I was being chastised the other day, as sometimes happens - for criticizing the fundamentalist attack on democracy in one of my earlier articles - and one guy thought that proving to me that Christians "invented" the concept of democracy, he would rubbish my argument.
"The concept of democracy was founded by christians, embraced by christians and is still widely supported by christians." He said.
Right. So what about all those poor Greeks who thought they invented it around 4000 years ago? Boy don't they feel stupid now? Reminds me of that old BA ad - "We didn't invent flying - we perfected it", only in my mind it goes: "We didn't invent religion - we just hijacked it".
Last but not least, we have all those Levitican leaders who are doing their level best to get global democracy to fall on its sword for the sake of their puritan sense of morality and delusions of dominion and "right to rule" and doing a fair imitation of "Pinky and the Brain".
The way I see democracy is that there shouldn't be double standards. Everyone should be equal and everyone should be treated equally. And certain things like freedoms and civil rights that are set in the constitution should not be undermined - and above all, the electorate should not be deceived or lied to by the government. And democracy shouldn't be used against itself in a shady process to replace it with a totalitarian or fascist corruptorate (yes, I think I may have coined a new term there).
The state is under obligation to protect and to help its citizens. If it doesn't do this, or actively works against the welfare of the citizenry - then it forfeits its mandate and legitimacy. Unfortunately in the case of South Africa it isn't doing this adequately, despite having existing legislation which is adequate to do the job. Moreover, time and again the government is embarrassed when some of its cadres are exposed for some or other wrongdoing in the media - and obviously the solution isn't to clean house and tighten the screws on corruption, the answer is to gag the media to prevent corruption and incompetence from being exposed. Duh. This "Protection of Information Bill" is tantamount to treating only the symptoms of a disease, and not the disease itself - sort of like giving morphine to a dying cancer patient - and yes, I think that is a fairly ironic comparison.
It is a denial of reality, admitting that covering up corruption and wrongdoings is more important than dealing with these problems, creating an atmosphere in which these cancerous tumors can flourish and choke the life out of our democracy like it has in countries like Zimbabwe and countless other African states.
As I have seen in my own Metro area, the authorities just keep playing to the media and make much fanfare of passing new laws to restrict public freedoms and encroach on civil rights - while the rest of us are so ignorant and oblivious to the status quo that we don't even know that there are already laws, statutes and bylaws to deal with whatever these problems are. For example, the solution to cars speeding in suburban areas is not to just put in as many speed-bumps as possible (as is happening in my city) - but to ensure that there are traffic officers patrolling the affected areas. And instead of correcting all those idiot drivers who cannot operate a simple four-way stop - they replace them with traffic circles - which if anything, confuse the poor souls even worse. And the only times I have even seen traffic officers in the past ten years, is when they turn on their sirens to get through the rush hour traffic to the local liquor store, or when they're on strike and blockading the highway. The numerous "municipal police officers" I see loitering in clusters in Rink Street every day I drive past, are always just standing around and chatting - and getting paid for it. Expect them to do anything as useful as the car-guards directing traffic looking for parking spaces there, and they tell you to go look for a policeman. Perhaps what they mean is I should look for a real copper, not a 'pretend' one. The uniforms are nice though - very fetching. Score another point for "job creation" and employing more useless, incompetent people to do nothing at cost to the tax payer.
To sum up, the problem to my mind then, isn't passing new laws - but just actually being competent enough to enforce the existing ones - and putting competent people in the job of doing so. And that's where the wheels fall off the wagon in this country.
The people at the top of the food chain promote themselves as experts in their field, Ministers and MP's and yet can they really do the job? How long have some of them been exposed to the workings of democracy? Time and again, more experienced politicians need to point out to them the flaws in their administration, the ways in which their actions violate due process - and threaten democracy, and also the Constitution.
According to an article in today's paper, President Zuma is in favor of media censorship and restrictions - but of course he is *wink* - how else could he become the next Bob Mugabe? ""They need to be governed themselves because at times they go overboard on the rights," he said. Zuma said the media could not be the only body that understood rights." Just read the article LOL - he argues like a child, in a way that suggests that it makes "perfect sense" to use democracy to take away democratic rights and Constitutional protections of the people just because they make the government look bad. Which is the entire point of having freedom of the press in the first place, isn't it?(Mr Zuma, if you want the press to stop making your administration look corrupt and incompetent, then you should rather focus on fixing your administration.) And of course - right on cue, Kidi Amin swoops in to back the government in turning the Media into a compliant muzzled lap-dog. What a shock. And that's part of the problem you see, if it doesn't suit the leadership of the ruling party, it gets rubbed out like a mark in a B-grade mobster movie. South Africa is not being governed according to democratic principles, it's being ruled by gangsters and cheap punks who have little education and a guerrilla-war understanding of democracy, and who have discovered the opportunities for self-enrichment that come with power - and that these two concepts go together like one hand washing the other.
What makes the whole thing work much smoother, oiling the machine like the soap between the two hands, is the "morality police" - stepping in and providing the perfect pretext for clamping down on freedom of the press, freedom of access to information, freedom of expression and other freedoms most of us now take for granted. What is being said and done now is done under the heading of "we don't approve of this or this or that - because it's 'immoral', or it goes against this, that or the other religious teaching." Various groups have recognized the opportunity to step in and influence government officials who could quite frankly, give a shit about constitutional provisions, and democratic principles - and who in turn recognize the Religious Right's usefulness in providing a good cover to advance their own agendas.
What will happen once this "unholy alliance" (pardon the pun) has served the purposes of the government is anyone's guess, but considering the level of religious groups influence and actual involvement in government structures in terms of deciding policy and direction, I would say that that line dividing Church and State is looking decidedly feint right now.
America's "founding fathers" (note the implied and sexist absence of the founding mothers whose contributions seem to be completely ignored) were puritans practically evicted from England at the time for their fanatical religious extremism. I'm sure they would be proud of the doings of some of their progeny today. As a matter of interest, Thomas Jefferson who authored the Declaration of Independence from England, once had to put down a move by fundamentalists who tried to put it in their colonial constitution that theirs was a "Christian" State - where he declared that all men were created equal, religion is a matter of conscience and that there would be separation of church and state. I'm sure you know this has resulted in a debate on whether the USA is a "Christian" nation or not in the US for centuries.
However if you consider that a nation is made up of individuals, and not all individuals believe in the same god, or any god, then how can it ever be a "Christian" nation? Much of these clampdowns and "moral policing" initiatives come from the Levitican and religious extremist quarter - and if there is a government which is controlled by people who force any one religion above another onto such a diverse nation, it leads to unfairness, persecution and prejudice. It says: "If you aren't a Christian and don't want to listen to us, then we'll MAKE you." That is what the Religious Right is after. That is what makes people like me resist.
I don't like porn - there, I admit it - I'm sure some of those folks claiming that gay and trans people are all porn addicts and perverts will find that surprising - but even though I don't like it, I don't see how I have a right to force that dislike on other people who harm nobody in exercising their own right to privacy or self-expression. Those who do harm others via the porn industry are already addressed by appropriate laws and should be dealt with under them. Likewise, there are already safety measures available and in place to govern child access to porn on the internet and mobile networks - whose fault is it if parents don't use them?
The government is using their own inability to stem crimes related to child abuse as an excuse to push this bill and to violate civil rights of the public, by using an excuse like porn to sneak a law into passage that will allow censorship and "moral policing" as they see fit. And if you come out as opposing the bill, it makes you look like a supporter of porn - reducing the number of people willing to publicly oppose this move - very clever of them.
I like freedom of choice, freedom of information, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. I don't want to have prayer or allegiance to any god forced upon me or my children in school, my workplace, newspaper, TV channel, or on the government owned Mainliner bus service. What I believe, who I love, what I think, what I feel, what I want to watch, read or listen to, who I want to make friends with, whether I pray or not - or who to - is MY business, not the government's.
People should not be afraid of their governments - governments should be afraid of their people.