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

Tag: Respect

On egalitarianism


TheThingAboutSERIES: In politically correct environments there often exists a strong compulsion to treat every idea as equal, or risk ‘offending’ someone by suggesting their argument weak or wrong. Because we are all equal before the law, the assumption is made everything we say is likewise of equal worth. That, of course, is not true. And we risk encouraging ignorance if we disallow critical interrogation of argument.

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Blade, the SACP and the idea of respect


RespectFEATURE: The idea of ‘respect’ is one profoundly misunderstood in South Africa. Not just misunderstood, however, but deliberately misused as a euphemism for deference, in order to give the demand of respect a more acceptable veneer. Leading the charge in this respect is Blade Nzimande and the SACP and a recent exchange between Nzimande and a caller on radio is as revealing in this regard as it is disturbing. So it is worth unpacking the idea in a bit more detail in order to better understand that underlying all these various calls for respect is a deeply authoritarian impulse and the abdication of personal responsibility.

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The new painting of Jacob Zuma, by Ayanda Mabulu


FEATURE: President Zuma has brought this on himself. It is unfortunate, because much of the debate about this new painting (currently on exhibition at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town) will not be about the quality of the art, but all those euphemisms the ANC evokes to suppress freedom of expression – dignity, respect, culture, etc. I feel duty bound to post the picture, then, for two reasons: one, to demonstrate some consistency on this issue and two, to take a stand for freedom of expression, in the same way I did over The Spear. Thus, what follows below is the new painting of President Jacob Zuma, by artist Ayanda Mabulu. Read this blog to see it and, if you do, and you are sensitive about such things, make the choice to be offended and test your own tolerance and constitutional commitment. Choice is the essence of freedom, here is yours.

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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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On patriarchy


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 relationship between patriarchy and dignity. Why is it that a patriarch will so easily feel their dignity has been impugned? The answer has to do with the assumption that they bear no responsibility for upholding it in the first place.

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On dignity


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 dignity. It is often assumed, indeed, the idea is often promoted that, dignity is an entitlement. That is wrong. One is in entitled to the conditions necessary for one to be able to act in a dignified manner, but whether or not one uses the opportunity, well, that is entirely an issue of personal responsibility.

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An Open Letter: Why The Spear is staying up on Inside Politics


FEATURE: Over the past 48 hours a series of people and institutions once dedicated to freedom of expression and tolerance have surrendered their position on The Spear in the face of intimidation and bullying. In each case, an emotional justification has been offered. In many cases it has been accepted, for bullying is felt as intimidation not by the victim alone. I am not taking down The Spear from Inside Politics. What follows is an open letter and explanation as to why.

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Rationality: our guide through the dark


ARTICLE: Why is rationality important? Well, for one thing, it allows us not only to understand principles (which are by their nature often counter-intuitive) but to apply them to those decisions we make in pursuit of the good life. That is not always easy, because emotion’s pull in the other direction can be powerful. But rationality and reason are the tools we can use to help exercise the best possible judgement.

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The painting, the institution and the individual


FEATURE: The various responses to the painting of Jacob Zuma constantly confuse public office with the behaviour of the individual holding that office – the assumption is that because someone represents an institution they automatically get all the public respect associated with it. The latest is a statement by Zuma’s children. This is, of course, wrong. In fact, quite the opposite is true. In this short piece, I explain why.

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The Jacob Zuma painting and the idea of respect


ARTICLE: Much has already been made of the Jacob Zuma painting and the idea of respect. The argument goes like this: Jacob Zuma is the President, he should be respected. Therefore, the painting should be removed. That ‘argument’ is often used in South Africa. Routinely we fundamentally misunderstand what respect is. We think it is something that can be demanded, not earned. But the moment you accept that line of thinking, you are on a sure path to some or other anti-democratic state of affairs.

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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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On status


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. The column below looks at the idea of status and asks, does the fact that someone qualifies for a title mean they have in effect achieved some status in the eyes of others? Or is status, like respect, earned? Very often status-seekers simply assume the former, never pausing to question the possibility that the latter might, in fact, hold true.

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