we talk about racism, we’re talking about racial prejudice”, says Lecia Brooks, a director at the Southern Poverty Law Center. She adds, “folks don’t have the language to talk about racism. Language is important”. Jennifer Roth-Gordon, a linguist at Arizona State agrees that the idea that one is a “racist” today is associated with an ignorance. But she says the word means a little more than just a simple prejudice. “Prejudice is a bias. Racism is a bias with prejudice and is institutional. Prejudice is a far more general term since there are people of color who are biased.”
“Roth-Gordon says a particular problem with the word is that it’s often attributed to individual actions rather than a systematic deficiency. “Talking about individual racists or racism, lets us whites off the hook. We can go around and say ‘tsk tsk’, I would never do that.” She says we have to stop focusing on the accusation and instead focus on the action. She points to video by hip-hop commentator, Jay Smooth (watch it here), on how to tell someone they sound racist. In it, he says you have to separate between “what they did” and “what they are”, while keeping the conversation on what they said. It’s an interesting strategy and one that many in the media and blogosphere (including myself) should take note of.
Still, I think we would all benefit from a moratorium on the word. Maybe if we stop the superfluous use of the “R” word we can all pause for a minute and admit to certain biases and prejudices without feeling like we’re the lowest of the low and begin to work towards achieving real racial justice.
Today the word racist, and the shaming that goes along with it, has turned too political. It is also too much about individual prejudice, when in reality, racial justice is something that we all should be fighting for together.”
Source: It’s time to put a moratorium on the word ‘racist’ by
(See also the very interesting book: Dangerous Words, by G. Eberle.)
If the pen is mightier than the sword, then words are indeed it’s ammunition.
Judith February writes:
“Increasing polarisation and factionalism within the ANC, along with our inability to deal with the past adequately has, in recent years, led to language becoming used more and more as an instrument of division. There are many examples of the violence of language. ANCYL leader Collen Maine recently called for people to ‘take up arms for Zuma’ after ‘state capture’ allegations were brought to the fore. How could we forget the famous line, ‘we will kill for Zuma’? Zuma himself perpetuates the violence of language with his ‘mshini wam!’ cry. It all creates a toxic cesspool where dialogue becomes difficult.
We have seen strains of intolerance and misunderstanding in the #FeesMustFall debate almost from the very beginning in the provocative and often arcane language of ‘white tears’ and ‘settler’. It is found in the flinging of human faeces meant to symbolise the structural inequalities in our society and then the destruction of property that some say serves ‘white, colonial interests’…Still others have been trapped into simply denouncing ‘all’ students as marauding law-breakers. Name-calling and baiting of students has exacerbated tense situations. Or there is the silence of privilege that might sometimes be as violent as the spoken word.”
Especially in the South African context the word racist is laden with meanings which cannot be universally applied without a new injustice being perpetrated.
“Inculpation: noun, accusation, blame, charging with fault, charging with guilt, condemnation, crimination, denunciation, faultfinding, implication, imputation
– Burton’s Legal Thesaurus, 4E. Copyright © 2007 by William C. Burton.
This is another worrying aspect to Schutte’s thought: generalizations create a sort of semiotic tyranny. The essentializing, othering generalization in effect negates any possibility of absolution or even rational discourse. (Think for a moment about such demeaning, essentializing statements from recent history: Jews are the reason for Germany’s poverty, Negros can’t be trusted, Tutsis are vermin, Muslims are terrorists, Syrian refugees are opportunists, Hispanics are illegal aliens, Nigerians are drugdealers and pimps…). How is “all whites are racist” less stereotyping, less offensive? Schutte might respond as all who are convinced of their own truths: because it’s true.
“Shut up, you white bitch, your view is irrelevant” says the Fallist in Sidley’s article. In Schutte’s world, the white student to whom this was addressed is a racist irrespective of her political views, her personal morality, her ethics. The person uttering this violent invective is not a racist according to Andile Mngxitama: the name-caller is in fact a victim and his attack justified in view of a history of racial inequality and perceived present systemic racism. How is this perversion of truth even vaguely acceptable?
Dr. Jeff Rudin writes:
“Notwithstanding an often explicit rejection of race as a biological reality – and, hence, the acceptance that group behaviour is not genetically pre-determined – it is now commonplace to speak of “whites” as an entirely homogeneous group and, hence, applicable to each and every person who looks white (because there is no definition of whiteness). There is thus no escape from this monolithic entity called Whites. Moreover, each and every “white” person is, by extension, an automatic beneficiary and protector of White Supremacy. The conclusion of this new understanding is that no“white” person has the right to engage in, or comment on, any of the struggles, or debates, of the day. Those “white” who forget their place must expect a quick, single word retribution: the charge of being racist. There is no longer any space even for cartoonists. The recent vitriol hurled at Zapiro serves as a pregnant warning.
What needs emphasising is that this new and publicly unchallenged black consensus about there being no exceptions to “whiteness” – if you look white you are White – is without precedent in the history of South Africa.
Hitherto, there have always been recognised exceptions to Whiteness. During the anti-apartheid struggle, for instance the Treason Trail of the 1950s, with its 17 or so white accused, made this most visible. As did the Rivonia Trial, together with those of the sabotage and related other political trials of the 1960s, each producing their cohorts of white political prisoners. Ruth First, Joe Slovo, Ronnie Kasrils were among the most prominent of the subsequent “white” exceptions.
But, today it is different: there are no allowed exceptions to Whiteness.
And in “The shadow of liberation: Representivity and the commodification of race”:
“In common with the rest of the world, South Africa celebrates Martin Luther Kings’ dream of people being valued for the content of their characters rather than the colour of their skin. Yet the Left, for fear of being called racist, or of alienating student support, either say nothing or actively endorse the inherently, and profoundly racist call by black students to be taught by black teachers. The apartheid takeover of contemporary South Africa, however, makes the black stereotype even more problematic. The institutionalisation of all the apartheid-invented races, despite repeal of the hated Population Registration Act that so defined apartheid, means that blacks still (mainly) see themselves as either African, coloured or Indian. While the Left sporadically continues with formal incantations about the importance of class, representivity, on the basis of apartheid-classified races, becomes increasingly normalised.
by Dr. Jeff Rudin
“… the understandable need for Identity needs to come to terms with the fact that there is no Other. There is only all of us, a universal ‘We’.
Putting the Other in its place begins with a recognition that this (misconceived) Other has to exist in order to give meaning to our own identity, no less than to each of the other competing ones. Although needing to be seen as unique, as special, the identities that divide us and for which we readily kill each other, in fact contain features, customs, practices and beliefs drawn from a common and finite pool. The far from unique identities are as one would expect given that we are all biologically the same, with the same needs, fears and hopes, despite the richness of the different forms in which identity expresses itself.
Rather than celebrating and building on our common humanity, identity requires us to exaggerate difference, often to the obliteration of the very humanity of The Other. Identity is more pernicious still. Sometimes explicit but inescapably implicit, identity necessarily promotes, not just the idea of being different from but, crucially, better than. It is this unavoidable sense of superiority – or, for previously subjugated or otherwise discriminated identities, the need to prove equality – that, at the level of each individual person, sustains each of the competing, when not actually warring, identities.” -By Dr. Jeff Rudin
The Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev pointed out that the violence of racist ideology is worse than that of communist revolutionary ideology because for the latter even a member of the aristocracy or bourgeoisie could be “re-educated”, whereas race is immutable and indelible: no redemption is possible.
This might be a sort of academic exercise for Schutte who describes herself on her blog as a “A Feminist-NeoPagan-Post-Structuralist-Deconstructionist-Socialist”; but in the real world of human encounter her statement is deeply problematic. If Schutte makes no distinction between Verwoerd and Helen Suzman, between the martyred anti-apartheid activist Ruth First and the racist Barend Strydom of the Wit Wolwe, then her generalization fits very comfortably with the very bigotry she condemns. Have I misunderstood Schutte? Perhaps I have. I re-read her article at http://www.mediaforjustice.net/a-comprehensive-guide-to-white-privilege-in-south-africa/ and still experience a significant disquiet. Her statement “All whites are racist” seems a sort of bizarre variation of Andile Mngxitama’s statement “Blacks can’t be racist”. (Suntosh Pillay examines this argument at http://m.thoughtleader.co.za/mandelarhodesscholars/2010/03/23/one-simple-reason-why-blacks-cant-be-racist/?wpmp_switcher=mobile).
I suspect that with her statements, Schutte hopes to create an intellectual space for herself in the discourse where she can reduce her own sense of guilt and the dissonance she experiences in her own whiteness, her sense of culpability.
“By inculpating someone else, an accused person may manage to exculpate (herself).”
By listing the things a white person must do to fulfill her particular notion of what it means not to be racist she in effect attempts to absolve herself, to distance herself from the contemptible racist position: If she can ‘tick off’ each listed vice (“not me, not me!”) – and we must imagine she believes she can – then, by implication, she is ‘not one of the bad guys’. What a welcome relief that must be! Then why am I suspicious of her words?
The artist Marlene Dumas wrote in her essay “Do the Right thing” (Grey Areas, Chalkham Hill Press, 1999):
“I distrust myself and all others, involved as we are with all our multi-motivational defenses and references. Every time I try, I shift my perspective and doubt my own sincerity… I can’t stand all the tedious theoretical terminology (that is used in the art world. We use it like clever lawyers, in order to prove ourselves not guilty, while know that words are useless when one happens to be at the wrong (or right place) at the wrong time.”
“No matter how often we say we’re sorry, no matter how long we spend studying the past, reading and quoting the right books, no matter what our individual deeds are. This is our fate. This is the black and white of it.”
Isn’t Schutte’s confessorial ‘checklist’ yet another “multi-motivational defense”? Dumas writes “This is our fate” – an acceptance, whereas Schutte’s words contain a vituperative sting. But can she escape the burden and guilt of her own whiteness? Perhaps she hopes to diminish it – but by her own definition it is to all accounts indelible – she herself is guilty until “whiteness becomes defunct” (an esoteric notion at best).
Schutte limits the debate by suggesting that any rejection of her list of ‘racist vices proves that one is a racist. The logic: you are a racist if you think you aren’t one. Well that’s one way to silence detractors.
To return to Sidley’s question, “Will the harsh spotlight of history forever damn us?” I would say that Schutte makes it clear that the “us” is indeed forever damned, that her idea of a “defunct whiteness” is both an absurdity and a prejudice.
Is an apartheid-era racial category being perpetuated for convenient, ideological ends? What is the whiteness of which she speaks? How is it properly defined? Is it a convenient tag, a scapegoat, or perhaps a crime – like being a Negro in 50’s America’s “Deep South” or a Jew in Hitler’s Germany? Who gets to pronounce another a racist – to ‘other’ and execrate millions of people with her word – and what might such a pronouncement on another’s soul imply? If one is white, should one recant? Repent? Is some punishment, some stalinist humiliation in the offing? Who will determine the ‘appropriate corrective action’ for these racist whites?
Historically, there have been bizarre racial categories created to control racially divided societies. In the Americas, “a quadroon or quarteron was a mixed-race person with one quarter African and three quarters European ancestry (or in the context of Australia, one quarter aboriginal ancestry). Similar classifications were octoroon for one eighth black and quintroon for one sixteenth black.” (Source: Wikipedia; and Segal: The Black Diaspora). By insisting that “All whites are racist” It is unclear what degree of whiteness is necessary for one to be guilty in Schutte’s one-woman Court of Racial Iniquity. If I am one sixteenth black, am I entitled to a on sixteenth reduction on the guilty verdict she meets out? Conversely, if I am “black” with one sixteenth “white” ancestry, will the white genetic component be held against me? It’s an absurdity to evaluate people in this way, or to assign complicity in racism in this way. And yet Schutte proposes a comprehensive checklist in which the aberrant white may discover his wicked countenance, his complicity in an agenda of moral evil. I admire her confidence in her own claims, as confident as Hendrick Verwoerd was in his. If, however, Schutte believes whiteness is not located in one’s biology but in ideology – a sort of invisible matrix of racial power, then her argument is equally heinous, for who and where are these reprehensible whites exactly? How – in our paranoia – are we to identify these monsters? For then they are everywhere and nowhere. And all we have to go on then is our dogmatism and the colour of their skin. This conflation of skin colour and ideology is Verwoerdian.
“Perhaps most important for philosophers, any idea of identity itself appears to be in a period of rapid evolution. Changing technologies are having a profound impact on our philosophical understandings of who we are. Attempts to decode human genetics (Abu El-Haj 2007) and possibly shape the genetic make-up of future persons (Wald 2000), to clone human beings, or to xeno-transplant animal organs, and so on, all raise deep philosophical questions about the kind of thing a person is. We are capable of changing our bodies in ways that dramatically change our identities, including through sex change or cosmetic surgeries, with immediate consequences for the kinds of identities I have been discussing in this essay. As more and more people form political alliances using disembodied communications technologies, the kinds of identities that matter seem also to shift (Turkle 1995). Behaviors, beliefs, and self-understandings are increasingly pathologized as syndromes and disorders, including through the identification of new “types” of person (in turn generating possibilities for new forms of identity politics) (Elliott 2003a and 2003b; Rose 1997).
Increasingly, this long list of confounding variables for identity political thought is finding philosophical cohesion in anti-identarian models that take somatic life, affect, time, or space as organizing concepts. For example, both new materialisms and neo-vitalist philosophies, in their political contexts, share an emphasis on becoming over being, a “posthumanist” reluctance to award ontological priority to any shared characteristics of human beings (Wolfe 2010), a skepticism about discourses of authenticity and belonging, and a desire to focus on generative, forward-looking political solutions (Bhambra and Margee 2010; Coole and Frost 2010; Connolly 2011). The lines between humans and other animals (Haraway 2007), between the living and the non-living (Sharp 2011), and between objects and subjects (Bennett 2009) are radically challenged. To varying degrees these emphases are echoed in other process ontologies within contemporary “continental” thought—whether the ethics of self-transformation organized around Foucault’s last work (Heyes 2007), the reintroduction of bodies as socially and biologically dynamic and intra-active forces in forming political subjectivities (Protevi 2009), or the ways indirect, technologically mediated experience shapes so much of our contemporary “identities” (Turkle 2011). This mass of shifts and contradictions might be thought to mark the end of the era of identity politics. Whatever limits are inherent to identity political formations, however, the unfashionableness of the phrase itself belies the deep implication of questions of power and legitimate government with demands for self-determination that are unlikely to fade away.”
Citation: Heyes, Cressida, “Identity Politics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2016/entries/identity-politics/>.
(the moralizing revenge of the powerless).
“The dangers of identity politics, then, are that it casts as authentic to the self or group an identity that in fact is defined by its opposition to an Other. Reclaiming such an identity as one’s own merely reinforces its dependence on this dominant Other, and further internalizes and reinforces an oppressive hierarchy. While the charge that identity politics promotes a victim mentality is often a facile pot-shot, Wendy Brown offers a more sophisticated caution against the dangers of ressentiment (the moralizing revenge of the powerless). She argues that identity politics has its own genealogy in liberal capitalism that relentlessly reinforces the “wounded attachments” it claims to sever. Politicized identity thus enunciates itself, makes claims for itself, only by entrenching, restating, dramatizing, and inscribing its pain in politics; it can hold out no future—for itself or others—that triumphs over this pain. (Brown 1995: 74)
Perhaps I really am misconstruing Schutte’s argument.
“Frankenberg (1997) defines whiteness as multidimensional: “Whiteness is a location of structural advantage, of race privilege. Second, it is a ‘standpoint,’ a place from which white people look at ourselves, at others, and at society. Third, ‘whiteness’ refers to a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked and unnamed” (p.1). Race is conceptualized as a constellation of processes and practices rather than as an isolated entity. These processes and practices include basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives, and experiences purported to be commonly shared by all but that are actually only afforded in any consistent way to white people. Thus, to name whiteness is to refer to a set of relations that are historically, socially, politically, and culturally produced, and that are intrinsically linked to dynamic relations of white racial domination (Dyer, 1997; Lipsitz, 1999; Frankenberg, 2001; Roediger, 2007). Whiteness is both “empty,” in that it is normalized and thus typically unmarked, and content laden or “full,” in that it generates norms and reference points, ways of conceptualizing the world, and ways of thinking about oneself and others, regardless of where one is positioned relationally within it (Dyer, 1997; Frankenberg, 2001). This definition counters the dominant representation of racism in mainstream education as isolated in discrete incidents that some individuals may or may not “do,” and goes beyond naming specific privileges. Whiteness is dynamic, relational, and operating at all times and on myriad levels. Whites are theorized as actively shaped, affected, defined, and elevated through their racialization, and their individual and collective consciousness formed within it”. – Nothing to add: A Challenge to White Silence in Racial Discussions by Robin DiAngelo Volume II, Issue I February 2012 (Understanding & Dismantling Privilege).
Silent yielding and the potentiality of political suicide
– By Vincent Jungkunz
“Ultimately, a series of difficult choices await whites as they attempt to alleviate the oppressions that accompany a racial political and social context. Lopez points out, ‘Whites’ assistance in this endeavor is particularly crucial, because they exercise the great bulk of the tremendous power necessary to construct and maintain Whiteness’ (1996, p. 188). In a sense, what is called for is a political, economic and social suicide regarding whiteness. Yielding in silence could be one appropriate avenue for challenging whiteness as voice and privilege and political speech. Lopez discusses the verbal denigration needed for the perpetuation of whiteness, stating, ‘Whiteness demands that all Whites denigrate, at least passively, those constructed as non-White. It is only through this iterated denigration, this constant reinforcement by Whites of the lines between “us” and “them”, that the boundaries of Whiteness can be maintained’ (1996, pp. 189–190). The iterated denigration is certainly ripe for insubordinate silence. The Racial Contract depends not only upon ignorance, but also upon repeated speech that upholds discursive constructs that, furthermore, divide personhood from subpersonhood. These choices to dismantle whiteness, and the silences that can help lead the way to a society without whiteness, involve interrupting these iterations, stopping discursive flows, big and small. For instance, as one learns about racism and privilege, understanding that racism exists in multiple layers and forms, one can begin deploying silence to substitute for things such as soft and hard core racist speech, a monopolizing conversational style on race issues, and an out-of-focus consciousness that doesn’t make room for self-conscious racial reflection. For whites, a lack of racial self-consciousness is an enormous barrier to overcoming racism and white privilege, and, one way to avoid self-consciousness is to talk incessantly, and to never listen to criticism.”
Gerhard Maré’s Declassified: Moving Beyond the Dead End of Race in South Africa (Jacana)
“A recent book, Gerhard Maré’s Declassified: Moving Beyond the Dead End of Race in South Africa (Jacana), is a must-read in terms of how and why race classifications have been kept alive 25 years after the hated Population Registration Act was repealed. Declassified helps us understand how we have sustained a binary race-coded country ready for plucking by those “whites” aghast at the black “monkeys” swimming in their seas and the “black” students who adorn themselves with T-shirts declaring “Kill the whites”. – http://mg.co.za/article/2016-04-06-race-reinvented-for-post-apartheid-sa
“It is the banality of race that closes us off from even noticing its insidious sedimentation in everyday life.” – Gerhard Maré
DISCOURSE ON COLONIALISM: IS COLONIALISM USED AS AN EXCUSE FOR BAD GOVERNANCE?
“I say that between colonization and civilization there is an infinite distance; that out of all the colonial expeditions that have been undertaken, out of all the colonial statutes that have been drawn up, out of all the memoranda that have been dispatched by all the ministries, there could not come a single human value.”
Aimé Césaire, quoted from aforementioned article at bahatibooks.com
“… more than four in ten Britons view the British Empire as a good thing and colonialism as something to be proud of.” – The Independent (UK)†
There is “a collective amnesia about the levels of violence, exploitation and racism involved in many aspects of imperialism, not to mention the various atrocities and catastrophes that were perpetrated, caused or exacerbated by British colonial policies and actions”
– Dr Andrea Major, associate professor in British colonial history, University of Leeds.
“The violence of the British Empire has long been forgotten. We need to face up to this history and education is crucial if we are to do so.” – Dr Esme Cleall, lecturer in the history of the British Empire, University of Sheffield
“Today, there are still people who fondly believe that all of Africa’s problems are a legacy of colonialism — the fault of the wicked British. Those people also cling to the notion that this legacy can be expunged only by the payment of reparations in the name of “aid.” Fifty years on, we can surely think more clearly.
In virtually every case (Botswana is the sole exception), former British colonies in sub-Saharan Africa have fared worse under independence than they did under British rule. In virtually every case, as New York University’s William Easterly has pointed out, the expenditure of billions in Western aid has failed to raise their rate of economic growth.
In his forthcoming book, “The Bottom Billion,” Oxford economist Paul Collier brilliantly anatomizes the true causes of Africa’s post-colonial failure. He identifies four traps into which a depressingly large number of sub-Saharan countries have fallen since the 1950s. Some are trapped by their dependence on natural resources, such as diamonds or oil; some by being landlocked; some by recurrent civil war. But the fourth trap is the one that applies to Ghana: the trap of bad governance.
To illustrate the folly of giving aid to chronically misruled countries, Collier cites a recent survey that tracked money released by Chad’s Ministry of Finance to fund rural health clinics. Just 1% reached its intended destination. The rest was raked off by one corrupt official after another.”
NIALL FERGUSON, LA Times, March 2007
Official dignity tends to increase in inverse ratio
to the importance of the country in which the office is held.
– ALDOUS HUXLEY
by Stanley ‘Mzunguzungu’ Culpepper, Esq.
We are The Emissaries of the Department of Blue Lights.
We are important, very important precisely, unreservedly and especially without question because we are very important.
[Chorus of Sushi Girls]
We got it made
We got it made
Blue light Brigade
You can tell we are important because we have many blue lights on our cavalcade of fast-moving and conspicuously expensive luxury German cars which, incidentally, are shiny & black – because we are very important people.
We have serious and important looking very-dark-glass windows. This has nothing to do with highwaymen with three-corner hats hiding behind handkerchiefs or cowboy bankrobbers hiding their faces behind scarves or convicted felons wearing bags on their heads or hijackers wearing balaclavas or clown masks absolutely not. We, the aforementioned very important people (V.I.P’s) are hidden behind very-dark-glass for important reasons we may not divulge. We are not like the Queen of England or JFK in his stupid opentop, leaders that smile and wave like the Pope or like Christ entering Jerusalem on a donkey. NO INDEED! We are too important for such indecent exposure so to speak.
Behold our cavalcade which, please note (for your safety as much as our own), is thick with thick-necked security agents with dark glasses and guns. And lots of guns mind you, handguns, shotguns and other sorts of guns – for we are very important and guns are an important thing if you’re very important. And after all, before all, a public servant must be protected by thick-necked security agents: brutal-looking men in dark suits with dark glasses and guns and bald shiny heads and the proverbial snor. Protected whoknowswhy and fromwhoknowswhom but possibly perhaps and undoubtedly from the agents (thick-necked agents, brutal-looking men with dark glasses and guns and bald shiny heads and snors, agents of some undefined but quite definitely nefarious power and/or powers seeking the demise of the aforementioned travelling emissaries).
A Brief Sardonic Digression
What is the “security cluster” by the way? Is that the one, in the Cadbury Milk Tray box, that no one likes, the one everyone avoids, the one with nuts all stuck together in a kind of sticky toffee? The one that could choke and kill you if perchance it went down the wrong way?
End of Brief Sardonic Digression
You won’t guess which department we represent. It’s our little secret or big secret depending on your point of view and we’ll keep you guessing and it’s hard to tell isn’t it when all the lights are blue and all the cars are black.
You’ll never guess if it’s Number One or Two or Three of some other number for there are many numbers; the windows are as dark as a bureaurat’s -or securocrat’s (as the case may be) – professionally tailored suit. (I shan’t say as dark as his or her heart, for only God and the Devil know how dark is the darkness of a man’s heart, and who knows if a blue light may pierce that darkness, andbesideswhich it is not for a man to judge another man’s heart though he may be permitted to judge a man’s cavalcade. Certainly a citizen or taxpayer or dare I say a consumer or even a simple road-user must never judge the heart of the aforementioned bureaucrats and/or securocrats, or so the aforementioned bureaucrats and/or securocrats would have us believe.
Perhaps – or perhaps not- the hidden and ensconced Emissary of The Department of Blue lights is in fact a Minister of The Department of Security or Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries or Cooperative Governance or Water and Sanitation? The Department of Public Service and Administration? Planning Monitoring and Evaluation? Public Enterprises? or the sanitized public or public forestry and cooperative fisheries or fish monitoring or mongering or the Department of Blue Lights …
OFFICIAL DISPATCH FROM THE OFFICE OF THE DEPT. OF BLUE LIGHTS
Section A Point 1(i) The Public must move aside as we pass by.
Section A Point 1(ii) The Public may gaze respectfully but may not stare with disgust, derision, contempt etc. It is important to remember we are important servants of the Public doing important things, dashing about in cars thick with thick-necked security agents with dark glasses and guns.
Section A Point 1(iii) we the Emissaries of The Department of Blue Lights … are on our way from somewhere important to somewhere important and The Public is to respect the importance of the important things we have to do.
Section A Point 1(iv) Failure to move over may have unintended and/or intended consequences for The Public depending on the degree of compliance with respect to and/or disrespect to Section A Points i-iii above.
We got it made
We got it made
Blue light Brigade
Orwell’s ‘1984’ convinced me, rightly or wrongly, that Marxism was only a quantum leap away from tyranny. By contrast, Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ suggested that the totalitarian systems of the future might be subservient and ingratiating.
J. G. Ballard
English novelist, short story writer, and essayist