Analysis of and commentary on South African politics from a liberal perspective.

Tag: Progress

On originality

TheThingAboutSERIES: Few things are better able to excite the human mind than originality. It is the result of curiosity, the force behind creativity and impulse that drives discovery. Truly it is a glorious thing, the very touchstone for innovation and, with it, progress and betterment. But why is it so important? What is its nature and effect? What is it about originality that makes it such a powerful – and rare – attribute and why is it we should place such great value upon it?

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Culture, culture everywhere and not a drop to drink

FreedomARTICLE: ‘My culture’, ‘our culture’, ‘one must respect culture’, ‘in our culture’, these are some of the phrases that dominate South African public discourse. But ask anyone to define exactly what they mean by their culture, its precise parameters, values and principles, and you will find yourself staring at a blank face. It is the ultimate ‘get out jail free card’ in any argument (perhaps along with race), evoked in an unthinking manner, as if beyond scrutiny or criticism from first principles. Morally untouchable. Were we more honest about the general nature of many such cultures, we would, no doubt, be fairly horrified.

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On change

SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Today, a look at the idea of change – something which is very often resisted on the basis that the unknown is the source of unease and, to venture into it, is to risk the comfort of the status quo. So change often shares a particular relationship with both bravery and loss.

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On excellence

SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Today, a brief look at the idea of excellence. In particular, how identifying excellence is often confused with its pursuit. In other words, how a description is conflated with an attitude, why the distinction is important and what role each – being able to identify what is excellent and being able to pursue it – plays in a society.

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Secrecy: the drug you slowly become addicted to

ARTICLE: The Protection of State Information Bill, perhaps now better known as ‘the secrecy bill’, has put transparency front and centre in our public discourse. I have, in the article below, tried to explain in abstract why the principle of transparency is important to a democracy and, at the other end of the spectrum, why secrecy is a danger to it. Of the many reasons, perhaps the most subtle is secrecy’s insidious effect. Once given a foothold, it gradually tightens its grip, until, before you know it, it has squeezed the very life out of a democratic order.

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The eternal battle between outcomes and processes

ARTICLE: What is more important – an outcome or the process designed to achieve it? How you answer that question will say a lot about you. Those primarily concerned with outcomes are usually responsible for change and, with it, progress. Those overly concerned with processes usually stifle progress, unable as they are to understand its purpose in the first place (to generate an outcome) – or to adapt when it fails. South Africa today places far too much emphasis on process. Indeed, in politics we have a process for everything (a tribunal, a committee, a review, a commission, an investigation, etc) but when it comes to outcomes – and with that accoutability – well, they are far harder to find. So it is worth exploring the relationship between these two things, to try and better understand the role each plays.

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