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

Tag: Tolerance

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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The DA’s illiberal response to Lulu Xingwana


InsidePoliticsFEATURE: The DA yesterday called on the Human Rights Commission to investigate Lulu Xingwana for comments it deemed “offensive”. That, however, is an intolerant and illiberal response. To try and formally shut down an opinion you no more than disagree with is anathema to free speech, a touchstone liberal principle. Anyone can speak out against a view they deem to be wrong or damaging in some way, but when you try formally to prohibit or ban a disagreeable opinion, you have crossed a line liberals should protect not abuse.

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The ANC’s top ten ‘treasonous’ people


ANCFlagFEATURE: As the ANC has turned its bullying gaze towards First National Bank, so one of its perennial slurs has once again been invoked – ‘treason’, and the suggestion that FNB was attempting to overthrow the government. It is a hysterical and wholly inaccurate accusation, designed to silence criticism and shut down debate – and FNB is not the first to be labelled ‘treasonous’ by the ANC. Here follows a list of ten such instances. In each case the charge is outlandish and wrong, and, in each case, it is used as a response to disagreement rather than any actual threat. Perhaps more importantly, together they describe a party out of touch both with reality and its own history.

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On tolerance


TheThingAboutSERIES: It has become fashionable to champion diversity as if the idea and its practical manifestations are one in the same, both good and virtuous. This is wrong. Diversity, as a value, is important, good and necessary but not every actual difference in a society is therefore equally virtuous. Many things that are ‘different’ are anti-freedom. One needs to distinguish between allowing difference the space to flourish and evaluating and responding to that difference itself. If we fail to do that, tolerance suffers. It becomes a euphemism for blind acceptance, which is not its purpose.

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The new Zuma painting: What have we learnt since ‘The Spear’?


FEATURE: The new ‘controversial’ painting of President Zuma, by Ayanda Mabulu, provides for us an interesting benchmark, against which we can measure what effect Brett Murray’s The Spear had on South Africa. Put another way: what did we learn from The Spear? Has our capacity for tolerance increased or decreased? And is our commitment to Freedom of Expression enhanced or denuded as a result of it? Time will provide the full answer to those questions. In the meantime, here are a few preliminary thoughts.

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The Ubuntu cuttlefish


FEATURE: In response to a recent article by Andrew Donaldson, titled ‘Let’s never mention Ubuntu again’, Barbara Nussbaum (former member of the Ubuntu Panel, which was part of the National Heritage Council of South Africa) has penned a long and ultimately meaningless response. In the article below I have responded to Nussbaum in turn and provided a general critique of Ubuntu – an idea I argue is ill-defined and, besides, redundant, in light of the Bill of Human Rights.

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The ANC’s intolerant attitude to tolerance


SERIES: The instantaneous and dramatic nature of current affairs lends itself to a kind of historical amnesia, one where the captivating nature of those things unfolding today, causes one to forget the bigger picture. From the Archives aims to put forward the odd reminder that, more often than not, history is merely repeating itself. In all likelihood, somewhere, someone has already experienced and commented on those all-consuming issues that appear to have materialised only yesterday. Today, a trip back to 2005 and an illustration of the ANC’s intolerant attitude to tolerance; one which its more recent response to The Spear suggests has only become stronger with time.

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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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In conversation about tolerance


SERIES: Two heads are better than one, or so the saying goes. Jacques Rousseau is a lecturer in critical thinking and ethics, as well as a columnist for the Daily Maverick and, in discussion with him, the series In Conversation will look to explore a key concept or development in a few email exchanges. Few ideas get more attention than in South African public debate than that of ‘tolerance’ – and, with it, the seemingly omnipresent idea of ‘offence’. We get offended a lot. Too much perhaps? In response, tolerance seems to have become an excuse to avoid the proper critical examination of bad ideas and poor thinking. These, among others, are some of the issues explored this week.

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In conversation about ubuntu


SERIES: Two heads are better than one, or so the saying goes. Jacques Rousseau is a lecturer in critical thinking and ethics, as well as a columnist for the Daily Maverick and, in discussion with him, the series In Conversation will look to explore a key concept or development in a few email exchanges. We start with the idea of ubuntu – a notion that has quickly been elevated to the level of philosophy, although what it actually means remains the subject of much debate. Perhaps more to the point, is ubuntu a liberal idea? Or, at the very, least can it be reconciled with liberalism?

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On offence


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective.  In this column, a look at the idea of offence – something so often evoked by the insecure and hyper-sensitive to try and suppress those views and opinions with which they disagree; usually, ironically, in the name of tolerance.

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