I am so sick of reading, almost daily, about leaders who claim that they speak for ‘blacks’ or ‘Africans’, or accusing their opponents of serving ‘white’ or ‘capitalist’ interests. This is nothing more than emotive mysticism that permeates our political landscape with its poisonous influence. Slogans like ‘100% Zulu boy’ or nicknames like ‘Madam’ or ‘Coconut’ are, in fact, much more insidious than one would first suppose them to be. The reason, of course, is the philosophy that gives rise to these ideas, the way knowledge is acquired and the morality that springs from it.
Appeals to authority and culture or, indeed, the authority of culture in politics is a dangerous trend, and the have to do with a most fundamental of questions. Firstly, who decides what constitutes a particular culture and, secondly, how is that culture communicated to those that fall under its ambit? There are only two ways to acquire knowledge about anything that constitutes the human experience. Either we come into the world as a blank slate, and everything that we learn is through our senses, accompanied by our intellect to categorize and organize the information we are exposed to- or our senses and intellect alone are insufficient and our feelings and emotions acquire some kind of supernatural knowledge from revelation of something that we carry from birth. People are not born attached to a culture, despite what extremists try to claim. Babies from Asia adopted by Americans are, culturally, American; they have no claim on their country of birth, nor race in either the spiritual or physical sense. The three greatest mystic connections called upon are race (blood), land of birth (nationalism/patriotism) and spirit (geist). We see, all too often, that the collectivist ANC makes these kinds of claims in order to turn various groups against each other in a self-serving grab for power.
When politicians claim to have some kind of arcane knowledge of what constitutes a certain group’s culture they are not basing their statements on reality. Rather, they are claiming that they have some kind of connection to the ‘spirit’ of that group in its totality. They claim that they speak for the group, not as a collection of self-aware individuals, but as the prophet of the inescapable, supernatural construct that is unknowable to them despite them being a part of it. Shrewd politicians like Hitler and to a lesser extent, Zuma tap into this idea that certain groups of people have, ruling over them an intangible, unknowable set of ideas supersedes the individuals in that group. It is not merely culture, but is more than that because it takes on a life of its own. Thus, ‘Zulu culture’ becomes whatever these ‘divine’ prophets determine it to be.
The evidence abounds in some of the ANC’s most infamous statements, like the time that Gwede Mantashe claimed that the ANC leadership will eat cake at rallies on the people’s behalf. He was not lying; the ANC leadership truly believe that they are the arbiters and prophets of their people’s ‘spirit’. Zuma is also guilty, by saying ‘100% Zulu boy’ he is not only saying that he subscribes fully to Zulu culture, but also that those who respect Zulu culture will support and emulate him, as the ‘high priest’ of ‘Zuluness’. On a whim these people can declare any individual to be ‘too clever’, ‘too white’ or ‘too modernized’ to belong to what effectively amounts to a political cult.
My appeal to South Africans is not to be taken in by this kind of thinking. There is absolutely no possible way that these demagogues could know about your particular, individual needs precisely because they do not recognize the value of individuals. They draw power from the lie that they have some secret, mystic knowledge about you based on how you may share a few, superficial traits with other people. You have to discover, by your own reasoning, which organizations and parties best suit your particular needs; to do otherwise is to surrender to a path of mysticism, superstition and your mind’s ultimate destruction.
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