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
8 February 2007

Xolela Mangcu nails it

Xolela Mangcu hits the nail on the head today in his column in Business Day regarding the FNB saga. I like his idea that we are all afraid of our freedom. Money quote:

We are a paranoid society — afraid of each other, afraid of the name-calling, afraid of losing business, afraid of our own shadows, and afraid of our own freedom.

This will not change for as long as the fundamentals of fear and intolerance are in place. Today it is FNB, and tomorrow it will be somebody else. The bottom line is that those who rule over us do not trust us or respect us enough to let us make up our own minds. Let FNB publish what they will, and trust us to decide whether to go along with it or not. That is the true meaning of freedom.

Of course President Mbeki and the intellectuals in his circle would argue that we do have much to be afraid of because in order to truly transform the state and society, we need to address and attack the hegemonic power of the old guard. Because the reactionary ideas and values of this old guard still hold sway and dictates public discourse to the detriment of true transformation, we ignore it and allow it to flourish at our peril.

Like Mr Mangcu I believe this is an unecessary defensive position to take. In a democracy we cannot by fiat change the balance of forces in society. We have to engage and argue with one another.

If one is the President of a powerful governing party one has a lot of scope to make an impact. But in a democracy one does not get one’s way all the time – even if one is the President.

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