Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
4 July 2009

Self-indulgent? You betcha!

I have always been a big fan of Xolela Mangcu. Even when I do not agree with him, his columns usually make me think and challenge my preconceived ideas – something a good columnist ought to do. But I must say he had a piece in The Weekender today which made me cringe. Maybe its my Calvinist upbringing which instilled in me the notion that one is not supposed to brag. Mangcu clearly is not a Calvinist. He writes:

Look, I have not done very badly since I left my dusty township. To be sure, mine is not a rags-to-riches story. I just hate it when black people genuflect to white audiences about how poor they were and how they had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and all of that. “Ag, shame,” the whiteys say.

No, mine was not a rags-to-riches story. I came from a comfortable background and I never went to bed on an empty stomach. But still, check this out and tell me it’s not impressive.

After high school I went to Wits University at the tender age of 17. By 22 I had my master’s degree.

Off I went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University for my PhD. And then I enjoyed a string of post-doctoral fellowships at Harvard University’s John F Kennedy School of Government and later at Harvard’s WEB Du Bois Institute. Then you can i nclude in the mix my stint as a Warren Weaver Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation. And to think I had to apply to get into these places!

After all of that, I went back to work with young people in Ginsberg.

But the highest honour of them all is my elevation to a nonresident senior fellow at the Brooking Institution. For the uninitiated, Brookings is the most influential think tank in the world. Some of the world’s major institutions — including the United Nations — were designed by Brookings scholars.

And what is their model? A co-operative but critical relationship between a nation’s thinkers and its government. The institution is a hop from the White House and the US c ongress. Senior senators come in and out to share and receive policy ideas.

It’s truly an incredible place, and for my talent to be recognised at such a place would make my mother smile. Smile too if you will.

And if you find this self-indulgence really, really annoying, then just pretend to be an American.

Self-indulgent? You betcha! I suppose its difficult to come up with something original to write if you have a weekly column and a weekend newspaper page to fill, but, Eish!, this is a bit much. Dear readers, if I ever write something like this please ridicule me and tell me I am way out of line. (But again, maybe some of you think I have already posted pieces like this…)

Maybe that is the benefit of a Blog. One gets instant feedback and the bloggers keep one on one’s toes. They also correct mistakes and engage with arguments and in the process we all may just learn something. That is why I love doing this Blog. Thanks again to all you people out there who have taught me so much, including (some of you might be surprised to hear!) a little bit more humility!

Keep up the good work! Just a pity Lindelani Maseko is so quiet these days…. At least Sarah Palin will have more time now that she is retiring as Governor to contribute her considerable wisdom….

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