The scourge of intolerance

David Bullard says our govt leaders seem to have a poor grasp of basic economics


What a deliciously biblical sounding word “scourge” is. As most of my readers will almost certainly know it comes from the old French word “escorgier” meaning to whip and the word can be used both as a noun and a verb.

In days gone by (before it became a popular celebrated sexual fetish) it wasn’t unusual to find people flagellating, or scourging, themselves as a penance for their sins or as a sign of their religious devotion. Because of the design of the human body it was obviously much easier to give yourself a good whipping on your own back and the more blood that could be drawn, the greater number of penance points you accumulated I imagine.

Personally, I’ve never really seen the point of subjecting oneself to so much pain when there’s the soft option of a confession with a priest. But horses for courses as the saying has it.

The noun scourge is one that is currently very much in favour at the moment and it conjures up something that falls just short of an apocalyptic meltdown on the politician’s hyperbolic scale of disaster spotting.

In fact, it’s pretty clear that if a scourge isn’t identified and neutralized timeously it will almost certainly result in the foretold end of the world with the four horsemen charging across the sky, weaving their way between carbon emitting aircraft. Then it’s just a matter of waiting for the last trumpet and it’s “game over” as the computer gamers say.

At the moment we have two scourges to worry about, the planet destruction scourge and the gender violence scourge. The former is now in the safe hands of a sixteen year old Swedish girl who has been bunking school for the past year to save the planet. The latter is now safely in the hands of the United Nations, or it will be if they act on International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor’s call to “join South Africa in urgently fighting the scourge of gender based violence”.

As we know from past history, the United Nations has enjoyed formidable success with so many things (none of which I can recall just now) that the scourge of gender violence will soon just be an unpleasant memory.

Cynics among us may wonder why the taxpayer had to foot the bill for Naledi Pandor and her entourage to fly all the way to New York to tell the United Nations a.) something they probably already know and b.) something that could just as easily been communicated by e-mail. But that’s modern global politics for you and who can blame our politicians for wanting to go on an all expenses paid junket to the Big Apple while there are still funds to do so.

Not only does it make us feel part of the greater global community but it also shows our imperialist critics that we still have enough money in the bank to travel. That may not be the case when the tax take is substantially reduced by emigration but that sort of reality is hardly going to worry an ANC politician is it?

Pandor goes on to tell the UN that the biggest obstacle to building a world free from poverty and inequality is intolerance. Not government corruption, Marxist economic policies, restrictive labour laws, high taxes and absurdly powerful trade unions but intolerance. That intolerance, she said, is exhibited by gender based violence and the exclusion of women from many sectors in society.

Try as I may I cannot really see how intolerance can be held responsible for the crime of gender based violence. Intolerance of who or what? One might just as easily say that intolerance is also responsible for cash in transit heists. This is nothing more than quasi academic gobbledygook.

The reasons for gender based violence are more likely to be the high unemployment rate among young people, the absence of father figures in so many families, poor housing and a rather deep rooted cultural disregard for the rights of women in large parts of our society. Not forgetting plain old criminality of course.

But it’s the exclusion of women from sectors of society that really caught my eye. The ANC have now been attempting to run this country for 25 years. If there are any laws still on the statute book banning women from certain sectors of society then they have only themselves to blame.

I was under the impression that our laws now favoured the inclusion of women in many sectors of society, particularly through employment quotas. I would be interested to learn from the minister of the many sectors of society that still exclude women since I can’t think of any. I could then actively campaign for the inclusion of women in these previously misogynistic sectors. After all, even the once all male Rand Club admitted women members as long ago as 1993, before the birth of the new Rainbow Nation.

Glibly laying the blame for the many government failures over the past quarter century at the door of “intolerance” is only trumped by the oft repeated promise to “uplift and empower the people” and to “eradicate poverty”. That, as we all know, isn’t going to happen.

It is a pipe dream, a promise of jam tomorrow which can never be delivered, the way we are going. It is, in fairness to the ANC, the objective of most eager to be elected politicians to create this magical world where poverty is eradicated, there is full employment and people are free to be whatever gender they choose at whatever time of day they choose. But, as most of us realize, that is a chimera. 

The reason for this is very simple. Our own population has risen by around 18 million since 1994, but economic growth under the ANC has been paltry, especially since 2008. So the problems that existed when the ANC came to power have now multiplied because there are so many more people looking for jobs, homes, healthcare, schooling and a quality of life that they can never hope to attain. 

This has nothing to do with intolerance and everything to do with basic economics. If there are ten slices of pie and only eight people in the room then you have pie for all with some to spare. If there are now twelve people in the room - and the pie is no bigger - the fight for a slice of pie is on and if there are twenty people the fight gets nasty. 

If the politicians steal five slices of pie then the fight gets even nastier. So, nothing to do with intolerance and everything to do with planning for the future. Something at which our South Africa government has so far proved to be a disastrous failure.