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Analysis of and commentary on South African politics from a liberal perspective. Winner: Best Political Blog 2012.

Tag: Nationalism

The ANC, religion and ‘the truth’


SPEECH: This past Tuesday I delivered an address on the ANC, religion and ‘the truth’. For those interested, a copy of that speech follows below. It argues that there is much to be understand about the ANC when it is viewed not as a political party but a religious movement and explores what happens when a party which once held a monopoly over ‘the truth’ suffers a crisis of legitimacy?

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An erosion of the DA’s liberal values: A response


InsidePoliticsFEATURE: Some two months ago I argued that an article by the DA’s national spokesperson, advocating for Ubuntu and ‘Africaness’, was illiberal and worrisome, with regards to the party’s ideological direction. Although the DA itself has not responded, a number of other people have. Below is a summation of those responses and the reasons why the majority are both wrong and wrongheaded.

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On xenophobia


TheThingAboutSERIES: A fear of foreigners is a deeply irrational prejudice and the trigger for it, usually, is the proximity of difference. In other words, the closer some foreign practice or person, the greater the threat to any xenophobe. The irony is that we surround ourselves with difference everyday; for though a particular community might share some generally common trait it is not universal nor does it negate an infinite range of other differences that define each human being as unique.

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On statistics


SERIES: Because they are far more objective in nature, statistics have a certain kind of power. That is, they allow those not entirely familiar with a situation to comment on it with authority, even insightfully. Little wonder, then, nationalists don’t like statistics and try to control and manipulate them. Ultimately, however, its a losing battle. Here’s why.

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Appearance and reality: Liberal values in democratic South Africa


FEATURE: The Helen Suzman Foundation (www.hsf.org.za) has just produced edition 65 of its Journal, Focus. The edition is titled ‘On Liberty’ and devoted to exploring some of the challenges, both social and political, which have confronted South African liberalism. You can find a full copy of the edition here (PDF). Among of a range of pieces by the likes of Bobby Godsell, Charles Simkins, John Matisonn and Michael Cardo (I see Pallo Jordan even makes an appearance) is the piece I wrote, below, on liberal values and how they are often the subject of subtle negotiation, almost always to their detriment.

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Johannesburg and nationalism: 1890 vs 2012


FEATURE: There are many parallels between the ANC’s particular brand of African nationalism and the nationalism practiced by previous governments in South Africa’s past. It is a comparison not often made but one which holds many lessons. Consider Johannesburg in the late 1800s for example: under the control of a nationalist administration it faced and created numerous problems which we face today and a description of the city back then, which follows below, sounds eerily familiar.

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How loyalty is used and abused


ARTICLE: Is there a difference between being loyal to a friend and being loyal to a country or cause? The principle is the same but the way in which loyalty is used by friends and governments differs greatly. Governments, particularly nationalist governments, demand loyalty; just as they demand evidence of it. What they fail to understand, however, is that all they are doing is encouraging obedience.

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On diversity


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. At the social cohesion summit, President Jacob Zuma told the audience, “we have to build one national identity out of multiple identities”. It was a thought typical of nationalistic thinking, which routinely fails to understand diversity and its importance.

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An essay on mediocrity


SERIES: One from the archives. What follows below is a 2009 essay I wrote on the nature and effect of mediocrity on a society. How does what is set out in the essay apply to South Africa? Are we a society caught in its warm embrace? There can be little doubt that its influence is powerful, the question is: is it so well-entrenched its effect cannot be reversed? Perhaps if we understood it a little better, we would be better equipped to counter the pervasive way in which it seeps into public life.

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Some thoughts on the idea of ‘respect’


ARTICLE: South Africa is obsessed with the idea of ‘respect’. Constantly we read about the need for various things – from culture through to our attitude to certain positions – to be ‘respected’. But respect must be earned, it cannot be enforced or demanded. And that requires behaviour which is worthy of respect in the first place. In the article below I look at the relationship between respect and deference, and between deference and nationalism in turn.

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