Llewellyn Kriel
Llewellyn Kriel

Hey, wena, what you got to say?

Many of Thought Leader’s regular bloggers worry whether the people who read these blogs actually do so with any measure of intellectual diligence.

The cause for our concerns is the very low standard of almost half of the comments readers take the time to write. We often look at the garbled, nonsensical, immature inanities commentators daub like so much vegetative vandalism in response to carefully considered and well-articulated blogs and ask ourselves and each other: “What is this cretin smoking?”

The fundamental raison d’etre for Thought Leader is to provoke meaningful debate. The people who write here have (a) been invited to contribute based on proven writing skill, intellectual dexterity, rhetorical strength and extensive experience, (b) take their jobs very bloody seriously and (c) are not paid at all. We do this because we believe we have something valuable to contribute to the “Big Debate”.

Consequently, most of us devote many hours to ensure writing of the very highest standard we can. We revise, sub, rewrite and often bounce essays off each other (even those we know hold opposing views) to ensure we produce the best blogs of which we’re capable. My average investment of time is four hours.

And we take such pride in our work that most of us put our real names to our thoughts. That demands integrity and courage — and many of us have suffered severe consequences as a result of what we have been brave enough to say in Thought Leader.

I don’t write that wanting you, dear reader, to fawn obsequiously over us (I leave that to the likes of Julius and Winnie and their comrade cabbages) nor do I want any high encomium (though everybody likes to be complimented on their work). What we do ask however — and here we have the unqualified support of the highly professional editors and subs at the Mail & Guardian, under whose august name TL resides — is that you devote the same attention to the quality of your responses and comments.

This is a forum for debate, not slander (even if our skins are as thick as rhino hide). If we can’t take well-considered, well-crafted and well-articulated opposition, we have no right to write here. Hey, who knows, we might even be persuaded to change our minds. Or at least learn something. We’re as fallible and human as you are. Hell, even a hard-arse like me has had to grant the validity of a differing viewpoint on numerous occasions. But that’s what TL is all about!

But it is not only insulting to read feedback comments that irrefutably demonstrate the reader did not read (let alone, understand) the blog, but lacks the basic intellectual ability to formulate a cogent comment or coherent counter-argument. I won’t stoop to regurgitating the long list of aliases, names or noms de plume of the semi-sentient life forms who repeatedly prove the truth of the maxim that it is better to keep quiet and be thought an idiot than to open one’s mouth and dispel all doubt.

Sadly, it’s why many erudite and perspicacious writers with more than a passing acquaintance with the English language and its use no longer contribute to Thought Leader. That is a shameful loss.

I make no bones about my abhorrence of communism and fascism and my dislike of nationalism, about the resounding and repeated ineptitude of the ruling ANC party, about the fundamental injustice inherent in proportional representation, about my mistrust of private-public partnerships, about the dominant business models which encourage secrecy and eschew freedom of expression, about a culture which entrenches power in the hands of a few, about the prevalence of silent and docile acquiescence of people based on an archaic social paradigm, about the ham-fisted handling (or rather lack of handling) of crime, HIV/Aids, primary healthcare, mental healthcare, addiction, education and rampant government corruption, about the lack of social ethics, moral rectitude and the pervasive lowering of standards of excellence.

I condemn any form of inequity and prejudice based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, religious belief or non-belief, physical or mental conditions and social status. I remain deeply distressed about South Africa’s present and future, and see little cause for pink-eyed “positivity”. The scattering of sputtering candles of hope (mine included) in the hurricane of furious night is hardly cause for wild rejoicing in the streets.

And I make no bones about the fact that I write my blogs in MS Word first because I cannot rely on Vodacom to maintain wireless internet connectivity consistently enough to warrant their extortionist fees, let alone entrust this blog not to be lost in the ether of cyberspace.

As for those who persist in condemning me as being “negative”, I share Martin Luther King’s dreams, the lofty goals of Albert Schweitzer, the simple fallibility of Mother Teresa, the fears and doubts of Albert Einstein, the hopes of Nelson Mandela and the cruel cravings of all recovering alcoholics.

I also take solace in the “negativity” of which Isaiah, Jeremiah, Francis of Assisi, St Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Mohammed, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Aldous Huxley were accused in the past. In referring to these great people of history, I am painfully aware of how far I fall short of their examples, stature, intellectual power and moral fortitude.

Critics can never be above criticism. But it is surely not unreasonable that they demand of their critics comprehension, coherence, cogency and competence — qualities that are sadly lacking in the bulk of comments in response to Thought Leader blogs.

But holding a mirror up to myself does not preclude me from holding that same mirror up to society. In both images I see flaws and favours.

But that’s just me. How about you, dear reader?