The F-word: Let’s put Kunene obsession to bed

2013-04-23 10:00

A story is told about how Robert May, then Britain’s topmost scientist, chief scientific adviser to the British government and president of the Royal Society, responded to an obscure creationist asking for a debate with him.

“That would look great on your CV, not so good on mine,” he said.

The riposte was repeated by another world-renowned scientist and devout atheist, Richard Dawkins, when yet another creationist, also of no known significance, demanded to debate Dawkins on how the world was created.

I was reminded of May’s emphatic put-down as I listened to yet another radio talk show featuring SA’s now undisputed king of sleaze, Kenny Kunene.

A few days earlier, feminist scholar Pumla Gqola and DA national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane had also engaged with the “Kunene phenomenon” and wrote disapprovingly about what the man stands for.

I cannot fathom why anyone would want to debate with Kunene on his lifestyle choices. It will do nothing for their CVs, other than record that the debate once happened. On the other hand, it might boost Kunene’s megalomania because he’s getting attention.

The same goes for those who call radio stations but end up frustrating themselves when they realise the futility of wanting to make him see the error of his ways.

Kunene knows he is not exactly the kind of man parents of young boys hope their sons will grow up to be.

He also knows that is our problem, not his. Just because someone might be interesting, it does not make them a role model.

We should not scavenge shamelessly for heroes.

Kunene is a man unabashedly committed to all things crass. He revels in it and will go to extraordinary lengths to have his share of column space or airtime on radio.

He is emblematic of a society where self-worth is often confused with net worth.

If frugality, austerity and prudence were virtues, then a Kenny Kunene would be an oddball – interesting and a source of amusement, perhaps, but nothing that suggests even the possibility that he could be a role model.

Alas, crass materialism and misogyny are the flavour of every month. Bling is always in fashion. And Kunene, the “Sushi King”, it seems has a captive audience.

Instead of addressing what Kunene represents, we go for the easy route of blaming all societal ills on him. If, indeed, the vast majority of us disassociate ourselves from what Kunene stands for, then we should not be worried that he is a bad influence.

At a stretch, the nearest Kunene can come to assuming a role of positive influence is that he is single-minded about what he wants from his life.

He’s not bothered about what the rest of the world thinks of him. This is important because there are far too many people, especially, but not exclusively, the young, who live their lives trying to be other people.

They have no independent thoughts or convictions about anything and will do whatever seems to be in vogue. It takes courage to stand up for one’s beliefs, willing to face public ridicule or contempt, as Kunene has. For that, we can learn something from him.

Beyond that, we should give the man, and ourselves, some peace. He has never claimed to represent society or its values. What those who feel the urge to share a piece of their mind with Kunene fail to appreciate is it will have no bearing on what he does, or stops doing.

The best way to deal with what Kunene represents is to preach a different message. As a quote popularly attributed to St Francis of Assisi advises: “Preach the Gospel always and, if necessary, use words.”

Instead of expending physical and intellectual energies on the likes of Kunene, it might be helpful to rather ask ourselves whether we are making a positive impact on those around us, and what our everyday actions say about materialism and respect for women.

If they say nothing to be proud of, we need to fix ourselves first.

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