The Garland Affair

After responding to Zibi's commentary in From Pillay to Post, I figured the next step would be to tackle the main issue: What Shelley Garland actually wrote.

I've had a few days to read, reflect, and consider this, so I'll give you the headlines upfront (who likes to read longform articles anyway):

  • This was not hate speech
  • It was permissible comment
  • Pillay's defense of the argument highlighted a much more serious issue
  • The judgement issued by Retief absolutely has to be appealed

Probably not what you'd expect a white South African male to say about it, but hey. Welcome to the future.

There's a ton of stuff to get into here, so I'll start by quoting and responding directly to the article in question, as published on Huffington Post at 3:56pm on 13 April 2017. At the end, I'll come back to those four bullet points.

Upfront, I will acknowledge three things:

  1. This article was written specifically to be absurd, and to serve as a test of the journalistic integrity of South African media outlets - a test which HuffPo failed. However, it should not be discarded, because:
  2. As Pillay rightly points out, a lot of the ideas in here are standard in contemporary feminist theory - which is the real problem.
  3. I know Marius Roodt wrote the article, and Shelley Garland is a fake identity. However, since these words and positions were written from the perspective of a hypothetical feminist, I feel it's appropriate to attribute them to the character that Roodt created for the purpose.

Buckle up - we're going on an adventure.


Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?

And it's going to be a long, thorough one. Starting with the title.

First, there is no realistic possibility of denying white men the vote in South Africa. The argument made by Garland could theoretically be applied globally, and you could already technically say white men have been denied the vote in places like Saudi Arabia and North Korea, but since I'm a South African responding from a South African context, I'll stick to a South African interpretation of the argument.

To actually make this disenfranchisement happen would require a substantial and very dangerous amendment to the Constitution, which will undo a lot of the work done by CODESA in the 90's. It would also end up making no sense whatsoever, as the rest of this article delves into.

So, yes, I think it's fair to discuss it. It should be permissible to talk about wildly unconstitutional ideas in the interest of opening up the debate. This is actually the first piece of content I've seen in a long time which has gotten everyone so riled up - and for many different reasons.

The premise in the title is a contentious hypothetical, and is framed as a question to which the answer is clearly "no", but that's what makes this an opinion piece worth talking about.

Everything that follows is an attempt by Garland to clarify and justify the opening statement.

This redistribution of the world's wealth is long overdue.

I'll do a more detailed post on this at some point, but simply: Inequality is not the same problem as poverty.

It is definitely time to eradicate poverty around the world, and big strides are being made towards that. I think that more can (and should) be done, and that the world's wealthiest could play a role through investing in sustainability schemes across the poorest regions of the world.

However, that is not the same as inequality. A lot of opinions on this seek to conflate inequality and poverty, to draw the false equivalence that people can only be rich at the expense of the poor - which is patently not true.

The intent behind that first sentence is good, and speaks to a long-running struggle to give everyone in the world a fair shot at life - security of person, health and property, nutritious food, and opportunities for education and growth. That is absolutely something we should all be working towards.

However, that sentiment frequently gets hijacked by communists, socialists, hard-left extremists and the like, to argue that inequality is the reason for poverty, and the fix is to tax the ever-loving daylights out of the rich. Or just take their wealth wholesale.

Globally, that has been tried several times, and it has not worked. You can't divide your way into growth, and growth is what is necessary (and what is happening) to fix the problem. It could definitely go faster, but threatening the wealthy with forcible dispossession is not the way to speed it up.

and it is not just South Africa where white males own a disproportionate amount of wealth.

This is technically true, but it misses quite a lot of the facts in the retelling.

For one thing, "owning" wealth in the 21st century is not a Saturday morning cartoon.

donald duck vault

That's not what modern wealth looks like. It's a lot more like this:


The "wealth" disproportionately owned by the "white males" is mainly expressed in stock ownership - bits and pieces of businesses. Not great big vaults of "stolen land" or minerals. "Mainstream" wealth generation in the modern era looks (roughly) like this:

  • An entrepreneur (or group) have an idea that could be profitable
  • Capital is invested (technically, risked) so that the business can be built
  • If it succeeds (high failure rates here), and turns a profit, the investors benefit
  • Turning a profit means the business can expand
  • An expanding business means that employees, contractors, vendors and taxes all get paid

Gross oversimplification, sure, but that's the basic design at the heart of capitalism: risk and reward. It looks nothing like the "theft" or the "oppression" that modern progressives claim as the "enemy", and it has proven to be a reliable engine for prosperity.

So, yes: Technically it's true that white males still own disproportionate wealth in South Africa. Maybe. We're not actually sure, because after 14 years of BEE and billions being routed out of the State coffers and into the shell corporations of the politically-connected elite, it's entirely possible that the real situation is very different.

900 words in and we're just done with the title!

Before getting into the article proper, I need to acknowledge that most of the facts presented in it are false. That was Roodt's intention in writing this article, but it's only a half-failure.

Contemporary third-wave feminism is broadly unconcerned with equality (and in some cases, reality itself). After winning suffrage and equality under the law, the current wave of radical feminists want to take it a step further, and implement a new social and political order, under which women are a protected class with special privileges.

I'll quote a feminist to explain:

These fainting-couchers view women as fragile creatures who need safe spaces and trigger warnings to protect them from the big, bad world. Their main goal is not equality with men; it's protection from them.

Source: AEI Feminist Scholar: Feminism’s Goal Today ‘Is Not Equality With Men, It’s Protection From Them’

Personally, I do agree with some of their complaints - I've seen gender inequality first-hand in the United States, where these battles are being fought. However, the relief being sought is extreme, and the platform being advanced by these contemporary third-wave feminists is bizarre: a strange and potent mixture of an equality narrative bred with Stalinist-type political correctness, matured in hard-left academia where feelings supplanted facts long ago.

Read in that context, everything in Garland's article is "mainstream" within that movement, and is what Pillay may have been alluding to in her defense. It's unfortunate that the platform itself is built on misleading statistics and angry slogans, though.

Garland: Some of the biggest blows to the progressive cause in the past year have often been due to the votes of white men. If white men were not allowed to vote, it is unlikely that the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union, it is unlikely that Donald Trump would now be the President of the United States, and it is unlikely that the Democratic Alliance would now be governing four of South Africa's biggest cities.

False, false and false. For a number of reasons, and I'll actually engage on this point.

Garland: Some of the biggest blows to the progressive cause in the past year have often been due to the votes of white men.

More damage is being done to the progressive cause by other progressives. I'll have a gay white liberal to explain it to you:

The last year has been tumultuous in politics, for sure, but there's no reasonable interpretation that can lay the blame squarely at the feet of white men. For the most part, white men have been absent from the "progressive" discourse.

Whenever you see a white male proudly and publicly identifying as progressive, chances are they're either shrill to the point of absurdity, self-flagellate in public in faux humility for their "privilege", or are simply trying to get laid.

If they are none of those things - if they are sincere in their belief, then chances are they're simply uninformed as to the leading edge of the modern progressive movement.

Garland: If white men were not allowed to vote, it is unlikely that the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union

This is quite a throwaway statement to make, especially considering the reasons leading up to the Brexit referendum itself - spoiler, gender was not an issue.

Garland's article doesn't set a date from when white men should have "not been able to vote". Just for that one referendum? If white men weren't a voting class in all the years prior, there's no telling whether or not the referendum itself would even have happened.

But let's assume that white men were only barred from that specific referendum. Did white men dominate the vote to leave?

Lord Ashcroft ’s research also found no difference between how men and women voted – despite eve-of-poll claims women were more likely to vote In.

Source: Who voted for Brexit? How the EU referendum divided generations and social classes

The analysis of the Brexit vote centered mainly on social, political, educational, generational and class divisions - gender was not much of a factor. The only poll I can find after a quick search tracked less than 13'000 people and found no substantial difference in the votes.

Assuming men were entirely absent, and the vote was only women and other minorities, it could just as easily have panned out the same way. The real divisions leading up to Brexit were along other lines.

In fact, without men, it may have been an even stronger Leave result. If the arguments of the third-wave feminists are accepted at face value, that would mean that men dominate in all the corporate and metro jobs, and consequently live in the most expensive areas - which in the UK, means the major metros.

So dropping white men from the vote would have dropped a disproportionate amount of votes from the metro areas, and as it turns out, the Leave/Remain vote was chiefly decided among the Metro/Rural divide (with the exception of Scotland, who have always had their own politics):


Politics is a weird sport.

Garland: it is unlikely that Donald Trump would now be the President of the United States

In this hypothetical, if white men were not allowed to vote, chances are they would not participate in politics to begin with. During the struggle for universal suffrage (which formally kicked off in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention, and won the first major victory in 1893 in New Zealand), the only female candidates who ran for office did so to call attention to the irony of denying women the vote.

Calling attention to the irony of being legally entitled to run for office while denied the right to vote, Elizabeth Cady Stanton declared herself a candidate for the U.S. Congress in 1866, the first woman to do so. In 1872 Victoria Woodhull formed her own political party and declared herself to be its candidate for President of the U.S. even though she was ineligible because she was not yet 35 years old.

Source: Wikipedia, Women's suffrage in the United States

Simply put, if white men were denied the vote, there's a good chance that there would be no white male candidates at all.

So let's run with that, and analyze the 2016 election. If we drop white males from the field, that essentially shrinks the Republican candidate pool down to Ben Carson, and Hillary Clinton would not have had to contend with Bernie Sanders for the nomination.

In a voting pool dominated by white women, with a Carson/Clinton race, you could bet Clinton would have won. Between those two, Clinton is least likely to put you to sleep.

So, while Garland is technically correct that it's "unlikely that Donald Trump" would have won, it would not be for lack of the white male voters - it would be for lack of white male participation in politics at all.

And it would not have been a favorable outcome anyway.

Between Clinton and Sanders, Clinton would actually be the worse candidate for the "progressive" cause. Yes, she's female, but she's also the establishment candidate, and it's the exact establishment that third-wave feminists are seeking to disrupt.

Sanders, with his radical socialist and social justice leanings, was easily the preferred candidate for the younger generation of third-wave feminists:

That's because supporting Bernie Sanders has become a shorthand for a progressive allegiance that is overwhelmingly popular among the younger generation. Exit polls in neighboring New Hampshire showed 82% of Democratic women under 30 backed Sanders, while 56% of women over 45 backed Clinton.

Source: Bernie Sanders Is Winning Feminists, Even at Hillary Clinton's Alma Mater

So, yes. Even without white men, third-wave feminists would have "lost" the 2016 election, with an establishment candidate that would have absolutely trumped Carson at the polls. So this is a bit of an own-goal, hypothetically speaking.

Garland: it is unlikely that the Democratic Alliance would now be governing four of South Africa's biggest cities.

If you were to remove white men from the South African voting pool, that would be about a 4% drop. According to Stats SA, there should have been around less than 850'000 eligible white male voters in the country at the time of the last election. In reality, less than 450'000 would have voted (assuming 45% turnout).

Or to put it another way, if every white man of eligible age in South Africa voted for the same party, that party would end up with less seats in Parliament than the EFF. And the EFF doesn't run any metros.

The main reason the DA took the four major metros in the last election was a drop in ANC voter turnout. The DA is still gaining voters year-on-year, but that was not what put them in the drivers seat in 2016. It was simply ANC supporters not going out to vote.

Garland: If white men no longer had the vote, the progressive cause would be strengthened. It would not be necessary to deny white men indefinitely – the denial of the vote to white men for 20 years (just less than a generation) would go some way to seeing a decline in the influence of reactionary and neo-liberal ideology in the world.

Not really.

For one thing, votes only count in elections, and elections only come around every few years. Structural change at that level is measured in decades. The stuff that really matters happens in much shorter cycles: bills, laws, and amendments.

If you removed the vote from white men today, you would remove the white male faces from governing bodies, parliaments, and so on. You would not be removing businesses, lobbying, or the buying and selling of influence and favors that goes on behind the scenes of politics - which is arguably where the real power lies.

To undo that, you'd have to start applying ever-more-discriminatory laws - you'd have to prevent white men from owning businesses, then owning wealth itself. You'd have to reduce white men essentially to a slave class to thoroughly purge them from the system.

And then two things will happen.

One, the progressive cause will again be set back when new divisions start to form. Power and wealth would accumulate around a new sector of society - most likely, white women. The dynamics would reset such that there is a "top" and a "bottom" again, and white men would emerge as the new oppressed class.

Just because white men would be out of the picture, does not mean the dynamics of power themselves will change. Whoever has the most influence, the most money, and the most leverage will win - regardless of race or gender.

Two: You'd probably trigger an actual revolution. The progressive cause would completely flip in a very short time, and you'd have antagonized a class of people that are more likely to be able to wage actual warfare in that sort of scenario.

So best case scenario, nothing is ultimately gained. Worst-case scenario, nothing is ultimately gained after a period of bloody revolution.

Garland: The influence of reckless white males were one of the primary reasons that led to the Great Recession which began in 2008.

Yes, the 2008 crisis was caused by white male bankers who put together loan products (Collateralized Debt Obligations) based on sub-prime mortgages (that were not sustainable), then sold these risky debts to other investors.

Those were the two halves of the crisis. If nobody bought those CDOs (or issued the sub-prime mortgages that fed into them), there would have been no risk of major default accumulating within the system, and it was not only white males buying those CDOs.

So while the fault of this does not rest entirely with the bankers who put them together, I do agree with the overall argument that the financial sector (in the US particularly) could use a major overhaul of their ethics.

Garland: This would also strike a blow against toxic white masculinity, one that is long needed.

The phrase "toxic masculinity" is usually used by women who find men off-putting, and is really little more than a label. It doesn't describe any sort of meaningful concept around which you can have a debate.

Same with "male fragility". Not all men are the same, some men have shorter fuses than others, but this is not a unique problem to white men, and cannot be reasonably correlated with a specific race or gender. There are lots of men who are not fragile at all, and lots of men who are the opposite of "toxic" - so on that basis alone it's unfair to broad-stroke this label across an entire race and gender.

"Toxicity" and "fragility" in these contexts are really only descriptors for personalities and their tropes. And as such, "striking a blow" against them would be equally ephemeral - it would last for a short time and ultimately achieve nothing.

It might make a few misandrists feel good about themselves for a short time, though. And since a lot of participants in the modern "progressive" movements seem to base their reality on how they feel, I'm sure it'll register as a victory to them.

Garland: At the same time, a denial of the franchise to white men, could see a redistribution of global assets to their rightful owners. After all, white men have used the imposition of Western legal systems around the world to reinforce modern capitalism.

"Could" is a big word, and describes a scenario that is not likely to happen.

As I detailed above, in order to rid the "system" of white male influence, you'd have to strip them of all legal standing. Those assets would have to go somewhere though, and since a lot of these white men are married (mostly to white women I'd imagine, though I have no data to back that up right now), ownership would likely be transferred straight across to white women.

Legally it might be counted on par with death - since under a system that disenfranchises white men, you'd have to make it illegal for white men to own property. That would automatically transfer all that ownership to their living spouses.

To fix that, you'd have to pass another law saying that property forfeited by married white men has to be yielded to the state, instead of to their white female wives, and right there your progressive cause hits the next roadblock: Other women.

The short answer is, no - removing the vote from white men is not realistically likely to magically liberate all their assets, thereby achieving any sort of equality.

On the latter part of that - white men have imposed Western legal systems in the Western world. Those same systems are also applied in the East, and they seem to be doing just fine without white men at the helm.

Capitalism is not specific to any race or gender - it's a system of wealth creation that can be applied universally. Removing white men from the picture would not remove capitalism.

Garland: A period of twenty years without white men in the world's parliaments and voting booths will allow legislation to be passed which could see the world's wealth far more equitably shared. The violence of white male wealth and income inequality will be a thing of the past.

As I elaborated above, all you're likely to accomplish is a transfer of wealth and power to white women. The systems that actually entrench inequality (greed, corruption, nepotism, etc) are not unique to white men, and will not go away when white men are removed from the system.

For proof of this, look at any other African country. They're ruled predominantly by black men, and have greater issues with social equality and poverty than South Africa does.

Garland: This redistribution of the world's wealth is long overdue, and it is not just South Africa where white males own a disproportionate amount of wealth.

Same argument as all the above, and we'll get into the wealth bit below.

Garland: While in South Africa 90 percent of the country's land is in the hands of whites (it is safe to assume these are mainly men), along with 97 percent of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, this is also the norm in the rest of the world.

Here come the fake facts!

90% of land is not in the hands of whites - I've covered this before.

97% of the JSE is not in white male hands - BizNews did a good breakdown.

This is also not "the norm" in the rest of the world. It cannot possibly be the norm in countries where there are few white men - like all of South America, the rest of Africa, the Middle East, and most of the Far East.

It can only be the norm in post-colonial countries (Canada, US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) and across Europe. And in those nations, gender (mainly balanced) and ethnicity (mainly white) are not politicized.

As a result, the divisions in society are far less along gender lines, and far more around class, education, and so on. For example, the Brexit vote, stats linked above.

Garland: Namibia has similar statistics with regard to land distribution and one can assume this holds for other assets too.

"one can assume" is usually shorthand for "I feel this might be true, but I cannot be bothered to back up my assertion with an argument". So I won't respond to that half.

Land ownership in Namibia is an issue, and has a lot of parallels with the land ownership issue in South Africa. In Namibia, at the start of independence (March 1990) most of the farms were in the hands of a tiny German minority, and progress has been slow in transferring that land to the black majority.

That's an issue deserving of it's own breakdown, so I won't get into detail here, other than to say that Garland is not wrong - Namibia does have actual, verifiable statistics proving that a tiny minority (white men of German descent, I believe) holds most of the land.

Garland: As Oxfam notes eight men control as much as wealth as the poorest 50 percent of the world's population.

Shock statistic! But likely true, and also not an actual problem.

As I pointed out earlier, there's poverty, and then there's inequality, and to conflate the two is to play a dangerous game - especially when stating the facts in the way Oxfam does. Another, more realistic interpretation of the same data:

Eight men hold shares in the largest companies in the world, equal in value to the total assets of the lower 50% of the global population.

That's a less dramatic interpretation than the first reading, while remaining factually correct. Yes, there are absolutely giant companies out there, built on equally giant global markets. Yes, ownership is centered around relatively few people, so obviously, you will be able to pick an arbitrary number of shareholders and equate their shareholding value to anything else in the world.

Two things on this:

One: They do not "control" that wealth nearly as much as Oxfam would like you to believe. The value is calculated as a percentage of the companies they own, whose value in turn is calculated largely as a function of revenue and growth, which itself is entirely dependent on the market. If Apple and Microsoft both crashed tomorrow, those eight men would find themselves substantially less wealthy. Possibly enough to escape Oxfam's glare.

Two: If those men did not own those shares, other people would. If nobody owned those shares, it would mean that those companies did not exist. If those companies did not exist, it would mean that there were no consumer demands to be met, meaning that the economy would be a lot smaller, meaning that we would all be a lot poorer.

Of course you're going to have a few rich people at the very top of the structure, but that structure is built on meeting market needs, and has the necessary side-effect of providing a meaningful living to everyone who participates.

Garland: In the United States ten percent of the population (nearly all white) own 90 percent of all assets – it is likely that these assets are largely in the hands of males.

This might be factually true, but (like the Oxfam stat above) is not a good argument that white men are the problem. It's also a bit of a leap to "likely" a statistic, but in this case, I'm with Garland on that leap.

Although statistics by race are difficult to find from other parts of the world, it is very likely that the majority of the world's assets are in the hands of white males, despite them making up less than 10 percent of the world's population.

Well, again, white men are not likely to dominate in asset ownership beyond post-colonial territories. I'm also reasonably sure that the majority of China's assets are owned by the Chinese, for instance - and they're the second-largest economy in the world right now.

They're also on track to overtake the US by 2030 (as per that article) - so the Garland of 2035 might be writing about Chinese male privilege.

Garland: It is obvious that this violent status quo will not change without a struggle, and the only way to do so will be through the expropriation of these various assets and equitably distribute them to those who need them.

Is it really a "violent" status quo?

It's a common thing in third-wave feminism to refer to any undesirable reality as "violent". If someone you don't like exercises their rights, that's violence. If people keep quiet about something you think they should be vocal about, that's violence. If someone speaks up and disagrees with you, that's violence. Rights, laws, speech, even thoughts can be violent to a third-wave feminist - this is that Stalinist/authoritarian streak showing through.

Garland's not wrong that things won't change without a struggle, but then all of life is a perpetual struggle. There is no "destination" that can be arrived at - no utopia which is final and perfect (except possibly for death).

Life is a constant competition for resources and status. Seven billion parallel quests to define and lead a meaningful life, in a reality which none of us chose to be born. Every day is a struggle - within ourselves, within our peer groups, within society at large. Without that struggle, there would be no motive for growth, no impetus for change, nothing to motivate us to grow and learn - to do more and be more.

In short: "Struggle" is not a bug. It's a feature.

The second half of that (expropriation and equal distribution) is a classic socialist philosophy, and has failed everywhere it has been implemented. Most recently, Venezuela. You cannot divide your way to growth, and you cannot achieve equality through redistribution. It's a seductive, dangerous myth.

Garland: This will not only make the world a more equitable place, but will also go some way to paying the debt that white males owe the world.

What about the debt that the world owes to white males? How many white men have died in wars defending their families and principles? How many white male inventors poured their lives into creating new technologies that allow us to live longer, healthier, happier and more productive lives?

To insinuate that white men, globally, as a block, owe the world some major "debt" is a very disingenuous argument. The world is not that neat a place, the history is not that definite, and there's no way you'd ever begin to reckon the final balance of white men's contributions (and destruction) in the world.

This is an empty argument, deserving of an equally empty dismissal.

Garland: Over the past 500 years colonialism, slavery, and various aggressive wars and genocides, have been due to the actions of white men.

Actually, no. It was the Turks.

In 1453, the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople. Among other things, it was the sole trade route for spices from the Orient - which in turn was one of the most valuable commodities in Europe. The demand for spice was huge, and the Ottomans took advantage of that by adding heavy taxes to the merchandise headed for the west.

In response, Europe set about trying to find a new route to the Orient, to bypass the Ottoman Empire's hold over that one valuable trade route. That expansion led to colonies being formed in the US and Africa, and those colonies grew over time into the "colonial era" we know about today.

That's a gross oversimplification of historical events, and I'd encourage everyone to read up a bit more about that period. I'm only bringing it up to illustrate my point: History is complicated. If it were not for Constantinople falling, the spice trade would have continued to run along the same routes, there would not have been a major drive to find an alternative route to the Orient, and history in Africa specifically would have played out very differently.

To try and lay the blame for five hundred years of choices solely at the feet of one group of people, differentiated solely by their race and gender, is simply absurd.

Garland: Redistributing some of their assets will go some way to paying the historical debt that they owe society.

Same as above - you cannot divide your way to growth.

Garland: It is no surprise that liberalism – and its ideological offshoots of conservatism and libertarianism – are the most popular ideologies among white males.

I'm not sure what data Garland is basing this assumption on (that liberalism is the most popular ideology), so I'm going to assume it's just a "feels right" fabrication and move on to the next point, which is the meat of this argument:

Garland: These ideologies with their focus on individuals and individual responsibility, rather than group affiliation, allow white men to ignore the debt that they owe society, and from acknowledging that most of their assets, wealth, and privilege are the result of theft and violence.

Except that it's not.

Garland is alluding to two things here - collective guilt, and inter-generational wealth transfer. Or at least, I hope she is, because those are the only substantive things you could argue with a point like that.

As of today, most white men do not accumulate wealth through violence - they do it through working, building businesses, investing, and occasionally, getting really lucky in a lottery. If there was an epidemic of white men acquiring their wealth through actual theft and violence, the world would look a lot different. A lot more like feudal Europe in the 1300s, possibly.

A smaller portion of white men make their money through less honest means, to be sure - actual theft, corruption, Ponzi schemes, and so on. Those are usually criminal activities though, and there's a justice system for dealing with that.

A very tiny percentage of white men make most of their money through inheritance - they simply have rich parents, who yield their estate to their children. If you were to look at these super-rich families today, chances are they built their wealth off completely legal and ethical industries - food, manufacturing, transport, entertainment, media, and so on.

There might be a couple thousand people in the world who have accumulated substantial wealth via the prison and military industrial complexes in various nations - the companies that build the guns, bombs and vehicles, that feed and equip the soldiers, that run the private prisons, and so on.

Those white men, you could realistically say, owe most of their assets and wealth to actual violence. Without war, crime or death, they would not have anything to build their industries on.

However, that's not the intent of Garland's argument, which is to simply paint every white man as the recipient of an unfair advantage, gained by dishonest and violent means. That's an application of Collective Guilt, a doctrine which was born out of the First World War. And happened to be a major cause of World War II:

At the time, economists, notably John Maynard Keynes, warned that the victors were imposing a brutal "Carthaginian peace," a reference to the peace imposed on Carthage by Rome 2,000 years before, which amounted to a complete crushing of the enemy and which also mandated the payment of constant tribute.

Germans' feelings of victimization and hatred of Versailles were soon exploited by Adolf Hitler. Many analysts now conclude that this miscarriage of justice, this experience of collective punishment, backfired and helped pave the road to World War II.

Source: Should nations pay the price for their leaders' misdeeds?

So not only does the notion of Collective Guilt not solve anything, it actively makes the problem worse, and can only blow up in the face of whoever's trying to impose it.

Anyone with even a partially-grounded sense of empathy and compassion towards other humans would grasp that. You can't accuse millions of people of being criminals when they've done nothing wrong, then expect to be able to take away their rights, while demanding that they be okay with it because of past injustices carried out by people who are no longer alive.

That's literally how you start World Wars.

Garland: Some may argue that this is unfair. Let's be clear, it may be unfair, but a moratorium on the franchise for white males for a period of between 20 and 30 years is a small price to pay for the pain inflicted by white males on others, particularly those with black, female-identifying bodies.

By now, I hope I've built up enough of a case as to why you cannot reasonably disenfranchise white men. It's somewhere between short-sighted and profoundly stupid. So I won't address the first part of that.

I will however comment on the second, in that I find it odd that the word "bodies" keeps being used. You see it everywhere with modern activists, especially when they're accusing some race or group of being violent: the violence is inflicted on "black bodies", "woman's bodies", "children's bodies", and so on.

What about the minds? Was it not Steve Biko himself who said:

“The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”

By making your cause about the pain inflicted on bodies, and demanding reparations for the damage done to bodies, you're elevating "bodies" to an unreasonable importance, given that it's the minds that are the key.

Unless if it's not important to modern activists, and third-wave feminists in particular? I would personally find it fitting that an anti-intellectual movement that labels people indiscriminately, shouts down reasoned arguments with slurs, and appeals to feelings instead of facts, would not consider their minds to be the most important thing.

Garland: In addition, white men should not be stripped of their other rights, and this withholding of the franchise should only be a temporary measure, as the world rights the wrongs of the past.

As I pointed out above, this would be impractical. If white men could not vote, but could own property, they would simply keep using that influence to buy the votes they want. Disenfranchisement would be ineffective and meaningless.

Garland: A withholding of the franchise from white males, along with the passing of legislation in this period to redistribute some of their assets, will also, to a degree, act as the reparations for slavery, colonialism, and apartheid, which the world is crying out for to be paid.

More emotive language. Nothing in this statement adds to anything else in the argument (it's all been said), but it's an opportunity to use the phrase "crying out".

If there's one thing the world is truly crying out for, it's liberation from poverty, it's security of person and property, and opportunity to build better lives - and it's most likely to be provided by globalization and capitalism, the evil boogeymen of third-wave feminism:

Garland: As we saw after the recent altercation between a white man and Lebohang Mabuya at a Spur restaurant in Johannesburg, white males still believe that they are in control, and people who aren't white or male (in particularly black female-identifying people) have to bow to their every whim.

I wrote about this previously. In summary: that incident was messy, but Garland is taking a very bad reading of a very heated situation, trying to use it to build the case that "white males believe they're in control".

So does everyone with a superiority complex and a violent streak - attributes that are not unique to white men.

Garland: There are numerous other examples of white angry male violence in South Africa and abroad, often against black bodies (Dylann Roof's terrorist actions in the United States is only one of many examples).

Dylann Roof was a tragic case. He was the gunman behind the Charleston church shooting in 2015, in which he killed nine people. His stated intent was to start a civil war, and he genuinely believed that black people were "taking over" America.

There will always be criminals and lunatics that do criminal and insane things. It's an unfortunate reality that has been with us since the dawn of humanity. The only known way to fix it though, is with understanding and compassion.

Identity politics, othering, and victimizing innocent people is definitely not the way to bridge the gap.

Garland: It is time to wrestle control of the world back from white males, and the first step will be a temporary restriction of the franchise to them.

Can I call this one case-closed yet?

Garland: Although this may seem unfair and unjust, allowing white males to continue to call the shots politically and economically, following their actions over the past 500 years, is the greater injustice.

I don't mean to solely defend white men, or to diminish the achievements and contributions of others, but since the Garland piece focuses entirely on the damage caused by white men, I at least have to retort in kind, and with the same focus.

I believe that, in the final accounting, white men have done at least as much good in the world, as they have done harm. Between agriculture, medicine, and modern technology, we are living much better lives. It's my belief that this will enable the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs from all over the world.

That's the conclusion of the Garland article. Now let's return to the premise.

This was not hate speech

Under the Constitution, this article did not constitute hate speech. Having picked through it thoroughly, I found no incitement that would meet the narrow restrictions imposed by the Bill of Rights.

Under the Equality Act (PEPUDA), however, it does meet the criteria for hate speech. The question this now raises is: Is PEPUDA too broad? Did we over-correct for the Apartheid regime by putting laws in that paradoxically limit our range of acceptable expression, by trying too hard to protect people from offense?

I am not qualified to answer that question, but I do think it's worthy of debate. Everyone in South Africa has a voice now (thanks in no small part to social media), and it's time for us to learn how to engage eachother responsibly, while permitting crazy, wild, Garland-class hypotheticals.

It was permissible comment

While HuffPo did fail their internal checks for authenticity and validity, it was published as an opinion piece, and nothing in it strikes me as unconstitutional. It's poorly-researched, emotive, it labels an entire race/gender group and argues for their disenfranchisement, but you also have to consider the context: It's just a blog post.

No MP, no President, no political party leader, no media house, no newsmaker, and no role model has said anything close to this on a public platform before, and we may be rightfully more concerned if they did.

Public comment can, and should, be the wild west of political and social debate. Political freedom begins with freedom of speech, and the freedom to debate offensive ideas.

Pillay's defense of the argument highlighted a much more serious issue

The issue being: third-wave feminism, with it's loose regard for the truth and its penchant for labelling and demonizing people, without engaging in substantive debate.

Feminism used to be a solid, moral movement for equality - it's now becoming a shrill, extremist, misandrist front, and it should be met with resistance by anyone interested in true equality of the sexes.

There's a huge body of work out there that dissects this, but I will start you out with Factual Feminist, a video series by Christina Hoff Summers, in which she deftly picks apart the arguments and positions of the modern feminist movement.

The judgement issued by Retief absolutely has to be appealed

The judgement, in my opinion, should have been limited to the fact that HuffPo failed basic editorial checks, and fell afoul of the Press Code. The part of the judgement declaring it hate speech should be revisited, and I would hope that any appeal of the judgement would extend into an interrogation of the Equality Act itself.

Whew. That's it from me.

In conclusion, I hope that this is the start of a much-needed conversation here in South Africa, and that we collectively have the fortitude to see past the labels and the screaming, find eachother as humans, and engage in an honest discussion about what it means to be a South African in 2017.

Wogan May

A South African citizen looking for Truth and Reconciliation among all the noise. Believes in Libertarian principles, and Capitalism as the engine for prosperity.

South Africa

Subscribe to Observation Point

Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox.

or subscribe via RSS with Feedly!