Fools work hard for a living …

… others play RealpolitikTM an invisible, organizational game of intellectual seduction that ends in a startling moment of existential clarity when doom strikes down both projects and prospects; played by an accomplished provocateur who, in a sequence of suggestions, leads a patron one seemingly innocuous premise after another to an irrevocable conclusion, the consequence of which is the complete and final withdrawal of goodwill and favor from which its intended victim cannot recover.

newritings

The conscious forgetting of those who helped make the struggle for a more just and democratic South Africa, has been the proverbial elephant in the game park of our politics. The big five will include celebrating Madiba, and praying that he lives forever. Yet we choose to forget some of those close to him (women especially) and, worse, those in the struggle that had different approaches, values and inspirations to him and the ruling ANC. But last night some attempt was made to put an end to the silence. Professor Bonner, Wits Professor,and former free-lance educator with FOSATU (Federation of South African Trade Unions), lambasted those who were in effect “air-brushing our struggle history.”

Bonner was speaking on Thursday evening, 17 February 2011, at the Museum Africa at the launch of The Future is in the hands of the Workers, A History of Fosatu, by Michele Friedman, part of…

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In response to Khaya Dlanga’s hastily prepared article “Poverty must cease to be black

Ha ha ha ha. Hoping to improve your readership, Khaya? I’ll take the bait, I’m feeling generous today.

How about using data from an authoritative source to support your arguments. Like the racial composition of people who live in Sandton. How can you be sure that all of them are “rich and white”? Have you met them all? Do you keep track of those who move in and out of the area, what race they are etc? Daily? Have you had their race verified by an anthropologist or by Home Affairs at least? Are you certain you’re familiar with the boundaries of Sandton? How do you define rich? What on earth are you talking about?

Next, compare your dataset to that of a control group: e.g. what economic changes have taken place in the world since the Mbeki presidency. Did you know that in the West the rich have grown richer in spite of the Great Recession? (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67046/robert-c-lieberman/why-the-rich-are-getting-richer).  Yes, I know the Economist article took that into account … I’ve read it. My point is simply that advancing an argument means recognising and communicating the limitations of your argument. Otherwise you’re an ideologue blurting out received “truths” as though they’re suitable substitutes for fact.

Once you’ve got the data, a little logic would also be helpful. If 79.5% (http://www.southafrica.info/about/people/population.htm#.UI1NqMVacSI) of the population is black then it is likely that 8 out of 10 poor people will be black too – I’ve not met 0.5% of a person, so forgive me for rounding up.

Once you’ve practised a little logic, acquaint yourself with a short list of logical fallacies. I promise it will improve your critical thinking – not much of which is on display in this article. See … that’s called an ad hominem “attack”: when one advances an argument by criticising one’s interlocutor as if that invalidates his argument.

Here’s another example – called the argument from or appeal to authority: by citing the Economist at the beginning of your article you’re using a tactic Eugene Terre’Blanche and other fist-slamming fascists have delighted in. If the premise of the argument is factual (or gives the appearance of fact) then surely everything that follows must also be factual.

The trouble with public debate in South Africa is we don’t like rigour or discipline. So we spew bull**it wrapped up in “fancy language” and feel very insulted when called on it. It’s the same reason the poor will keep getting poorer: we (and they) don’t want to do the hard mental labour of self-education needed to build “better lives for all”. We want someone to give it to us. What is given by strangers is rarely of substantial value. If it was so valuable to begin with no one would have given it away.

The degree to which you as a “public intellectual” have not bothered to acquire the fundamentals of making a valid argument is the degree to which this country possesses the capacity to advance. The next time you feel the urge to launch into an emotional tirade consider buying something like “A Rulebook for Arguments“. It will introduce you to a whole new world.