The Arch’s pulpit politics are self-indulgent

2011-10-15 07:26

Yonela Diko

Desmond Tutu has reduced our country to a soundbite of for or against – making governance no longer a matter of weighing trade-offs between competing goals.

This is why the uncompromising demands of religion and morality must always be separated from matters of state. Simplicity in politics, unlike in moral imperatives, is not a virtue.

I reject this orthodoxy that purports to leave any lover of democracy marooned because they question the wisdom of allowing the Dalai Lama into our country.

In politics, compromise is strategy, not weakness. Compromise may be hell, but it is still the right thing to do.

Frankly, we are exactly where Tutu wants us to be and even as he spoke – his voice growing more forceful, his forefinger stabbing the air, sitting in his favourite seat (the judgment seat) – his heart glowed at his continued relevance.

Tutu possesses the kind of morality so right that it is dangerous because it is underwritten by a lack of appreciation for the compromises that have forged today’s leading nations. The US granted the Dalai Lama a visa on his last visit and President Barack Obama gave him audience only because of the unique position that country holds among nations.

The US has always known the importance of economic growth, a vision of fair wages and benefits, patronage and public works, and an ever-rising standard of living. For this, it forged compromises that would not survive the morality scale, adopting a “live and let live” philosophy.

It was only when the question of economic growth and prosperity had been answered that other questions of social norms began to be asked and answered. Accommodating temperamental differences became a necessity. When the time was right, Americans had to choose sides.

Forcing South Africa to choose sides in the China-Tibet war prematurely may well be subjecting our people to a lifetime of economic struggle.

Yes, politics is not just a bread-and-butter issue, but a moral issue as well, subject to moral imperatives. However, Tutu cannot make our politics decidedly personal, insinuating the agenda of our government.

His constant challenge of government has spilled over into self-indulgence, where denunciation of government actions comes too easily.

This purity of principle, and rigid orthodoxy, ties one hand behind our backs and makes our primary job of elevating the country’s living standards more difficult.

Eighty years on, Tutu still does not possess the maturity to balance idealism and realism. He has no idea of the cost of government mandate.

He has never had a real job that required harder decisions than moral imperatives. He possesses a rigid doctrine that is reminiscent of old-time religion, which slices everything between good and evil.

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