The Politics of Polarisation

Politics had always been a rather unclean affair.  However, under the parliamentary system in South Africa the game has for years been played with a mock semblance of good manners.  Or at least inside parliament, that is.  Until recently.

A new breed of younger parliamentary politicians seems to confuse robustness for rudeness, and to mistake politeness for weakness.   They favour thuggery and hooliganism, and revel in fighting talk and unmannerly rudeness.

Outside parliament, and more in particular at university campuses, eloquent young students proudly spew racism under the guise of pan-africanism, black consciousness, and a host of other words that I sometimes have difficulties finding in the thesaurus because I do not even know how to spell it correctly. 

I assume it is in the nature of politics that your successful politician holds himself in high regard, maybe even with an ever so slight dosage or narcism. When you add to that mix high conflict personalities who revel in conflict, the polarisation that follows is inevitable. 

When a matter that has not been contentious for decades suddenly becomes the focal point of a large body of aggressive students, I cannot help but doubt the fact that this particular issue is really the true bone of contention.  I lean towards the idea that it is simply the topic chosen to use as vehicle or outlet for other angers.  

And / or the topic of choice to enhance the public image of young leaders hungry for attention and, by choice, conflict.

This approach leaves no room for open discussions that endeavours to find solutions.  Meetings are not arranged; no, management is summoned. Or unrelated meetings are gate crashed violently with the intruders rudely insisting on being heard - uninvited and with no preset agenda.  Agendas are not agreed upon; no, demands are set.  Nothing is open for discussion or negotiations; no, threats are made.    

The sad part is that there are often very valid issues of concern that needs to be addressed.  The LUISTER video clip, for instance, refers to specific racist incidents (albeit mostly off campus).  This saddens one, because a single racist incident breaks down so much.  It certainly needs to be addressed.  It needs to be said, though, that racism is not one way traffic, as public opinion would want us to believe. 

Just in one single day, my wife and two student kids were racially abused on a predominantly black campus in three separate incidents.   At the Potch campus a black student recently stabbed a white student with a pair of scissors, although for some reason this is not deemed racist.  Maybe it’s just a student thing.  

But I digress.  The problem with the antagonistic style that appears to be the style of choice of the new generation politicians and would-be politicians, is that it polarises.  I suspect that it is intended to polarise.  Which, of course, means that giving in to one demand will only lead to a next one, just for the perpetual enjoyment of the game.

I am concerned that somewhere between the power play of attention seeking youngsters and the antagonism whipped up by them, very real concerns may fall by the wayside.  Concerns that actually requires to be addressed for the better good of our country.  

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