Constitutional Hill

Quote of the week

Italy is what happens when a country knows full well what its problems are but can’t summon the discipline and will to fix them. It’s what happens when political dysfunction grinds on and on and good governance becomes a mirage, a myth, a joke. Italy coasts on its phenomenal blessings rather than building on them and loses traction in a global economy with more driven competitors. Sound familiar? There’s so much beauty and promise here, and so much waste. Italy breaks your heart. And it’s not all Silvio Berlusconi’s doing. – Frank Bruni in the New York Times

Meanwhile, Van Schalkwyk plans to extend the Sho’t Left campaign and encourage supply-side diversification. Now rumours are circulating that he has identified four niche opportunities for heritage product development. The first involves an expansion of cultural tourism. The present bias in favour of “African cultural villages” in rural areas has been revisited. The Sho’t Left campaign will instead showcase a “Red October Show” in which bare-breasted popular icons Steve Hofmeyr and Dan Roodt will blend traditional music and the “weed dance” to expose the “inhumane slaughter and oppression” of the white Afrikaner. In order to attract the burgeoning black middle class, a new theme park in Cape Town’s southern suburbs will enable visitors to view “Constantia ladies” in their natural habitat and reveal the mystery of what they do all day. A proposed Gupta Compound tour will incorporate Saxonwold helicopter rides, bush sightings of furtive ministers, and much-sought-after free copies of The New Age newspaper. – Anthony Butler, having fun in his column in Business Day

According to Red October, white South Africans are an ‘Ethnic Minority’ who are experiencing ‘inhumane Slaughter and Oppression’ (yes, the caps are in the original). In phrasing that could be lifted directly from the liberation years, the ‘people of South Africa’ will ‘no longer be silent’. ‘Other minority groups’ (one wonders which ones) will join ‘in a show of solidarity’ against the government’s failure to enforce our ‘rights’ and provide all citizens with a ‘free, fair and safe country’. Not only that, but they’ve exhumed poor Edmund Burke’s aphorism about evil flourishing while good men do nothing, a somewhat ironic choice for a demographic that spent the worst years of the struggle braaiing by its pools and inspecting its maids for signs of communism. – Nicky Falkof in a column on Daily Maverick on the disturbing “Red October” campaign.

“President Obama waived a ban on arming terrorists in order to allow weapons to go to the Syrian opposition. Your listeners, US taxpayers, are now paying to give arms to terrorists including Al Qaeda. … This happened and as of today the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists, now what this says to me, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history. … Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand,” – Michele Bachmann, a sitting member of the US Congress.

On the other end of the scale, the recent launch of Freedom Fridays by LeadSA – a fairly socially conservative campaign led by media outlets to encourage South Africans to be better citizens (whatever they may mean by that) – and the Department of Arts and Culture exhorts South Africans to wear something every Friday that symbolises their love for the country. Both Braai Day and Freedom Day are problematic. Whatever the good intentions of its founders, Braai Day transforms Heritage Day into yet another opportunity for supermarkets to make quite a lot of money (in much the same way that Women’s Day has become another version of Mothers’ Day). And Freedom Friday promotes an unthinking patriotism, which ignores South Africa’s far-from-uncomplicated political and social trajectory post-1994. The fact that it was launched six months before a general election can’t be harmful either. Indeed, both elide South Africa’s deeply conflicted past: for all their enthusiasm for “heritage”, there’s very little history in how these two initiatives explore and redefine what it is to be South African. – Sarah Emily Duff on Heritage Day at Slipnet

Who cares? Who cares, who cares, who cares? I’m not saying who cares about the show — I’m saying this is becoming the point of the show. What makes Breaking Bad one of the most moral shows in the history of television is that actions have consequences, whether those actions arise from pain or greed or fear or panic. You pay for your actions, not the operation of your heart. The psychoanalytical journey we could all choose to take — and that most of us have taken — with Walt is a bloodless exercise. It is a luxury afforded to people who can see selfishness and wickedness and violence in the abstract, the way you can when it’s on television. What these final episodes are doing is showing no mercy, because evil shows no mercy. That’s not “Evil Shows No Mercy” in a tattoo-it-on-your-arm kind of way; that’s reality. That’s the reality of the fact that the reason to be a moral person is, in part, that brutal acts of violence do not take place inside a cage where the only ones hurt are the ones who deserve it — rats, or finks, or phonies, or fools. When you embrace doing whatever you want in order to get what you want, you cannot isolate the consequences. This is not a show that will ever be revealed to take place inside a snow globe; it’s a show where everything spills everywhere. – Linda Holmes on Breaking Bad

Obliviousness is a social menace. It is the pampered feet in the comfortable boots that march roughshod over the lived experiences of others, the whole time believing it is engaged in some form of “doing good”; that it isn’t sexist, racist, homophobic, or bigoted in any way. Obliviousness bangs on about its right to rape metaphor and freedom to offend. Obliviousness, sadly, is an antidote to its own antidote: reading widely and with a high level of comprehension. Obliviousness is convinced it does not need to do this, because it thinks it knows enough. Hello? Obliviousness? Am I getting through? Will you go out into the yonder to read more widely and with comprehension, or are you hunkering down for another fight about why you are really right? – T.O. Molefe on Thought Leader about the need for people to read books and stuff

This book first arose out of a passage in [Jorge Luis] Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought—our thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopaedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) suckling pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.” – Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (New York: Pantheon, 1970) xv.

At other channels, the prestigious news anchor position is generally filled by a journalist with substantial field experience. What ANN7 is proving daily is that there is a gaping chasm of difference between “being able to read” and “being able to read the news live on national TV”. No doubt the channel’s young women will improve with time, but at the moment their delivery is in some cases almost incomprehensible, as if they were reading a recipe in Klingon. Their weather girls may need additional tuition in geography; one gave the temperatures for both Polokwane and Pietersburg on Sunday. Another allegedly pointed firmly at Botswana while discussing Mpumalanga. Rebecca Davis of Daily Maverick on the launch of a new 24 hour news channel.

The strategic planners around Zuma probably did want to get rid of Vavi and saw the sexual misconduct as an opportunity to do so with the least costs to Alliance strength and unity. However a result that leads to Numsa splitting from Cosatu might end up being catastrophic for Zuma and his allies. Numsa is the best organised and most militant union in Cosatu. It already effectively competes with Num (at Medupi for example) and if it were to set itself up in competition to other Cosatu unions the platinum sector circa-2012 could, conceivably, end up looking like a labour-relations picnic. Such a split could also cause unforeseeable disruptions of the ANC’s electoral support, conceivably leading to a political realignment and possibly to formation of a ‘left’ or ‘workers’ party.  However, the Zuma administration and the central ANC leadership is desperately trying to unite the constituent elements of the Alliance behind the National Development Plan – partly in an attempt to prove to global capital markets and other investors that the ANC is serious about creating a settled environment for investment, and partly because it appears to believes that plan is the right path to ensure increased levels of economic growth and employment. Numsa sees the NDP as a direct extensions of the ‘neoliberal’ Growth, Employment and Redistribution macroeconomic policy. – Nic Borain