The Struggle, the Irrational - and Long Road to Democracy. Is the End in Sight yet?

2016-08-21 14:53

The outcome of the recent elections suggests that our society’s values are moving from the irrational and collective to more individualistic and democratic. The liturgy of the Struggle has become jaded and is at last being recognised for what it is.

And none too soon.

In common with a number of prescriptive belief systems, “the Struggle” has provided bedrock values for many South Africans. It provides a moral default setting with little need for question or rational thought; it has been as central to large segments of our society as the teachings of the Church were to Europeans before the scientific age; or the dogma of contemporary imperial Islam, which targets expansion in the West on the pretext of religion. Such doctrines are impervious to reason and devoid of accountability. They sustain themselves for their own sake and seek control over others.

Their sole motivation is power.

In each instance, their respective and sanctimonious “word” (or religious dogma) is shorthand for correctitude and trumps argument, scientific introspection and rationality. The intelligence of the individual is dismissed and subject to intimidation in order to discourage confrontation of or debate with the ruling elite’s chosen doctrine. Punishment for non compliance is accomplished through social and group pressure, and can at times even be violent.

It is a fact that a critical mass of individuals buoyed by irrational conviction can have its way in an otherwise logical world or functioning society. It is a phenomenon noted by Richard Dawkins in his book “The God Delusion”. One of his examples cites a speciific group of people who use marijuana as a mainstay of their religion – and whom the state (in his example the USA) where it is an illegal substance - saw fit to selectively exempt adherents from legal censure. He correctly asks why people should be exempt from provisions of the law and escape punishment for illegal behaviour just because they claim to "believe”?

Good question.

But the answer is simple.

It is because they believe in something so fervently that others are intimidated. Those in authority fail to say “no” because they would be accused of being politically incorrect or failing to respect the beliefs of others.

Extend that argument to “the Struggle” or imperial Islam and you find that - taken to logical conclusion - negative morality can be inflicted on society by cleverly exerting social pressure on the ignorant and uneducated. It is a dangerous precedent.

Thus notwithstanding the legitimacy of “the Struggle” in countering apartheid, the tenets of the same “Struggle” in government are neither profound nor logical, and emasculate and trivialise democratic values.

This makes the trajectory of recent {local government) elections a lot more interesting than power shifts in your average multi party democracy, because it demonstrates a paradigm shift in peoples’ beliefs.

Some are starting to relinquish their irrational baggage.

Of course, the hegemony of the National Party and previous white governments laid fertile ground for the sewing of ideas from which the “Struggle” doctrine grew, and the ANC has succeeded in using it as a mantra from which it could draw advantage. But people are at last seeing through it and beginning to grasp the benefits of democracy, individual freedom and the sovereignty of the individual.

Notwithstanding the concomitant fringe constituency of the EFF (devoid of the capacity for rational economic thought and sensible dialogue - but key to  helping fragment the ANC's power base), we need to ensure that this trajectory continues and accelerates.

Interesting days lie ahead.

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