A few months ago, author William Gumede described Zuma as someone with a narcissistic personality disorder — a set of traits defined by Austrian psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut as “including an exaggerated sense of superiority, a lack of self-awareness about the impact of their behaviour and having a disdain for others, who they devalue to validate their own grandiosity”. These people lack empathy, have a distorted sense of reality and are incapable of seeing anything from anyone else’s perspective. Narcissists like Zuma, Gumede argues, can’t accept responsibility and don’t care if they take down entire countries with them. The events at Nkandla, sadly for Zuma, only reinforced that perspective.
I like the fact that he is trying to create an alternative intellectual universe in which Thabo Mbeki always makes perfect sense and is really an intellectual hero. When he talks about the ways in which what we see as normal is really situated, he is rather good.
The problem is that he often argues like a little boy. For example he points out that Tony Leon (not his favourite man!) quotes Lord Acton. He then argues that Lord Acton was a dreadful man. Then this must inevitably mean in his book that Leon is also a terrible racist pig. Nee what, this is lazy reasoning of the worst kind.
The book also gives the impression of a rush job. It is not clear whether this is because he knocked it off in the past few months when the sponsors started asking questions about the million Rand they gave for the project or whether it is because he has such a busy mind that he cannot fix on one thing for long enough to actually build a sustained and coherent argument.
In any case, to read Suresh Roberts and then the guidebook makes the colonial mindset of the guidebook jump out at you. White people from Europe invariably ¨discovered¨all the great tourist attracions – as if locals did not live here and actually built the very same attractions. It is deeply irritating and almost puts me off travel.
The guidebook us aklso deeply patronising about local culture and politics. When pointing out some problem with Macchu Picchu they add that the authorities are aware of the problema nd claim to be doing something about it. The guidebook would surelñy not say the Italians are aware of the fact that the tower of Pisa is falling over.