Na­tional in­ter­est is the thing to fear

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

OH DEAR, An­neli Botes. What to make of this un­for­tu­nate woman and her silly com­ments? Or bet­ter still, what to make of our re­ac­tion to her, which, I’d sug­gest, is more alarm­ing?

To a chat­ter­ing class that has per­haps grown weary of the cretinous Julius Malema, now the sin­gle, over­ar­ch­ing sym­bol of our pub­lic life, Botes’s ad­mis­sion, in an in­ter­view with Rap­port, that she dis­liked black peo­ple be­cause she was scared of them was a wel­come di­ver­sion, and we fell upon her as if she was the sushi on the girls at Kenny Kunene’s place.

She was, in short, an ig­no­rant racist. Granted, they said, she might be an award-win­ning nov­el­ist, but she was nev­er­the­less an im­be­cile who had no place among us and should leave the coun­try at once.

There came a deaf­en­ing and per­haps pre­dictably hyp­o­crit­i­cal clam­our from the usual gang of white com­men­ta­tors who fell over them­selves in a self-right­eous rush to point out that, no, not all white peo­ple were like Botes, and that some were so dif­fer­ent, they were even rather spe­cial. Bearded sage types like them­selves, in fact.

It’s true that much of what Botes had to say about black peo­ple was non­sense.

Her sug­ges­tion that vi­o­lent crime showed blacks, as a group, were “an­gry be­cause of their own in­com­pe­tence” is, frankly, crap.

Alarm­ingly – for a writer, at least – she ap­peared to have no grasp of our his­tory. This is what hap­pens, I sup­pose, when you live in Port El­iz­a­beth, the sin­gu­larly most iso­lated and clois­tered white com­mu­nity south of the re­tire­ment vil­lages of Bournemouth. But that is an­other is­sue for an­other time, per­haps.

Dis­tress­ingly, there are those who en­dorse Botes’s views, who be­lieve her crack­pot the­o­ries are valid. But we err, per­haps, when we dis­miss those who de­fend her right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion as be­ing racist as well.

And, here’s a thing, I be­lieve Botes was at least hon­est in ex­press­ing her views, how­ever re­tarded they may be. It may have made us all feel a whole lot more com­fort­able, but would it have been bet­ter if she had lied?

Which brings me to a point – what would my re­sponse have been if some­one had asked me: “Who or what do you fear?” Sev­eral prob­a­ble an­swers spring al­most im­me­di­ately to mind. Dis­ease, lone­li­ness, vi­o­lence. All in all, pro­saic stuff, and noth­ing too ex­cit­ing there, re­ally, so per­haps a bet­ter ques­tion would be: “What should we fear?”

What about politi­cians? Should we fear them?

Hmmm. Tricky. Cer­tainly, we should de­spise politi­cians and it is prob­a­bly our duty to do so. We must keep them at a dis­tance, and at all times deny them ac­cess to places where the in­no­cent and the weak are gath­ered. Schools and hos­pi­tals es­pe­cially.

At worst, politi­cians are greedy so­ciopaths and at best… well, there is no best. They lie. They steal. They cheat. They are un­able to ex­pe­ri­ence any de­gree of shame. They would sell their own moth­ers for a packet of cig­a­rettes. Their con­cern with our well­be­ing is that of a fox to­wards a crip­pled chicken. And, per­haps their most loath­some at­tribute – how they love to bang on and on, like a stuck record, about the na­tional in­ter­est.

Think about it. Why must we have a me­dia ap­peals tri­bunal and pun­ish jour­nal­ists and writ­ers? It’s in the na­tional in­ter­est. Why must we have a de­bate about the role of the me­dia in a post-apartheid demo­cratic so­ci­ety – a de­bate, in­ci­den­tally, in which jour­nal­ists’ views will al­most cer­tainly not be wel­come or even con­sid­ered? It’s in the na­tional in­ter­est.

Why the whole­sale loot­ing of the coun­try’s min­eral re­sources? Why the shady deals? The nepo­tism and favours for friends that be­dev­ils our busi­ness cul­ture? Why the lack of trans­parency in our cor­po­rate life? It’s in the na­tional in­ter­est.

Why must there be moral re­gen­er­a­tion? Why all the pas­tor­preneurs tryst­ing with the gang of thieves in Luthuli House? Why the resur­gent dis­cus­sion about the need for re­li­gion in the cur­ric­ula of our schools? It’s in the na­tional in­ter­est.

Why the much-vaunted re­turn to tra­di­tional val­ues? Why do we need un­elected tra­di­tional lead­ers? Why do we con­tinue to squan­der pub­lic money on par­a­site kings and feu­dal royal houses in a con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy? It’s in the na­tional in­ter­est.

The same goes for the the blue-light con­voys, the fat salaries, the lux­ury cars and the costly trips abroad. Ditto the ex­tra min­is­ters and deputy min­is­ters with the re­sult that we have a cabi­net that has grown at much the same rate as the girth of Khu­lubuse Zuma, the pres­i­dent’s Jabba the Hut-like nephew?

The na­tional in­ter­est? Fear it.

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