Monday, December 5, 2016

Prejudice … We are Guilty as charged

The Reality:
At 5am on 20 June 1960 I joined other lads around the radio of our Hostel Master, Richard Brown. We were breathless in anticipation and excitement. Two boxers on the other side of the World were about to settle a contest of pugilistic superiority. We did not know either of them from a bar of soap.
But we unreservedly rooted for Floyd Patterson, an American boxer, in his fight against Jens Ingemar Johansson, a Swedish boxer. In their previous fight the Swede had beaten Patterson, flooring him 7 times. This proof of the Swede being the better boxer was simply discounted by us. Patterson was our man. He was better. He was superior. He was going to win. He was going to get revenge. It was a revenge that we all needed. The issue/situation was compounded by old debates about Aryan supremacy, first mooted when Max Schmeling beat the legendary "Brown Bomber", Joe Louis, in 1939.
We were now “fundamentalist” supporters of Patterson for no reason other than that we were Coloured lads and Patterson was Black. As was later pointed out to us by Fr Adalbert we had blindly favoured Patterson purely on account of his ethnicity, disregarding who of the two might have been the “saint” or the “sinner”.
Simply put, we were guilty of prejudice; racial prejudice; no more no less. As a German, Father Adalbert knew all about racial prejudice having witnessed the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust.
We are indeed prejudiced; all of us are prejudiced; deeply biased and prejudiced. It is as natural as breathing. We naturally regard ourselves, and our race, ethnic or tribal grouping, more favourably, more considerately, more sensitively … than we do others. We are naturally inclined to be disdainful, dismissive, even condemnatory of others, whenever they are in a situation of competition with our grouping.
As said we don’t make these distinctions consciously. It is all automatic and just as we do not consciously take a breath we do not consciously decide to be disdainful and dismissive about those in competition with our group. That is why and how we came to be in support of Patterson. As Coloureds it was this Black boxer that we had a racial/ethnic affinity with. He was part of “us” and the Swede was “the other”.
So, with respect, the clichéd statement that “racism is not something that we are born with but must be learnt” is not 100% correct. We are born with capacity for inherent and active bias in “our” favour and against “others”, whether it be about a boxing match, a soccer match, a beauty contest, political leadership ... etc. It is instinctive. 
It is prejudice because it is not based on reason. We don’t think about it.  We don’t reason it out. As said, it is as natural and automatic as breathing. The definition of prejudice is a conclusion that is not based on reason.
In the Beginning:
Feel free to imagine that this was encoded in our DNA when we were once alone in the cave, clinging together, mistrustful, resentful, fearful of everything and everybody out there. It was a matter of survival to stick together at all costs. This instinctive culture was founded on fear then, and still is. So, whether you are English, Jewish, Zulu, Greek, Ndebele, Maori, American, Tswana, Coloured, Muslim, Christian … you are biased and prejudiced in favour your own race, ethnic, tribal grouping as a matter of pure instinct. I adverted to this in an SABCTV1 broadcast.
This was not a problem prior to 1948. It was openly acknowledged, supported propagated. It was both the glue and the propellant of nationalism. In terms thereof nations routinely “went forth, invaded, conquered , subjugated” and even enslaved other nations. The Greeks did. The Romans did it. The Vikings did it. Genghis Khan is credited with killing more people in his conquest of Asia than people killed in the last World War. Locally we had King Shaka Zulu, Mzilikazi and Lobengula doing the same thing.
Might is right” was a universal culture. The 1885 Conference of Berlin specifically authorised the invasion, conquest and annexation of Africa by European nations. This was the blue print for the colonization of Africa.
No one lamented the decimation, brutalization, extermination and genocide of “first humans” such as the Khoi-San of Southern Africa, the Aborigines of Australia, the Native-Americans and the Aztecs of South America.
It is the way the world was and had been from the time Cain killed Abel.
An Epiphany:
Then a chap named Hitler overdid the “might is right” culture, tried to conquer the whole world, perpetrating the Holocaust in the process. The horror of it all induced an epiphany on the part of mankind leading to most nations signing off on the Universal declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) at the United Nations (“UN”) in 1948.
For the first time in history mankind had the concept of human rights, at the heart of which was the sacred proposition of universal equality stipulated as non-negotiable. Most nations signed. Notable exceptions were “megalomaniac” Russia, “misogynist” Saudi Arabia and “racist apartheid” South Africa. Nobody took much notice of these three exceptions and simply assumed that they would relent in due course.
The assumption was given impetus by an almost universal positive reaction to the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr Martin Luther King Jr on 28 August1963.
The Hypocrisy:
The problem was that, far from committing to the UDHR, the UN became a hot bed of self-aggrandizement and dealing in assets, influence and power. Members comprised leaders of countries that had virtually no identification or common cause with the Articles of the UDHR. A genocidal maniac like Idi Amin was given standing ovations just months before he was deposed. The Organization of African Unity followed suit in this non-committal to the UDHR and its Charter, and that of its successor, the African Union has no reference to human rights.
Right now the UN finds itself trapped by its self-imposed paralysis as a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions plays out in Aleppo, Syria, on account of the diabolical machinations of Russia, Iran and their client Bashar Hafez al-Assad who has committed genocide on his own people..   
This disgraceful abrogation of the UDHR was complemented by organized cells of bigotry such as the Ku Klux Klan of America, the Neo-Nazis of Europe, the AWB of South Africa and many others across the planet.
Insidiously compounding the problem was a culture of general political correctness in which most of us postured a “holier than thou” stance in which we quite brazenly ignored our own predilection to prejudice and bias. So, at a personal level we all indulged in covert prejudice and bias while the “extremist groups” indulged in the overt version. 
As much as we lauded King’s “I have a Dream” speech we never did rid ourselves of our inherent bias and prejudice because we never did confront it.
We imagined that this systemic hypocrisy was sustainable in that the extremist would never become dominant. The election of a Black President in the country that is the de facto leader of the free world reinforced our comfort zone.
We were in a sanctimonious comfort zone. Because we neither recognize nor accept our own complicity we have never confronted it.
It was and still is a very, very bad mistake.
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The Challenge:
Just as a culture of petty pilfering will predispose a human being to grand larceny our sanctimonious denialism about our own predilection for bias and prejudice predisposed us to being now successfully propositioned by the so called “extremist right wing populists” whose leaders have emerged in force.
It was all too easy for a bigoted, misogynist, mendacious, narcissistic buffoon, like Donald Trump in America, to capture a populace that was reposing in this hypocritical sanctimonious comfort zone.The door was/is open to the devil.
It was just as easy for the right wingers Nicholas Farage and Boris Johnson to do the same in the United Kingdom (“UK”).  These “far right” champions are now greatly emboldened and are mounting their challenge across Europe in particular.  We have Marine Le Pen in France; Frauke Petry of Germany; Geert Wilders of the Netherlands; Gabor Vona of Hungary; Jimmie Akesson of Sweden; Norbert Hofer of Austria; Marian Kotleba of Slovakia and others.
Common themes that of all this lot espouse are aspects of authoritarianism, cultural exclusion and nativism.  Theirs is the politics of fear; the same fear we had when we were in that cave at the beginning of time.
Trump and gang have exposed the rotten underbelly of hypocrisy that is shared between the extremist groups such as the KKK and we ordinary sanctimonious citizens, as much as we are generally not conscious of this hypocrisy.. Trump and gang are taking humanity back to pre-1948. Theirs is a repudiation of the UDHR especially as regards its insistence on universal equality and its spirit of brotherly love and acceptance. They are taking us back to the cave when we lived  in the grip of fear.
Trumpeting a plethora of artful rhetoric, half truths and downright lies, damn lies, they are succeeding in propagating their hateful ideology in which “other” human beings are ultimately excluded and/or kept in place as one does with vermin, no less, no more, in terms of a fundamental reality test.
Whichever way you want to bake it, their final position is that "other" humans need to be kept out or in place like vermin;
The Solution
We are members of the species known as homo sapiens because we are endowed with the power of reason. We need to leverage that power by an honest appraisal of current realities. It is not rocket
science. The simplest of honest appraisals reveals the current challenge in all its diabolical characteristics.
However, we will never succeed in this appraisal if we do not first accept our own capacity for prejudice that has provided an open door for the diabolical challenge of the so called “far right populists” listed above. Our own predilection for bias and prejudice has been the door that they have simply pushed wide open and marched through on their quest for human dominance, hate, exclusion and subjugation.
A good starting point is to read our own comments on social media sites and see how we obfuscate defend, rationalize and excuse that which in plainly indefensible about the likes of Donald Trump because his unsuitability as a leader is proved by mindless rhetoric that spews from his own mouth like a river of sewerage. It is the height of absurdity that a man that espouses “grabbing women by their pussies” should ever even be considered for public office let alone the Presidency of any country. Yet millions of Americans and us have just obfuscated this simple matter of fact.
Once we accept our own culpability in this equation we can will understand that:-
a) the blood soaked lessons that induced the World to adopt the UDHR still hold true;
b) and and that King’s exhortation is the road that must be resumed.
Hope is with us.
Let us follow Austria that has just rejected a diabolical appeal of the far right but still recognizing and understanding the danger on account of the 46% support that this sector received.
The UDHR remains non-negotiable.
Let us reject the culture of  exclusion and racial supremacy.
Let us reject being taken back the the cave that we were once in , ruled by fear.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr was right in his insistence that our survival as humanity is dependent on us joining hands and walking together as equals in mutual acceptance, love and brotherhood.

Understand that Trump and gang are bullies by nature, disposition and persuasion. When they have power and power meets vulnerability the pandemic abuse of "other" humans will once again inflict this species.
You/we will not see it unless we start by recognizing and admitting our own bias and prejudices.

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