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Rikky_Sellis
 
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The polarising power of our public platforms.

30 January 2013, 11:03

I shudder when I look back on the polemics about racism of this country. This topic has been so entrenched in our media, politics and practices since the advent of its first legislation. Paradoxically nothing much has changed except its form and some names, especially street names.

Perennially, every reference to race intentionally or unintentionally engenders more hate and categories than love and acceptance. On the other hand I argue it serves an important function concerning ideology before and after apartheid: Shortly before the French revolution Jean-Jacques Rousseau asserted that "In order to unite a group, a common enemy must be identified." This statement rings true since time immemorial. From religious wars, to the Spanish inquisition, to sexism, to WWII, apartheid, the war on Iraq... ad nauseam.

On a political level in other words, in order to get people to agree with policies and executive board decisions without having to go through too much details on the gilded promises, simply identify a common enemy and justify policies in relation to the enemy. We need not go far in SA, to verify how easily this is and was achieved.

The media are also far from ignorant on the aforementioned: In order for journalists to write a good article, the article should take a neutral point of view on an issue, where an issue by definition is an important question that must be disputed in order to be settled between at least two parties. Conflict is needed for change, however preserving conflict with rhetoric like SA has done with the concept ‘racism’ trapped us in vicious circle of resentment and hopelessness.

To take a much simplified and diluted example: Before apartheid leaders were spewing 'blacks cannot be educated, they are different based on racial lines, they will take our jobs, therefore we should implement laws separating education standards'; and after apartheid 'vote ANC otherwise the whites will get back to power causing more racism'.

Therefore I agree with Duarte that SA, especially the powerful just mentioned, must change the language of racism including the term itself. What is currently happening - just see the comments on the hyperlinks and many others about the ANC and user generated articles  - is that somebody claiming not to be a racist experiences an incidence of racism or were accused of racism on unfounded grounds, pushing racism to the side of the fence. In turn - save for the slurs and epithets in contemporary times - they voice their dissatisfaction using precisely the same old language used to perpetuate racism in the first place, also pushing racism back to the other side too. In effect we are still polarising the race issue, fighting racism with racism, engendering more hate every time, mostly maintaining that we are complaining from a non-racists perspective.

Conversely, the consequence of the polarising effect is that a small minority of shrewd and influential people are financially benefitting from this vicious circle of decay. We simply have to look at our further skewing possession of wealth and trace where most of the money goes for welfare incentives, which are intended for the poor who are persuaded by mutated forms of racism, instead of the rationale behind the incentive itself. Can you spot a top down incentive relating to why our education standards are lowering?

I conclude that those who share an influential position on a public platform, if they have any care left for their country and its posterity, should refrain from language which traps its audience in the polarising effect and should rather move on to other more original rhetoric to further their public and/or their private interest. If we REALLY have to find a common enemy, can it not be a group outside our own borders? And instead of shooting ourselves in the foot with lowering education standards for easy persuasion, why not improve those standards for some much needed critical attention and international respect?

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