Anti-Colonialist Narcissism; the DA Succumbs

2017-03-22 10:46

It is sad how, egged on by social media, the truth gets buried under the mood swings of a hysterical and intellectually limited few. Their numbers then seem to grow exponentially under the bandwagon effect with outcomes akin to a feeding frenzy. All one needs is a bit of racially charged invective to ignite the emotions of those resentful or mischievous enough to react but also sufficiently stupid to adopt others’ responses as their own without interrogation or thought.

Such were the responses to recent “tweets” from Helen Zille, Western Cape provincial leader of the DA. She was attacked by all the usual suspects for expressing the obvious and naked truth about things and asking people to use their powers of reason.

All hell broke loose. She was even censured by elements within her own party which is both interesting and ominous if one values freedom of expression and the sanctity of reason. It has clearly become dangerous to speak truth to the electorate for fear of negative outcomes, with key words and notions having become so toxic as to undermine their meaning and outcomes. The notion of “post truth” might characterise the Trump age – but it stalks our public life as well.

It is illuminating to review what Zille actually said and question the reasons for taking offence. Amongst her tweets, and seemingly the most offensive, were her words - “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc. “. She could equally have added public education (now being desecrated at various levels), world class health care (recall the days of first heart transplants?) and communications (some will recall when the SABC was managed professionally, and the post office and national airline carrier were viable?).

There are plenty more examples.

And yet the remarks gave offense because they recognised that an uncomfortable fact of history had to be reconciled with favourable outcomes after the event. That is because good intentions do not necessarily make for happy outcomes neither does predatory behaviour always ends badly for the victim.

History is immutable, and outcomes are determined by the timing and attitudes of people.

Human history would indeed be strange if the vanquishers were always well meaning pussy cats coaxing the vanquished into accepting a new outlook, assuming new values and agreeing to respect their “human rights”. Things simply did not happen that way: ask the Incas at the time of the Spanish conquistadors, the Gauls in the times of Julius Caesar or the Romans under the yolk of Attila the Hun.

I am reminded of an on line comment – clearly intended to discredit the content of the Zille tweet in relation to colonialism's outcomes – asking whether it was OK then to condone rape if a beautiful child resulted? But instead of scoring the points it intended, it made the very point I have just alluded to.

It is just as well to recognise that values change over time and that today’s moralities are inappropriate to the twists and turns of history. Too bad that the parrot-learned values espoused by so many trump the lessons of history and fail to prepare them for life in the real.

In time, they will no doubt pay for that mistake.

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