Categories
Morality Politics

Credibility depends on where you live (apparently)

Many, many years ago, I wrote something about how Barry Ronge was talking nonsense when he said that we can’t take Breyten Breytenbach calling South Africa a “kleptocracy” seriously when he (BB) doesn’t even live in South Africa.

Today, Helen Zille is talking the same nonsense, in response to a Justice Malala column (probably paywalled) that includes this paragraph:

The less said about Helen Zille’s appearance the better. She wore her “I am an African” T-shirt, got her usual detractors hot under the collar on Twitter, and left knowing that she had achieved her goal for the day: to trend on Twitter.

And which concludes with the sentence “Zille, Malema or AfriForum’s Kallie Kriel will not give a toss about them [victims of farm murders] unless there are cameras rolling.”

Those are the only references to Helen Zille in the column. And yes, they aren’t kind, but refuting anything that Malala says is surely not best achieved by saying “you have moved to California, and I visited Senekal”, which is pretty much what Zille response says.

Malala might well be wrong, or even malicious in how he describes what happened in Senekal last week. But, all that this response does is to affirm a polarised segment of supporters who hold one position, and to demonise opposing positions, simply for the sake of their being “outsider” views”.

What are the logical boundaries of this epistemic authority? Do you need to go through passport control before losing the capacity to have a view? Can one express criticism after leaving one job for another, or after moving from the suburb of Gardens to Observatory? Or moving from the Democratic Alliance to the Institute of Race Relations (or maybe in the other direction, a few years later)?

And, do we have a neat way to separate this denial of argumentative credibility – based on the fact that you have emigrated – from the denial of respect for your rights based on the fact that you have immigrated, or have refugee status?

(And, do your arguments (whether awful or not) ever matter at all?)

Categories
General Headspace

I hope this finds you well

Readers of a certain age (in this case, I suspect this means anyone over 30 or so) will remember that there was a time when nobody started an email with the sentence “I hope this finds you well”.

Sometime in the last 5 or so years, some evil cabal has decided to tell secondary school pupils – and even (theoretically) fully-hatched people in the workplace – that all emails have to begin with this sentence.

Categories
Morality Religion

Trusting ourselves after lockdown

South Africa will move to level 3 of our Coronavirus lockdown on June 1. More economic activity will be permitted, we can exercise anytime (within the curfew hours), buy alcohol, and attend religious services (in groups of 50 or fewer). We won’t be able to buy tobacco, even though the state’s case for this restriction is threadbare.

But even as the gradual resumption of something resembling normal life picks up pace, there sometimes seems little room for optimism. There are widespread riots in the USA after more black citizens were killed by police, and here at home, Collins Khoza is one of many who have been killed by overly zealous members of the police and army while enforcing their interpretation of lockdown.

Categories
Politics

Politics in a pandemic: the rationality of restrictions

South Africa has been under lockdown for seven weeks now, in what seems to be one of the most restrictive Covid-19 lockdowns anywhere in the world. And while most people I talk to still support the lockdown in general, there seems to be increasing dissent regarding some of its regulations – even outside of the Twitter echo chamber of outrage.

Categories
General Science Skepticism

Noakes and vaccine-assisted herd immunity

This entry is part 30 of 30 in the series Noakes

Professor Tim Noakes has published a response to Nathan Geffen’s criticism of a recent radio interview, where Geffen argued that Noakes was running the risk of misleading the public and “demean[ing] the scientific and medical community”.

One reason I haven’t written about Noakes for 18 months or so – despite his recent interest in climate-change scepticism, and his continued misrepresentation of his critics – is that I thought he was doing enough to demonstrate his epistemic irresponsibility without people like me having to point it out.

Categories
Morality Politics

The City of Cape Town and management of public spaces

Last week, I suggested on Twitter that Capetonians might want to comment on the City’s “management of public spaces” by-law amendments before the deadline of May 17, but didn’t say why, hoping that people would read the amendments and decide for themselves.

But in case it’s useful, here is a short summary of my concerns. You are free to copy and paste them into your responses if you choose, or to submit a version of them under your own name.

Categories
Culture Headspace

Who will we be “after” Covid-19?

When I was selling books on the floor of a branch of Olsson’s Books, an independent bookstore in Baltimore, MD 30 years ago, Robert Pirsig’s Lila: An Inquiry into Morals arrived in one of our regular shipments from the distributors. Lila was the sequel to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1992.

Categories
Morality Science

Coronavirus lockdown, South Africa: bioethics and miscellany

Today is day 10 of South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown, which has been implemented with a resolve rarely seen in our country, with the military deployed to assist the police in keeping people in their homes. Unfortunately, neither they – nor the police – are (in general) accustomed to much besides being authoritarian. They certainly don’t have a history of “shower[ing] our people with guidance [and] leadership”, as President Ramaphosa asked of them when they were sent into the streets.

Categories
Morality Science

COVID-19, South Africa, and humility regarding scientific reasoning

Eusebius McKaiser (host of a show on Radio 702) and I were meant to be part of a public discussion at WiSER (based at Wits University) on COVID-19 and its social implications later this week. The conversation was in the end postponed – not because of health risks (although that is now an utterly sensible reason for postponing) – but because some people thought that a philosophical conversation was inappropriate, and that WiSER should include epidemiologists, virologists and the like on any panel related to this coronavirus.

Categories
Politics

FW de Klerk, [some of] the DA, and crimes against sanity

Sometimes a technical definition of something matters significantly less than the demonstrable effects it has had. If Harvey Weinstein is acquitted of the various rape charges he’s facing, that would have no implications for the women he has abused (if he is indeed guilty, as I believe he is).