Zuma Solves the God Problem

I’m so delighted. After all my philosophising and arguments, my disdain and wondering, my curiosity and reading, I can finally answer the question of god’s existence. Praise His name! Not only does the Christian god exist, ladies and gentleman, but I know an almost certain way to get into the lovely domain of Heaven: Vote ANC.

 

"Invisible men in the sky talk to me! Aren't you glad I'm your president!"

It’s so simple. Here I am doing an ethics course, struggling through the difficult dilemmas raised when people with different beliefs and different values come into conflict over a singular issue. What? That’s politics you say? Don’t be silly. Vote ANC! Continue reading

Are Religious Leaders Our Best Moral Guides? – the problem of National Interfaith Leadership Council

Recently, we South Africans have been forced to confront the possibility that we will lose many liberal laws: abortion and gay-marriages have been the two touted as targets. The euphemism opted for, by those who are against such laws, would call them renewed “considerations” but it’s easy to see beneath the terms. The threats come from the usual sources of those with a divine backing for their reasoning; indeed, they are not even premises to begin arguments but final commands from a magical book. And even those who consult the magical book, as the conclusions to their non-existent arguments, differ in their appropriation of finality: does god really mean we should “kill” those who “blasphemeth” his name? Does god really mean we should stone our daughter to death on her wedding night, if she is not a virgin? Backwards and forwards the decision floats like a cloud across this scorched landscape, long abandoned by most modern people. Most act without due consideration to the intricacies and stupidity of Middle-Eastern tribal trivialities: Christians still eat pork, come into contact with menstruating women, have sex before marriage and so on. They find blasphemers all over their air-waves and in their favourite TV-shows. None are jerking to fetch the dusty Bible to prefigure judgement. But that scorched landscape of dead ideas occasionally releases noxious clouds of incoherence and always from the same source: those who are religious leaders, claim to know the mind of god and therefore know what’s better for you and me better than ourselves.

In this case, those with such deep insights are the members of the cumbersomely titled National Interfaith Leadership Council (NILC). This council is led by Ray McCauley, head of the Rhema Church and comprised of an amalgam of Christian, traditional African and Muslim bodies. They entered into the political foray regarding the Judicial Services Commission’s (JSC) decision to drop the charges against Western Cape Judge President John Hlope. As the Mail & Guardian reports: “Nthabiseng Khunou, an ANC MP and member of the NILC secretariat, [said] the council would “play a role” in revisiting legislation legalising abortion and gay marriage.” Note Khunou’s two affiliations: ANC and the NILC.

The ANC is the ruling party, its leader is the country’s leader. McCauley has already been brought under scrutiny when he invited the President of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, during election, to give a sermon at his church. Zuma and McCauley, it seems, are drifting closer together. This has been further confirmed by NILC’s general secretary, John Lamola, who said the council was formed from Zuma’s appeal in November, to a gathering of many religious groups. Zuma’s appeal was for the active participation of religious groups “to achieve social cohesion, moral regeneration and ease poverty”. Thus, the NILC was apparently formed for just such a noble endeavour.

They have, due to traditional considerations of religions, taken it upon themselves to be the espousers of moral wisdom in our society. Fighting against homosexual marriage, abortion, prostitution, pornography is all part of being “active”, as Lamola later put it, within just such a moralising organisation. But morality is not so simple that asking religious leaders to “get it on” will resolve the dilemmas; at times, moral dilemmas need not even be moral dilemmas if people were not hankering to the tribal beliefs of goat-herders in the Middle-East.

The cataclysmic shibboleth is the subsequent reprisal of critical engagement in moral affairs. Appeals to authority, be it the Bible, the Quran or religious leaders, are all too easy a shrugging off of epistemic duty which each person should afford himself. As Peter Singer has highlighted in his Practical Ethics: “Ethics takes a universal point of view. This does not mean that a particular ethical judgement must be universally applicable. Circumstances alter causes … What it does mean is that in making ethical judgements we go beyond our own likes and dislikes. From an ethical point of view, the fact that it is I who benefit from, say, a more equal distribution of income than you who lose by it, is irrelevant. Ethics requires us to go beyond ‘I’ and ‘you’ to the universal law, the universalisable judgement, the standpoint of the impartial spectator or ideal observer, or whatever we choose to call it.”

It is simply for the highlighted reason above that laying ethical decisions at the feet of the dogmatists is to lay reasoned discourse in its tomb. This does not mean that religious people can not engage in ethical dilemmas. Indeed, many religious leaders are qualified from the standpoint of simply being a critical and self-reflective human being, sympathetic and good-natured. So the argument does not repudiate religious leader’s engagements, it simply states that they do not automatically have authority on the basis of religion. They ought to be part of an internecine discussion amongst other reflective and active people.

However, the problem remains that there is a need, as Singer highlights, to go beyond the mere trivialities of our own likes and dislikes. Thus, those who believe that life begins at a certain point because of dogma―in Christianity, this arose from confusions in early microscopes, not even the Bible in itself―can not realign themselves to the “impartial spectator” since their very religion dictates the final say in an ethical dilemma. This makes the situation of placing religious leaders in positions to decide upon moral dilemmas quite problematic: the pathway toward clarifying moral dilemmas is difficult and needs to be sought via reasonable discourse from an impartial standpoint, but religions often have an arbitrary answer and by definition can not be impartial. This leads to various bizarre priorities: for example, abortion doctors being murdered by people who claim to be “saving babies”; homosexual couples being attacked for being homosexual.

This is not a problem for those of us who are not chained to any dogma (and please do not reassert that boring maxim that “not being chained to dogma” is a dogma). This is why it is more important to have non-faith aligned members deciding on moral dilemmas and not immediately cave in to religious authority. Yes they may know their Bible but how does that expand to being impartial, since by definition non-believers like myself do not pay heed to any holy texts? Remember, it must go beyond what we each like or dislike. This can not happen for religious leaders because of their religions. The irony remains that this does not remove them from discussion but it does make many of their arguments hollow. If they simply use their holy book or religion as a justification, it immediately has left the arena of impartiality. We are then in the domain of bowing before a set of answers because one group favours it. This is no longer an ethical or moral dilemma being discussed; it is a command being followed because of a god.

Also it does not mean that those who are, for example, pro-life are wrong or have bad arguments. Rather it means that they can not simply use their Bible or religion as justification. In order to further the argument it must be assigned to the universal aspect, such that we can apply it to even those who are not part of one’s faith.

Another important point to notice is this: how many moral dilemmas need not be moral dilemmas in the first place? Imagine the Bible, as Sam Harris has suggested, explicitly said: “Life begins in the womb at 6 months. Abortion is the woman’s choice and may be performed before this time.” If there were such a passage, would we have the moral dilemmas of life’s conception? It seems unlikely (but I would not hedge my bets on it being completely nullified. Quotes from magic books have a tendency to become muddled and used to reassert one’s arguments regardless of their context). It seems that many moral dilemmas do not need the money, time and energy of gifted thinkers: for example, gay marriage is not a moral dilemma; racism is not a moral dilemma.

Those who propose that these are moral dilemmas have not provided any substantial argument, which is not rooted in dogma and thus repudiating its claim to be an ethical dilemma (remember it must proceed by a degree of impartiality).

So: McCauley and the NILC may of course set out premises for their arguments; they may certainly initiate a renewed debate with abortion and gay-marriage laws. But we must ask why they plan to do it? Is it to benefit the whole of society, or is it rooted in their holy book?

Some might say that Christianity is aimed at a universal ethic: love, redemption, and so on. But this is undermined by the simple fact that many choose not to be Christian or not to have Christian dogma shoved down their throats. So, whilst Christianity might say it is universal, it plainly is not by people’s choice. And in ethics, what remains important is a universal ethic. What can be agreed upon is that one aspect of a universal ethic is people’s personal choice―how far and what that constitutes are further dilemmas, but not many ethicists would argue that no choice is a good idea (perhaps Ẑiẑek). Thus if personal choice is an agreed upon trajectory toward a universal ethic, reached by an impartial consideration, any form of religious zealotry even if its speaks of itself as universal will not work. It must speak beyond religion and that means deal with the issues themselves: how will, for example, banning gay-marriage  benefit us all?

If we gave in to these religious groups’ desires to see such decisions, like abortion and gay-marriage and prostitution, banned, they must tell us how we will all benefit, removing all religious talk whilst doing so.

When the NILC can answer this question, perhaps we can then begin an ethical discussion. But I doubt that they could answer from a purely non-denominational, non-dogmatic, non-religious perspective. They can not because they begin the discussion coached in religious thought, not ethical, and their answers will be religious, not universally moral.

It’s all in Zuma’s hands now… Why the Argus article is False, Part #1

Taking matters into their own hands finds another meaning here. We are presented with the “findings” (i.e.: arbitrary assumptions) of a palm-reader who has looked at the (photographs of) hands of Jacob Zuma and Hellen Zille. Chiromancy or palmistry is a side-show failure of extravagance because there are no crystal-balls, beautiful Tarot cards or the wonderful Norse futhark, carved into almond-branches. Instead, these “readers” use people’s hands to divine the gullible’s past, present, future problems and failures, dreams and successes. All divination has yet to prove itself as a scientific fact and is strangely resistant to normal procedural methods of deciding whether they are even 75% accurate. Now, when we are approaching a new dawn in the country’s history, we are left holding candles and making faces out of shadows. We need to turn on the light and point out the problems with reason and open eyes, not magic cards and fake readings.

Let me highlight the problems with palm-reading. I believed for two or three years that I could read palms. I sincerely believed I was able to “see” that their heart-line indicated a predilection for hard men; the head-line indicated a false belief in their own potential; their Mount of Venus showed they had a soft interior masked by a shell of quick anger. And this divination was after I had used and dealt with the Norse runes as an alternative to Tarot cards, which I thought was too complicated for me.

I remember many incidents which spurned me on. Several times, when speaking to someone who comes to you with the mindset of “This person knows a mysterious art. They can tell me something about myself” they are easily impressed. (Type “cold-reading” into Google and you should be on your way to winning people over, easily. It is not something I am particularly proud of looking back.) People would be crying on my shoulder, male and female; people would laugh easily at finding out something: “You have a wonderful sense of humour which you struggle to show and thus appears to not even be there. But it does sometimes arise.” (Notice, you say x [you have a sense of humour] and then you immediately justify it with not-x [you do not show your sense of humour]. You can’t go wrong)

People thanked me and informed me weeks later how accurate I was.

I felt happy to be helping people.

But of course, its all nonsense. The truth is that people want to talk about themselves, they need a neutral person to just be sensitive to their existence and acknowledge it. They need a critical eye to see that their body-language indicates they are introverted, their shifting eyes indicates their need to speak, their arms want to be held. It is very easy and all incredibly normal. There is nothing fantastical or magical about it, except that we all have a disposition to being told by someone else what to do about ourselves. We love to be told something unique about ourselves, we love to hear that we are central to some cosmic plan in which we fit like a puzzle-piece.

But palmistry, like all forms of divination, is false. It has never (and, I predict, will never) yield any positive results and there is no scientific reason at all to associate the hands and the lines with anything to do with your life. (Be worried that on this WikiHow page, it says: “Do not be fooled by people who say palm-reading is for entertainment purposes only. There is scientifically-substantiated evidence of correlation between palm features and psychological traits.” There is no link to these scientifically verifiable results)

Here are a few reasons for it being at the least unlikely and at the most incredibly stupid.

1. The Problem of Imposition/Connection

Like astrology, palm-readers can not tell you how the lines are connected to one’s life. They simply are. This is a human imposition on a neutral object in nature: it is, what we call in psychology, a false-positive. False-positives are the basis for all superstition: All us animals are programmed by evolution to be statisticians. For example, BF Skinner (a name I know most of my fellow psychologists hate given his complete dismissal of the inner workings of the mind) called the actions of responding to a false-positive “superstition”. He saw it in his pigeons, when they reacted to a random event which just happened to coincide with the falling of a food pellet. Thus, let us say the pigeon banged her wing against the glass and a food pellet fell. Perhaps the pigeon does it again and this time, by pure luck, the pellet fell again. To the pigeon, bang glass with wing results in reception of food.

But there is no causal connection between the banging of the glass and the food pellet. It is simply the pigeon imposing its own association on to neutral and unconnected objects.

Hence, the imposition of our desires on to distant planets and stars; the imposition of meaning into cards, hands, runes, books, words and rituals. Most people have a “lucky charm” or a “lucky tie”, which when they utitlise it, resulted in very good things in the past. Indeed, I still believe a certain song is my good-luck song with the full knowledge that there is no association between listening to a random song and events in my life going well. It helps us feel grounded, but it is an offshoot of our incredible brains coagulating the chaotic world around us, into a coherency from which we can comprehend our and its existence. It is how we survive. But superstition is its dark-side.

Our ancestors appear to have been the ones who held false-positive beliefs (believe there is a connection when there is no connection). They were the ones who saw lions in the shadows and snakes in the trees. Sure, there might not have been any snakes or lions, but they ran away and restricted access to such areas. The ones who had false-negative beliefs (believe no, hence negative, connection when there is a connection) ignored the rustle in the branches and the tapping of claws in the darkness and simply thought it to be nothing. Then, of course, they were killed by the mamba or mawled by the lion. Naturally, those who were more cautious – to the point where they were cautious about things that were not even there – were the ones most likely to survive, and therefore breed. And we are the progeny of such disclosure.

2. The Hands Themselves

Hands change. They get calloused, lose fingers, lines extend and change. This does not repudiate palm-readers claims. In fact, it strengthens their position. They can point to a human and say, we change all the time. So do our hands. Therefore, because they both change, we can read the latter to decide on the former.

But this is false. Firstly, as I indicated in the previous point, the connection between our hands and our lives is simply a psychological imposition we have garnered from our ancestral mindsets. How are they connected and how can we test that connection actually exists?

Secondly, just because x changes and y changes too, doesn’t mean that they can say anything about the other. That is a false connection. That is simply using the word “change” loosely. Hands change physically; whereas people change psychologically, physically, emotionally, etc. Palm-readers will smile and nod and say: “Yes, but all those emotional changes become physical changes on the palm. They are like diary-entries: they indicate the change and we can read it as such.”

The problem with this explanation is that it is unfalsifiable. This is the most terrible of all positions to be in, since, according to scientific methodology, we must be able to postulate what position, idea, opinion or action needs to arise to refute the claim. Popper said: “A theory that explains everything, explains nothing” – which is why Intelligent Design creationism can not be a science. To many people, it shows that it is a good thing that a position is unfalsifiable, since you can not show it to be wrong. But one can create all manner of unfalsifiable claims which are blatantly not true. For example, as you are reading this there is a little purple man standing on your left – who only appears to you. If you look he will appear on your right. If you look there he will be back on your left, etc. It is impossible to see him. I have just made this up, but it is unfalsifiable. You can not postulate recording since he does not appear in cameras, other people can’t see him… One can see how ridiculous this is and similarly, it is ridiculous for all such positions which are unfalsifiable. Hence, why we do not include it as a position viable in philosophy and science.

Palm-readers can create all manner of reasons and no two palm-readers will give you the same in-depth result. No doubt many palm-readers will all agree in saying general things about you: “You are sensitive, you are kind, you are nice, etc.” but that is something nearly anyone can discern with proper body-language and attention skills. When they come down to the finger details, we can almost guarantee that no two palm-readers will agree. There is a reason why no large group of astrologers, when they are tested, have ever agreed that the blank profile matches the same Zodiac sign. Whilst the profile belongs to a Gemini, for example, all the astrologers will see the profile as something different.

Why? Because it is a human interpretation, much like their judgments of music (I do not think that we should lessen the aesthetic appreciation for beauty to the banal notions of subjectivity. For a beautiful discussion on beauty, see Roger Scruton’s Beauty). The major difference is that they could be wrong, since the specific profile matches a specific person who was born in early June, and is therefore – according the astrologers’ own charts – a Gemini. Similarly, with palm-reading. One palm-reader might call you an “air” hand – meaning light, sensitive and warm – whilst another might call you an “earth” hand – hard, deep, pragmatic. Complete opposites according to the “lore” of palm-readings.

3. Why Palm Reading is Specifically Different from Other Divinations

A major reason why palm-reading is a bit more effective is the human touch. Unlike Tarot cards or astrology, palm-reading actually invites the reader to physically touch the person. The body-part is itself the object of divination, rather than a card or ball. Our brains ignite in a maelstrom of connections when we are touched by someone. Consider how we react when someone who we might be interested in, a beautiful woman for example, touches us. However, consider our reaction to that same person if they have betrayed us, in a deeply scarring way. We feel revolted or uncomfortable – yet that same person’s touch bathed us in a glow of wonder not so long before.

When it comes to palm-reading, both sides are at an advantage for the palm-reader. For himself, he is able to feel tiny movements in the person’s hands. Do they immediately hold his hand? Do they flinch? The touch also allows the person to be more open to the palm-reader, especially when they begin to relax their hands in the other person’s. The human touch, the acquiescence to touch, is an acknowledgement of trust. Thus, we allow all manner of private thoughts to drip out in bright clarity for sensitive readers. You can see it when you grab hold of your lover’s hand – watch how their voice changes slightly when they speak to you, watch how they calm down, if they are angry about someone or something. Or, if you try and touch them, they might recoil which also indicates something. The human touch is very powerful and is a gateway to understanding other people. There is a reason we shake hands – notice, next time you shake someone’s hand, whether their grip is firm or loose, and how they engage with you following their strength.

For this reason, palm-reading is deceptively good at opening the closed gates of other people. The human touch, like a key, opens those gates – whether to reveal acquiescence or to allow immediate recoil. Both reactions however are tell-tale signs which are easily discernible.

To get to the in-depth analysis of the Argus article, itself, however, will have to wait till next time. That should be fun…

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.