Choosing victimhood over victory

David Bullard says we could - but won't - learn a lot from how the Japanese handle adversity


I was watching TV coverage of the Japanese typhoon aftermath on Sunday morning and was so struck by the orderliness and efficiency of the Japanese people trying to retrieve what was left of their possessions that I decided to post a comment on Twitter which ran thus:

After the typhoon devastation in Japan what do their citizens do? They quietly and efficiently get on with the clean up. In SA they would be burning buildings and looting shops and waiting for the government to do something.

It clearly resonated with Twitter users because by the end of the day it had been retweeted over 170 times and I had received over 80 responses. Some predictably accused me of subliminal racism and others pointed out that the Japanese hadn’t had to live under the yoke of apartheid which obviously made them better equipped to cope with life’s little upsets. The legacy of apartheid really is the gift that keeps on giving. Most agreed with me however and the general sentiment was that we might learn a lot from how the Japanese handle adversity.

Except that we won’t because we are no longer free to speak of such things. As Helen Zille found out many months ago, even suggesting that other cultures (in her case, Singapore) could teach us valuable lessons will be met by howls of protest from the “woke community” with hysterical cries that our comments are “problematic” and should be withdrawn because they are offensive.

Suggesting that there is a culture of entitlement in this country got my friend Chris Hart sacked from his position at Standard Bank a few years ago. Despite the fact that Nelson Mandela had made a similar observation many years before, Standard Bank caved into the baying mob and Chris not only lost his job but had his CV scrutinized by the gutter press who tried to suggest he was unqualified for his position and was a charlatan.

I should mention that the first prize of the baying mob is to get a hapless victim fired from his or her job: this to be followed by a groveling apology for daring to voice an opinion. This is a trend that started in American universities, spread to the UK and Australia and has been adopted with enthusiasm by our own virtue signalers.

The first step is to “call out” somebody for their unacceptable opinion, then attach a label to them such as bigot, racist, homophobe, misogynist, trans-phobe etc etc and encourage the baying mob to spread the hate on social media. In some cases the poor victim feels so brutalized that he or she will resign from whatever position in the hope that the feeding frenzy will stop.

The more stubborn ones hang in and defend their position until a threat is made to their employer to sack them or risk having their business disrupted. As we know, corporate South Africa has the backbone of a garden slug and generally gives in to threats from the great unwashed for fear of upsetting the motley assortment of spivs and snake oil salesmen that make up our government.

What this essentially boils down to is that freedom of speech, like polo and ocean yacht racing, is now a luxury restricted to the privileged few in society. Anybody who has to worry about losing their position at a university, losing their job, having their character misrepresented on social media, having members of their families bullied or being labeled right wing and a white supremacist is probably going to keep their head well below the parapet.

Which is precisely why we need plain talking websites like Politicsweb and the Institute of Race Relation’s dailyfriend.co za website which appears to have been upsetting the DA recently. I and many others never thought we would live to see the day when the Democratic Alliance wanted to silence its critics but that day seems to have arrived and Phumzile Van Damme, the party’s shadow minister of communication and digi-tech, was in full flow last week. Whether her charm offensive will attract new voters to replace those leaving the party in droves remains to be seen but I would suggest that if Helen Zille does become chair of the party’s federal council then she has a major repair job on her hands.

So why is it that the Japanese managed to cope with the worst typhoon in over 60 years in such a calm manner? Houses collapsed into swollen rivers, there were mudslides, wooden homes in villages were ripped apart by the 250km/h winds and vehicles and heavy machinery were tossed around as if they were matchboxes.

But next day when the storm had veered off to the east and calm returned the Sky TV footage showed ordinary citizens and emergency workers beginning the long process of clearing up and rebuilding. Even schoolchildren were seen shoveling mud from their flooded buildings. No sense of panic or victimhood and definitely no looting or evidence of the situation being exploited for personal gain.

I suspect the reason things will get back to normal as soon as possible in Japan is that they have to. Apart from an enviable sense of community and common purpose the Japanese have learnt throughout post war history that they, like the Singaporeans and the South Koreans, have to earn their place on the global stage.

There’s no culture of sitting idly by waiting for handouts promised as a vote catcher by politicians who are obviously unable to deliver on their promises. As somebody mischievously pointed out on Twitter, Japan is prone to these extreme climatic conditions as well as to earthquakes. Maybe the almighty gave South Africa such appallingly dishonest politicians to even the game a bit. In the words of the redoubtable political activist Candace Owens, some people prefer to be victims rather than victors.

(I am taking a short bush break. The Out to Lunch column will return on October 30th just in time for Brexit.)