2015-04-08 12:45

Nietzsche wrote, "All good things were formerly bad things; every original sin has turned into an original virtue.” Consider the safe German or American car you drive or aspire to drive made by manufacturers that once equipped the Nazis. Convenient technology from your mobile phones to the Internet developed initially to support the US war machine. The Western style clothes and jewelry you wear that profited from Asian sweatshops. The statistical techniques taught at Universities developed by proponents of eugenics. Even some of the dominant ideologies taught there, ideologies steeped in myths that are more pernicious than statues. And so you are angry because you now conveniently figured that the University that you attend was built on the exploits of colonialism and apartheid. So what in the past was perfect? What was made without ‘sin’?

The problem with using unruly poo rituals to chase away imperfect phantoms of the past is that you start to tread down a slippery, stinky, illusory slope. If you go about this critically, logically and fairly (Skills only superficially taught at many local Universities if at all), you will find rot and dirt in places you least expected, especially within your own social groups. Consider sycophantic tribal leaders of the past who kissed up to colonial and apartheid authority and sold out their people to save their precious skin. Your religion that waged war and spilled innocent blood to spread its meme. The political party you support that killed innocent civilians in terrorist attacks and engaged in organized crime and alliances with tyrannical dictators to finance their struggle. Yet it is in our all too human nature to ignore the stains tainting the treasured social groups we belong to in the now.

I suggest that students genuinely keen on changing South Africa for the better take a closer look at the present and focus on today’s leaders. Leaders who hold the purse strings that can provide better material conditions for people trapped in poverty – For example, some leaders from the ANC, EFF and DA have benefited unduly and have squandered resources that could have reduced some of these problems.  A thoughtful student passionate about change will place their energies in the here and now, in targeting and making these leaders accountable and holding them to the highest ethical standards, instead of chastising ghosts that have long bolted away – ghosts despite their ‘sins’ that have at least left us intentionally or unintentionally, with something, somewhat ‘virtuous’ to work with.

Students need to get over this terrible case of tribal dissonance or risk becoming the puppets of shrewd, Machiavellian tactics. Challenge the sins committed by leaders in the present instead of attacking impotent symbols of the past. Are students blind to sins that are really hurting us in recent times – the Arms Deal, Nkandla, Marikane, E-Tolls, service delivery failures, poorly conceived and resourced black economic empowerment (BEE) deals, bankrupt state agencies, government fraud (including the Western Cape), and Eskom? Or are they simply being duped, manipulated to poomote support for a certain political party by appealing to the emotions of the masses?

A good student is suspicious of sociocentricism, is difficult to manipulate, and recognizes that the problem with chasing away phantoms is that they are (and the answer is yes) dead. You can be blessed with talent, but when you have your intellect locked in the past when you should be focused on the present, you will literally miss the opportunities staring you in the face. Just ask our National Cricket team about exorcising World Cup phantoms of the past stubbornly stuck in their collective consciousness. In crunch times, we should play our real opponents, not the ones that have long gone, if we want to earn the right to be winners. The problem with fighting symbolic battles with the past is that they do not substantially alter our real material conditions in the now. They are useless burdens, self-defeating distractions that serve only the politician’s desire to perform at the polls.

If you want to participate in a symbolic bashing spectacle because that in itself has some kind of sordid meaning for you, gives sick pleasure to your bitter collective ego, and conceals the sins of the unworthy leaders you worship, go ahead, but do not pretend that you are committed to building a winning nation.

For that, we need to think before we act; and we need to act with courage and dignity in the real world, resisting and transforming the real villains, the sinners who are very much alive in the here and now – selfish, incompetent and corrupt politicians.

Now that dear student will be virtuous. But virtue is not what you seek, is it?

To belong (to a social group like a political party, for instance), you think, is better than being virtuous.

Well here we go again then.. another myth of tribal grandeur... another morbid strand, another downward spiral, another cycle of apartheid.

“Human, all too human”.

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