Fear, love and val­ues

CityPress - - Voices - JP Louw voices@city­press.co.za

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.