Killing Babies

Like many controversial views, ‘anti-natalism’—the choice not to have children for moral reasons­—is covered in the phlegm of misconception. And those filled with the most viscous fluid are those who believe that breeding is a good thing; or at least important toward leading a fulfilled life. This view is not just wrong, it is arrogant. It also leads many people to believe that those of us who are not going to have children wish their own little offspring dipped in acid, head-first, to watch their tiny feet squirm. Many also argue that the world, society, humanity or life is simply not fit enough to create more people to suffer from these properties of existence. A poor argument from critics is to urge such people to give up their own existence, since they deem existence so bad. This is yet another misconception, as this confuses those who do not exist with those who do.

There is no unified ‘church’ or philosophy with regard to the position that having children is obscene, morally repugnant, poorly motivated, or lacking in good reasons. All manner of people choose not to have children for a variety of reasons: they are under resourced (even though statistics state these are the very people  who breed the most, which is the source of continual poverty), consider themselves poor parents, or, like myself, can find no good reason to breed. However, what unites all of us is that it is a choice not to have children, or “create life”. So someone like myself might have nothing in common with someone who considers herself a poor mother and, therefore, will not have children. But what unites us is the conscious choice to go against our biological urges to propagate the species: a uniquely human attribute. It is not because we are physically unable. This is important to stress: those who are unable to breed because of physical disabilities are not necessarily against breeding.

There are also different degrees. The bottom rung—which again unites all of us in this choice—is a personal choice. (Of course, this can have deleterious effects on marriages and partnerships, since some might find themselves single if they told their partner. This only means that they should find better partners who don’t couch the relationship on non-existent people. This is similar to losing one’s partner because of a god. Or not being able to date someone because they don’t date Geminis.) From those I have engaged with, most remain on this rung.

The next rung is to consider the arguments for breeding poor, bizarre, or non-existent. I find it all three but mostly the latter. This differentiates itself from the first rung by lifting the person higher toward seeing their position stretch further. So, one considers one’s choice personal but also engages with those we might consider “pro-natalist”. (An almost guaranteed pro-natalist will be one’s parents. Try telling them they are not getting grandchildren and listen to their reasons for wanting them in the first place).

Finally, there is the radical position adopted prominently by David Benatar, professor of philosophy at my alma mater, the University of Cape Town. This deems it not only poor but indefensible and morally reprehensible to create life. This is a position that says it is better if everyone adopted the position of not wanting to breed. It is better if the human species came to an end, sooner. Indeed it is Better Never to Have Been, as his book is entitled. This strikes the misanthropic chord but only to severing argument. Instead of dealing with the arguments Benatar bolsters, people lump them into a knot of incredulity, unable to believe anyone could live accordingly. Instead of dealing with each strand of argument separately, people hold on to this knot and deal with it as an incredulous piece of garbage, or the product of a dark misanthrope. The correct course is of course the least adopted one: that is, dealing with the arguments themselves. So far, no one has provided a decent reply to Benatar’s propositions or even Schopenhauer’s (from where Benatar derives some arguments).

Severing the ideas from their authors is the first way to engage with them; it is a skill one must learn in order to maintain one’s epistemic duty. Of course due to their outlandish nature, most would simply dismiss even the first rung of such an argument or position. People would in a sense be kicking down the whole ladder, instead of climbing it to understand the position it upholds.

I place myself, unsurprisingly, in between the third and second rung. Benatar himself does not advocate his views like a despot. Even within his book he states that his liberal self could never want such views to be law. That is, we would never want this choice to be enforced; indeed, it would defeat the very word itself. It is a choice which means people must come to it of their own choosing not by coercion.

Let us deal with the third position because that, in turn, deals with the bottom two.

Do I really think having children is immoral? To a large degree, yes. This does not make you a bad person, however. Creating life is a major decision, a large event—it is rightly viewed as the biggest decision of couple’s lives. I just think that couples make the wrong choice. What are their reasons for having children? I have heard them all: to unite us, to show how much we love each other, to raise a child so we can love it and care for it and protect it from harm, because having children is the greatest joy in the world, it is fulfilling, etc. One answer I do not include because one can immediately see its fallacy is this: we did it for the child.

Let us start with this black-sheep of an answer. Firstly, remember that the child does not yet exist. Or rather, does not exist. We can have no notion of non-existence since, as Epicurus pointed out, we exist. But even non-believers have a very warped view of children and life. There seems to be a consensus that there are “souls” of children awaiting on some magical island for the gateway called conception. As if the “soul” is a fully formed person just awaiting an outlet. Of course this is nonsense. The question of “Who am I?” is one of the hardest in all of philosophy and psychology. We have trouble enough pinning ourselves down, reflecting often that we are nothing but the Humean bundle of perceptions. We are moving sand dunes, since even our physical make-up changes completely. How then, struggling for identity subjectively on a day-to-day basis, can parents say they want a child for the child’s sake? The child does not yet exist. And even then, it is only in retrospect that one can speak about having the child. This is the most bizarre and also a strangely frequent answer. Even today, parents would not be able to say everything about their child; so how can they know who this person is that they wanted, who did not even exist?

Other arguments from pro-natalists are equally bad and unable to bridge the divide between children who exist and those who do not. People still speak of children as if they exist: “I really want one of my own, etc.” failing to realise that one must create a child and then, possibly, love him.

The rest of the arguments fall into the space of bonding the couple, using the umbilical ties of the child as bridge between themselves. But this too makes no sense. Why is it defensible to say we needed to create life to maintain our relationship? Then so much the worse for that relationship. A more optimistic reply and one related to my most important argument, is that of adoption. Adopting a child can also bond a couple, unite them in an effort to do the best they can for one who deserves love.

Most people, I have always believed, are genuinely kind, helpful and yearning for love and answers in a universe vastly indifferent to their existence, their tribulations and their insecurities. Many believe they can assuage this indifference by bringing meaning to another being. We fulfil this by loving, being good friends, teachers and, of course, parents. Careers and lives orbit around the notion of securing ourselves by securing others. Society, that which Emile Durkheim said we can not escape, is premised on roles and responsibilities. Many think that they are doing some good by creating life and looking after it. I think it is very important to look after life, especially children who are intellectually and physically dependent on elders. Yet, what I can not understand is the reason to create life to look after. Why create life to look after when millions of lives exist that already need it? I am speaking about children who need adopting and the love of settled couples or individuals.

I find it abhorrent that people use money and time and expenditure from governments to breed, for this very reason. Why must we waste time on fertility treatments when we could be doing more to promote adoption, making it easier and more inviting to people? Why do potential adoptive parents have to be subjected to inquiry and scrutiny, to their background and income (and so on), whilst others feel they can breed whenever possible?

People need to rethink their positions on breeding: why do it? Should we do it? Will we make good parents? I have found no answer for the first, so we can skip that one. The second is a difficult question but one that can only be answered by the couple themselves. In many instances, I think more people can be successful parents by communication and so on. But being a successful parent does not necessarily make it something worth wanting. Many parents are abandoned by children in their old age; gradually children phase out parents in their life. To not be alone when old is something many use as a reason to have children (though also an unsatisfactory and rudely egotistical reason: creating life so that one is not lonely?). There are better ways to make one’s life successful: more friends, better relationships, and so on can, all lead to a fulfilled life. There does not have to be children to render the heart whole.

We are genuinely shocked by the Frankenstein scientists who create life, in fiction and films. Protesters easily whip out placards to march on laboratories that they claim are playing god or becoming Frankenstinian. Many are shocked at the notion of scientists being able to create life, no matter the size. Yet why does our frown change to a smile of joy when our friends or wives deliver a baby? Where are the placards for the man who has seven children? Here people are creating life but we find nothing abhorrent about it.
Two replies follow suit: one is that breeding is natural and therefore a good thing. The second is that we are creating humans, not mutant plants or creatures.

(1)Its natural: Earthquakes, cancers, viruses, volcanoes are all natural and have killed and caused an untold number of people to suffer and die. These are natural. This does not mean that everything natural is good. Secondly, we have been “interfering” with nature enough to create cows and certain birds; yet no one finds these to be horrid “unnatural” beings. Just because we will be able to mutate at microscopic level does not change the fact that we are manipulating the environment and animals. Suddenly because we can see our change, because we have lifted the veil of existence to gaze at its very character, it becomes a crime so monstrous. It is not; it would be a double-standard to say that mutating at the microscopic level is (more?) abhorrent than doing so via picking the meekest auroch or most placid wolf-cub, until their descendants became dependent on us.

(2)Creating humans not mutants: So what if we are creating humans and not half-rabbit half-baby when we breed? We are still creating life. Saying that because it is human it is, therefore, something worthy of creating is simply speciecist or anthropocentric. Just because it’s human, why does that make it something worth creating?
This is not meant to equate the creation of Frankenstein monsters, mutated John Wyndham-type plants, or tentacle-waving women with the creation of a normal, happy child. My point only is to ask as to the purpose of creating life in the first place, no matter what its body-parts. I am not at all stating we should bring out placards if our female friends breed, but we should question whether they should breed in the first place instead of adopting. And perhaps we could bring out placards for the man who decides to have seven children. If he can afford to look after that many, then he would be a massive resource for adoption agencies.

One of the reasons this question is so poorly answered or engaged with has to do with our humanity. What is humanity? It is the extraction of care, empathy and security that we want for ourselves stretched to cover all those who we consider human; it is the desire, the need, to see life fulfilled and love extended with the knowledge that this only comes about by diminished returns and its own propitious engagements; humanity is doggedly followed by the awareness of mortality, that our lives, our hopes, our fears, our dreams will die with us one day. Our biology is the cage and our awareness is the torture. We do not want to die, we do not want to see our humanity destroyed by having no one for whom it matters. Even then, we wish our form of humanity, our way of seeing the world, continue. Our vision deserves immortality and we create eyes to see this: we create children (notice that religious or cult leaders often call their followers children, too?). By creating children we also extend the barrier of humanity – more people, more carriers and successors to the products of humanity.

We are terrified not only by our individual extinction but our species’. There will be, according to recent estimates, no organic life on this planet within a hundred millenia. Even if there was to be life, it is highly unlikely it would be human. Not to mention that our sun will die; the Andromeda galaxy is on a collision course with us; our universe will end. All this points to a full stop we pretend is an ellipses. But it is not. It is the end.

The sooner we can face up to our annihilation the sooner we can continue with living. And not just living, but living well. Children might be the answer to the fulfilled life for many. And this is true: but this says nothing about the creation of children, the creation of life. Our duty to our species rests with those who exist, but instead we spend money, lose partners and deplete our resources for beings who do not yet exist. We need a radical position change to see that there are ways we can foster our humanity for those who deserve it: those who exist. We need to begin promoting adoption as a viable alternative that is heightened by moral responsibility, highlighting that the problem rests with those that would create children to look after instead of helping those children who already need it.

Do I want the human species to die? That is similar to asking do I want to rocks to be hard. Mortality, like hardness, is a property. By defining humans, we speak about mortality. Yet, the question could be changed: do I wish for the end of our species? No. I do not. But that is different from it dying out as would occur at some point anyway. If everybody stopped breeding, what would the impact on technology, society, and science be? Would scientists continue working on properties of the universe, knowing that no one will be using their findings when they die? Would the last police officers care about their jobs? Would criminals even be criminals in the city at the end of time?

I do not know but I doubt that things would be jovial. However, I do not want to focus on the consequences of a choice I know the majority will not choose. My focus, deontologically, is on human breeding – that is, breeding in itself. I see no reason why I should have children, I have no good arguments for having children, and I am genuinely shocked at the irresponsible and poor logic used when parents decide to create life. What place does reason have in something “so magical as children”? This is not an argument but an assertion that there is something special about creating children. Reason is necessary if we wish to know whether we are living good lives, whether we are moral beings and has a lot to say about the future of life. Think critically about children before having them. Be aware of those children who already exist that require love, attention and parental adoration. Be aware that life is not necessarily better because one has created another (all one has done is multiplied the problem of a fulfilled life by two).

People are shocked by this position. I think their shock is, as always with surprise, a mixture of fear and loathing. Their fear comes about by the awareness of mortality, since this means blood-lines will end, surnames fade and someone has decided not aid in adding to the species’ numbers. This rebounds off the critic or pro-natalist, as he is made aware of his own mortality. Children diminish this fear, since people believe they somehow live on through them (this is poor rhetoric nonsense). Secondly, the loathing is that someone is choosing to go against the grain, someone is saying the pro-natalist is nonsensical in this instance of his life. I have had many acquaintances inform me that everytime they look at their child, they are forced to question their motives and slowly begin hate me for that. I also know many who, when faced with these arguments, regret their choice in breeding. This only highlights the need to push these ideas and arguments further afield, so that one does not come to hate one’s children. These choices must be made by every able-bodied human before its too late to change one’s position, i.e.: after creating life.

I do not want to force this view on anyone, as I have defined it as a choice. But it is a reasonable choice, one I believe people can be argued into. We have a duty to our humanity and to our species: there are children who need adopting, need the love and support and care that is going to be given to millions of children who do not yet exist. The children who exist lose out but those who do not yet exist, by virtue of not existing, do not. This is a major point: those who do not exist can not lose out on existence or the benefits of love and adoration, since they do not exist. We must stop thinking of them as beings who do.

Once we begin being self-critical of our motives, once we realise the difference between existence and non-existence, that life is not diminished by a moral choice but heightened by it, our world can slowly adjust itself to realising that we can do better. A simple choice can have a resounding impact on society. (Perhaps, firstly, this idea and choice needs to be sold to the most important part of our species: women.) When we shift our gaze toward children who already exist, to life that already needs love, instead of creating life just to receive these gifts, we can become a better species, more in tune with our humanity.

Against Love

My friend, Rodrigo Neely, has elucidated on his concept of love. The thing about Rodrigo is this: he is not only brilliant in his thinking but is unashamedly a better writer than yours truly. That should sound highly insulting to one whose prime source of life is English, in practice and focus and exposition, and has no secondary language to fall back on. Rodrigo, not only speaks English as another language, but writes it better than I could hope to.

I recall a post of his from The Edger (when it was still active – now it’s being renovated) which to this day sends shivers down my spine. We have supported each other during various outbreaks of emotional responses from colleagues, defending each other where appropriate. Oh and yes – he is also good-looking but beside the point here, ladies (and um gents).

Being a psychologist – well at least having a small degree in it – I was delighted that he had delved into evolutionary psychology. Of course it has had a somewhat sordid history of predicting everything from drinking milkshakes to why suicide bombers are most likely to be Muslim that somewhat taints this exciting field of inquiry. Rodrigo knows all this, saying as a disclaimer to a talk he delivered and citing the late Stephen Jay Gould: “we [must not] over step the predictive power of evolutionary psychology.” So my echoes of inquiry find a ripple in his trajectory of knowledge and thus our horizons have become eclipsed by the same value and honesty in our dawning enterprises.

However, the one area we seem to differ – by the end I hope to show we do not – is our view of love. Not only am I against marrying for love, I am against relationships based solely on love. I find pure love – or what it commonly known as romance – to be an insult to our sensibilities. Thus far, I hope most people can agree with me. There are as many definitions of love as there are positions in the Kama Sutra (so I have heard), but let me outline Rodrigo’s view of it.

His latest post is his synthesising of a naturalistic explanation with the poetical fomenting of an archetype. I much agree with his definition:

I have come up with a basic definition of love. This definition is up for grabs, I am still working on it. My main inspiration is personal experience.

I believe love is the hyperactivity of the nucleus accumbens deep in the limbic system of your brain. This is the same part of the brain employed by heroin, and other delightful addictions.

What I propose this feels like is a great joy and fascination with the other person.

The immediate critique this meets is that I am not describing love but infatuation.

I believe, as a die hard naturalist, this is a false dichotomy.

What people call infatuation is love unsustained.

Steven Pinker, in How the Mind Works, says that we should find someone to be with who is genuinely interested in us emotionally. Why? This is perhaps the most genuine form of affirmation, since there is no way to force one to fall in love with another. The fact that it is based on a very strong emotion indicates that this person really does like you for you. We should avoid people who love us for specific things – similarly, we should not say we are “in love” when we only like someone because she is, say, blonde and gorgeous. That would, according to Rodrigo’s definition be infatuation. As the great H.L. Mencken said:

[A man] succumbs to a pair of well-managed eyes, a graceful twist of the body, a synthetic complexion or a skillful display of legs without giving the slightest thought to the fact that a whole woman is there, and that within the cranial cavity of a woman lies a brain, and that the idiosyncrasies of that brain are of vastly more importance than all imaginable physical stigmata combined.

As previously stated, this is the opposite end of the spectrum. Somewhere in the middle lies the kind of love worth wanting: not premised on loving for specific characteristics but the skeletal framework itself which blooms these flowers of wonder we love to pluck and smell. At the other end of the spectrum – which might be considered a spectrum of rationality with all its iridescence throbbing like a pumped up rainbow – lies one that is too rational.

This is where I find myself.

Yates famously said that: “People who are sensible about love are incapable of it.” But what he means by sensible is not the colloquial use of correct judgment. What he means are those who are careful, tentative and judge according to the basis in reason. As previously said, the reason this is not the correct methodology for judging a partner is it removes the authenticity that arises from judging their emotional connection. It is this which is hard to fake and, if true, shows they love us for being us – not aspects which they can tick off that says “This will make a good partner”.

Please note, however, that many people can easily “fake it” and we will all usually come across this at some point in our lives. The greatest pain is realising that what we thought was love from the other person was not, yet our knot tying the bridge to him or her was. Watching it fray is a terrible thing but is bound to happen to us.

So the two ends of rational perspectives remain: either we are infatuated (we are enamoured by specific traits of the person, thus we have a crush or infatuation) or we are robotic (this person fulfills these requirements, therefore she is fine to mate and be with as a partner). Both are wrong. Suspended between both is the desirable position. This does not repudiate loving small things about your partner: I, for example, am fascinated by my partner’s eyes. I find eyes incredible but find hers to be bewitching in their power. And we can be glad they compliment aspects of ourselves: I am not a very attractive individual, whilst she is and has better social skills than myself. Perhaps they embody aspects we hope to attain: friendliness, charm, and so on. By being with them, it makes us more rounded individuals to learn how they are charming (at least according to our own standards). Since we know their movements and body better than most other’s, we can learn faster from them. (No doubt, all those with an evolutionary-ready mind are already picking up on the advantages of such a relationship).

Why then do I disagree with Rodrigo?

It is mainly along these lines, in which Rodrigo writes:

But even relationships between those who are responsible and kind sadly collapse. They fall as the two people cannot find the long lost yearning they once felt for each other. They search their dendritic forest inside their head and can find nothing that lights the torch.

The … torch is the state of being in love with the other person.

It assembles all the wonderful ecstasy you have known with this person who you have at one time enjoyed so much that they aroused all of your greatest instincts from antiquity. Your very genes sang their name inside your body.

To make love last with a precious being who beckons you, you must understand that the fuel for great intimacy in joy is … stored within your memories.

Here Rodrigo appears to be saying we must focus on the memory of various things, our own past, their past, to rekindle the flame long lost.  By remembering – and perhaps he means reiterating the emotions which lead to be enamoured – we light the emotions so that they burn us enough to ignite the shadows which underpin the relationship. This makes sense, but my disagreement lies in what I think should be the goal: To allow the relationship to evolve so that it no longer needs the spurring of first emotions. The relationship must fuse into the lives of the two people, such that it is no longer a matter of working out how to feel that way again but that the feelings have being diluted to work with the stream of everyday reality. Indeed, it seems that if we have to rekindle the love from the past – itself a ghost, tied to the future by a stake through the heart – it seems suspicious of the authenticity Rodrigo, myself and Pinker are advocating.

Also, I am suspicious of love for romantic reasons since it leads to deluded notions of sanctity, in marriage and the conception of children. I think both marriage and the creation of more people are mistaken enterprises and very poor reasons for wanting a long-lasting relationship. With the guiding hand of our partner, we should be learning how to help our fellow humans better, not how to create more (for the latest in the anti-natalist position, see Professor Benatar’s brilliant and mostly misunderstood Better Never to Have Been); we should be learning how to spread the wonder we have for the person we love, onto the universe and our species as a whole.

Now, don’t even get me started on romantic “literature” and movies… Can someone honestly be true to themselves and enjoy those insults to human sensibilities?

Bring me my Machine Gun – Zuma and the ANC leading South Africa

South Africa’s political arena has withdrawn its metallic edges, lowered walkways and pushed back the lions and replaced it with side-stalls, parlour tricks and illusionists as the circus called the South African government rolls into town. Roll up, roll up! Get a fresh side of hypocrisy with your medium-rare dogma, a side-order of demagoguery and Puritanism mixed with a fresh batch of blood-dipped ideology. We have the world-class clowns and puppet-master The Magical J Zuma with his little, wooden friend Mini-Malema who sits neatly on Zuma’s lap of luxury. Step right up and watch all that liberty, all those rights fade into obscurity as we fearfully give way to those too inadequate to rule but who are louder than the rest; those who can pull the magical race card out of the deck, with their gloved fingers shoved so far up the behinds of South Africans enough to poke the back of their eyeballs, turning them to see what is preferable. Please take your seats, ladies, gentlemen, children, “citizens” or slaves in neatly-lined rows as we watch both a circus-performance and a funeral, at once dressed in white to usher in the clowns and black to wave goodbye to our dignity, buried beneath the soil of our own failure to live up to the standards we had set ourselves. And behind us, the cars load up all that had created a democratic arena, some shake their heads as they grip the steering-wheels to focus themselves on a horizon that is slowly quivering into a twilight of obscurity.

I say these things out of love for a past I will never know but whose hand wrote a future I was meant to be part of. At this moment, the ANC has won. There can be no doubt. Zuma has ascended the throne of unquestionable leadership, as he also claims to know the Divine is working behind him. One must remember that with the claims of a god, the “knower” of this god can claim ineffable justification and can forgoe any sense of reason – since reason peels back and reveals an empty shell of human desire then coated within the frame of divinity, against which nothing can penetrate. Already a homophobe, consider this profile by The Times Online:

He has advocated tackling crime by reintroducing the death penalty and forbidding legal aid to those accused of serious crimes. South Africa’s gays would also be disturbed by a president who describes same sex marriages as “a disgrace to the nation and to God”, adding: “When I was growing up, an ungqingili (a rude Zulu word for homosexual) would not have stood in front of me. I would have knocked him out.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu claims “the country would be ashamed” of a President Zuma.

Zuma, already having faced rape charges (amongst currently others), is set to do a grave injustice to something else which is considered important: our sensibilities. His past conduct and his current statements are testament to a mind overthrown by egotistical despotism, nepotism and dogmatic irrationality in the teeth of a law meant to be blind, but whose blindfold is shifted ever so slightly to gaze away.

It is no fault that this is a man who sues a cartoonist – one who I consider the best living-satirist, Jonathan Shapiro AKA Zapiro. Says David Blair from The Telegraph: “No other ANC leader since apartheid’s downfall has taken legal action against a journal.” I met Mr Shapiro the night he received this notification. He simply shrugged and took it in his stride, whilst buying a beautiful Art Spiegelman collection.

Mr Shapiro is a rising voice of reason, along with the Mail & Guardian, Desmond Tutu – and others, lesser known to the public, such as the philosophers David Benatar and my co-thinker Jacques Rousseau, and the chair of my society, the physicist Gareth de Vaux. There are others I have not indicated – for which I apologise – but at the moment these are sharpest in my mind. I hope that readers take care to read their writings. As writing is currently not viewed with any love by our new president.

Consider his case against The Guardian. A brilliant article – now removed but which can be found in full here – by Simon Jenkins has three paragraphs worth quoting in full:

Despite appearances, South Africa has long been one of the few “third world” states to pass this test. Apartheid never stamped out a free press or political opposition. Its ruling oligarchy was sufficiently open that, when the time came, it negotiated its own dismantling. Under Nelson Mandela and Mbeki, the ANC was boorish and corrupt, but rarely dictatorial. When Mbeki lost the confidence of his party in 2008, it ruthlessly but constitutionally removed him.

Thus all eyes turn to Zuma. To the sceptics he is the harbinger of Armageddon, whose slogan is “Bring me my machine gun”; he is a polygamous, leopardskin-draped, Zulu boss, an unschooled former terrorist, Communist sympathiser and rabble-rouser. Already his ANC youth movement is disrupting meetings of Cope, with blood-curdling slogans worthy of Robert Mugabe’s thugs.

South Africa’s politicians can cas-tigate [sic] ministers. Judges can sentence, journalists can write, academics lecture and businessmen can trade without being shot or kidnapped. The finance minister, Trevor Manuel, is a respected figure, and the reserve bank has avoided the reckless negligence of its British counterpart. Despite a horrendous crime rate, this country is in no sense a failed state.

This article, which gives a critical, thorough and truthful assessment of Zuma, was found to be insulting to Zuma and thus he sued the Guardian. Keep in mind that this is the same mindset, which splinters off into the mouth of Zuma’s main circus act: Mini-Malema. Having said that he would “kill for Zuma” and renowned for his display of outright idiocy, ignorance and repugnant dogmatism, Malema controversially arose to the leadership of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). Visiting my alma mater, UCT, he said that the entire education at UCT needed a restructuring. To quote him:

“We must transform this University!
We must change the council of this University!
We must also change the lecturers of this University!

The Cape Times also reported further instigations to change, to “reflect” South Africa. This man seems to have no conception to formulate coherent arguments. Stating that it must reflect South Africa does not mean it would be a “good” thing. Surely we need a tertiary institution based on the work, intellectual excellence and capabilities of its lecturers rather than the colour-palette of skins? A misreading may be my fault but essentially he is pressing for further transformation via the erroneous notion of “affirmative action”.

And consider Malema’s statement:

Don’t provoke us, it is us (ANC) who brought the nonsensical apartheid regime down. No opposition (party) will ever defeat the ANC.

We want them all to combine so that we can defeat them.

His blood-thirsty sentences are now so common that I shudder that we have become so complacent to such bullying, from one who appears to know so little. Democracy works on the principle of opposition and furthering the necessities of the people. The government is for the people – not the other way round. It is not about “defeating” other parties, or bringing them all together (as if to put all our enemies in a room, ignite the curtains and lock the door) to “defeat” them.

Perhaps if the Guardian had not withdrawn the article, Malema could have read the following from Jenkins: “The key is not the holding of elections. It is a capacity to entrench enough pluralism and dissent to enable peaceful changes of government to take place, to render power permeable.” We should be worried about such preachers for their own power, rather than the old South African slogan of “power to the people!”.

And if Zuma ascends to the heights of power, might not all charges against his dubious background simply fade into said space? As has already occured with the National Prosecution Authority (NPA), might we not see other claims find no ending sentences, empty authority, empty chairs and papers? Are we not entering a country of the blind, like the characters from Jose Saramago’s book Blindness? Though in this book, blindness is a disease and one that is spreading rapidly amongst the populace. “General,” says one character, “this must be the most logical illness in the world, the eye that is blind transmits the blindness to the eye that sees, what could be simpler.” It seems though that with blindness, we are also being inundated with silence. As Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” And so with blindness, we are becoming silent. Though blindness is a lack of sight – or perhaps a severe enough amourasis – it is constructed as a disease. Similarly there is no reason why silence could not be thought of a disease, slowly spreading through my country.

As the characters say, Not all blind men are dead – but all dead men are blind. Similarly, they are silent. We are not corpses over which any machine powered by the hot air of egotism can trample over. The mission, the goal and the foundation of modern South Africa must continue to prevail if we are to enter a period ruled by this racist and demagogue. Silence must not fall and blindness must not spread. We can see and we can hear and we can speak. The tools we used to liberate our selves, which ironed out the rough road leading to the future, must now be gripped by those of a vision for all people – not black, not white, not ANC, not DA. Simply the citizens of the country who all walk the same paths and want the same fulfilment. We are a people, not peoples. Zuma must realise this – but more importantly, an opposition and those who stand against him must remember this. Pluralism, resting in the interest of open discussion. This can not happen if the ANC pulls out of constitutional debates.

As Sipho Seepe said: “Democracy is safe when the citizens are eternally vigilant.” Entering the public, plural and free society, public figures must expect to be mocked and scorned. Especially, when we have a Minister of Health who condoned vegetables as an alternative to medicine to fight AIDS; or a past-president who denied the link of HIV and AIDS. Even when television shows, which discuss nearly all the political big-wigs, are pulled we need to fight for the right to broadcast something which is satire, mockery and therefore a criticism. We are not going to bow down to anyone, no matter how big their machine gun is.

So, go ahead, Jay-Zee. Call for your machine gun and I will call for my pen. With your bullets ringing hollow in the temple of reason, we will continue to fight for liberty and freedom and equality. Things we seem to be forgetting, as we get progressively more silent, as Zuma’s machine gun makes us go progressively more blind.