Fear, love and values
In the aftermath of 9/11, US politicians went into a frenzy about the threat of terrorism to their country. This they blamed on Muslim fundamentalists enabled by “rogue states”, and the phrase “war on terror” was invented and successfully punted to drive the point home.
Tough talk indeed. Talk which lacks even a sneeze of introspection that suggests some ability to take an inch of responsibility. But so it is with the politics of fear. You pick that element, regardless of its degree of truthfulness, that you know causes distress and make it the motivating factor to achieve your desired outcome. It is a way to gain approval from what people would otherwise abhor. When it comes to the politics of fear, energies such as suspicion, anger, avoidance, worry and nervousness rule the day.
As it steps into its fifth National Policy Conference and subsequent elective National Conference in December, it very well could be that the ANC is at that gate of choice between the politics of fear as opposed to love.
Defining the politics of love, Max Harris and Philip McKibbin say “it is a values-based politics, which affirms the importance of people, and extends beyond us to nonhuman animals and the environment... Love ... is more than a value: it determines and balances other loving values – like responsibility, understanding and fairness”. In his sermon On Being a Good Neighbour, Martin Luther King teaches that love is a combination of care, concern and commitment. The ANC’s national leadership believes that the organisation is in deep crisis because its members do not respect its constitution, traditions and culture. The party is embroiled in factionalist politics that could cause it to collapse.
Something about the ANC’s selfproclaimed mess begs questions about whether the organisation is where it is because of embracing or rejecting the aforementioned loving values. How else should one interpret a situation in which the ANC has become a rallying point for opposition parties, which, at least on paper, should find it extremely difficult to club together?
And what truth must be deduced from the marches of April 7 and April 12 which were essentially a reaction by thousands of South Africans to whether the ANC is, in broad terms, a representation of the energy of love or fear?
Based on what is arguable a small, but fairly reflective sample, a research team from the University of Johannesburg presents a number of intriguing factors about these marchers. About 56% of the marchers were black, while 30% were white. About 58% could be considered middle class, since they held professional or managerial positions. Only about 10% could be categorised as traditionally working class, while 13% were self-employed. To varying degrees, the reasons for marching were categorised into five areas: those against President Jacob Zuma, change, social justice, the economy and/or corruption, and other. Issues related to a setting best enabled through the politics of love as opposed to the politics of fear.
Interestingly, while many identified with the anti-Zuma sentiment, they did not equate that to a need to reject the ANC. Instead, those interviewed were steadfast in their support for the party. A suggestion that while the politics of fear may have motivated the need to take action, the belief that the ANC could still be one who professes the politics of love remains.
Fuelled by factionalism, bidders of the two leading contenders for the position of president of the ANC are at pains to parade their side as the most radical, trustworthy and aligned to an understanding of both the cause of and solutions to South Africans’ ills. The catch phrase “radical economic transformation” is said to define the next possible panacea needed to eradicate the persistent ills of poverty and inequality.
But is the radical economic transformation talk driven by energies which demonstrate a combination of care, concern and commitment? Or is it tough talk which seeks to exploit people’s fear with little to no sense of accountability by the agitators?
Author Matsobane Manala argues that to improve service delivery in its fledgling democracy, the country needs servant leaders who should demonstrate the principles of agape love, humility, altruism, vision, trusting, empowering and serving.
When off camera, the personality traits of many politicians and senior officials lack humility and agape love. For example, many a time their support staff experience feelings of fear in the presence of their political and administrative leaders.
Considering that these are the very persons who must eventually guide the path of South Africa’s political orientation, should we then make peace with the fact that the politics of fear is inevitably the way things are bound to go?
TALK TO US Is the ANC ruled by fear or love, and how does this affect South Africans?
Louw is a communications and behaviour specialist and a presenter on Ubuntu Radio
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa