UCT’s Leadership Vacuum – a Paradise for Patsies

2015-04-08 07:04

It seems to me that a dangerous line has been crossed with the boxing of Cecil John Rhodes’ statue on the UCT campus. The “transformation” arguments are vacuous and silly as no one can rewrite the past and all societies have blood stained histories. Tales of conquest and oppression through history chronicle how mankind lurches forward and evolves; without the coercive influence of a dominant civilisation progress is absent.

Genghis Khan’s statue on the Mongolian steppe celebrates a widely reviled and barbaric figure, but he was nonetheless a great man. Likewise, Julius Caesar had plenty of enemies – one of whom stabbed him to death. But he moved the world of his day forward and is commemorated on many a statue.

Rhodes did the same.

Rudyard Kipling wrote of him -

The immense and brooding spirit still

Shall quicken and control.

Living he was the land, and dead,

His soul shall be her soul! Few great people were pussy cats.

Thus the only question the university authorities needed to ask was – did Rhodes inspire and contribute to the development of society, the nation and our youths’ future, and are the opposing “transformation” arguments in any way valid?

The answer to the first question is unequivocally “yes” – for he was a colossus on the African stage and the counter argument is irrelevant and beside the point - political white noise devoid of intellect.

Many disliked Rhodes - and for good reasons. As a mining magnate, businessman and politician one is inclined to make enemies, and he was a deadly foe of the Boers. He had plenty of blood on his hands.

But such preferences do not serve as arguments against his commemoration. He was, quite simply, a great man who made an indelible impression on the African sub continent and the societies that have since taken root there. And that the university nestles on land bequeathed by him and that thousands have benefited from scholarships made in his name are significant beyond the vaguest whiff of the “transformation” arguments offered by elements devoid of both cognitive capacity and logic.

Indeed, such arguments highlight the dichotomy between those identifiable as being prey to the Dunning Kruger syndrome - and others. The Dunning Kruger syndrome defines a typology as “one too stupid to understand how stupid he/she really is” – which is an alarming phenomenon on a university campus.

But that such a lobby should be supported by a senate voting by 181 to 1 in favour of the statue’s removal signals the certain death of a liberal tradition at a hitherto world class university.

When our society’s academia embraces a mindset promoting parochial and politically strident agendas, puerile fads and hackneyed arguments ahead of the lessons of history, it is impossible to predict the rate of intellectual decay. But its inevitability is certain.

As a graduate of the university I am deeply shamed.

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