Thursday, 16 March 2017

Storm in a Teacup

In the midst of a political disaster zone, with the social grants crisis reaching it's climax, xenophobia emerging from the dark crevices of society and more corrupt and incompetent so-called politicians being nominated to and defended in parliament, the media, politicians and opinionists of our beloved country decided to release all of hell's fury on Helen Zille in light of some, well, pretty uncontroversial tweets.

This is what the most prominent of the tweets said:

"For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc."

Of course what this means is that colonialism was a great thing and we should go back to the days of apartheid, so the hysteria of our radio personalities and twitterati is completely justified. Except that's not at all what she said. Let's break down her argument (luckily she made it in a tweet, so there is not that much analysing to do):

These are the premises:
  • Colonialism brought development to Africa, for example, an independent judiciary, transport infrastructure and piped water.
  • These examples of development are good things.
This leads her to the conclusion that:
  • Some aspects of the colonial legacy are good.
No sober minded person could refute the premises, and the conclusion follows directly from them and so one cannot deny that either. Yet almost every analyst has twisted her statement to portray  her as a racist, pro-apartheid colonialism-defender. Even her own party has distanced itself from her. To refute these claims let's look at what she does not do:
  • Justify the oppression under colonial rule.
  • Justify land theft or slavery or any other negative aspects assosciated with colonialism.
  • Justify colonialism at all, or even give an opinion on whether it was good or bad as a whole.
  • Praise colonists.
  • Even mention apartheid! Yet Zille, an anti-apartheid activist back in the day, is being accused of being pro-apartheid.
  • Say anything racist, unless you believe facts can be racist, but even then it's a far stretch.
Acknowledging that some good came out of colonialism does not imply that colonialism as a whole is good. And she has made this known. My favourite argument by these hysterical Zille-phobes is the analogy with Nazism. "So if there are good things that come out of things that are, on the whole bad," one might say, "then there were good things about Nazism too!" Actually yes. The Nazis brought an end to the great depression. Do you then mean to imply that the end of the great depression was a bad thing? The notion is utterly ridiculous. The end of the great depression was a good, whether or not the Nazis killed 6 million Jews. Furthermore it does not justify the holocaust or any of the other evil acts perpetrated by the Nazis, just as saying that the development brought about by colonialism is good does not justify the evil done under that ideology.

Absolutism. The idea that if something or someone is part bad they must be all bad. That is what it boils down to. It is a fallacy, but it has become very prominent in the world today, especially between opposing ends of the political spectrum. Look at Donald Trump for example. According to InfoWars he can do nothing wrong, but according to CNN he can do nothing right. But the fact is, that whether you support him or not, you can, and should, acknowledge that he does both good and bad. And it is the same with almost everything.

My biggest worry with this matter is that people don't have the ability to think for themselves. Many latch on to what Fikile Mbalula or Eusebius McKaiser say and take that as the truth without analysing the story themselves. And it is this lack of critical thinking that keeps corrupt and incompetent leaders like Jacob Zuma and Bathabile Dlamini in power. Hopefully more and more of us can learn to think critically, to create a better South Africa.

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