Hallo, Jon, how are you? From riches to rags, you say? I empathise!
I decided to write to you on an impulse. I don’t know you personally, I have never met you, but what the hell. I’m a columnist, too, and, as you know very well, column writing is a dangerous job, especially these days. Terrible things can happen to column writers, Jon!
Hell, Jon, one single little careless comment can land a columnist in very hot water. (Or, as in your case, quite a number of careless comments.) The terrible truth is, hate speech can happen to anyone. It’s a bit like this new mystery E coli bacteria they discovered in
Can I share something with you, Jon?
A couple of years ago, I published a virulent attack on people with bipolar disorder. In a blog entry I claimed, with utter sincerity, and without mincing my words, that al hierdie so-called bipolar mense should all just go off and spend some time on a Bolandse plaas, where they should walk around barefoot in the beesmis until they felt better.
Oepsie. Big mistake. A complaint was laid before the South African Human Rights Commission. Though they did not take the complaint very seriously, I realised that I had caused real hurt, Jon, and I felt compelled to issue a public apology and withdrew that blog entry completely. The long and the short of it, Jon, was that I realised I had made a first-class ass-hole of myself.
But Jon, things are not always as simple as they seem! What bothers me is this: what exactly are the perimeters of hate speech? Is it a crime simply to have a certain opinion, or is it the way one expresses that opinion that makes the difference between plain stupidity (like mine) or actual anti-social behaviour punishable by the rules of society (like yours)?
Here’s the dilemma, Jon: if an opinion, in itself, can be judged as morally wrong, can we really force someone to change his opinion? Is that not a bit like the situation in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, where the judge tried to coerce the Jew, Shylock, into embracing Christianity?
You know, Jon, it’s when I look at issues from this perspective that I actually start to feel a bit sorry for you.
Are we perhaps heading for something worse than the dreaded info bill? Are we heading towards a Dictatorship of the Politically Correct? How long before people with obnoxious viewpoints (like you and me, for instance) are hunted down by the Thought Police and tortured into conformity?
I’m going to say something you might find a bit offensive, Jon, but you know, you are not the only weirdo I feel sorry for. I also feel quite a bit of sympathy for that Afrikaans author Annelie Botes. Remember Tannie Annelie? She was in hot water last year for saying, in an interview with Rapport, that she “didn’t like black people”. Oepsie, oepsie, oepsie!
One thing you’ve got to hand this Annelie gal, saying such a thing in this day and age sure took some guts. Just like the goeters you said about gays in this day and age must have sure taken some guts.
Of course, I don’t LIKE what Tannie Annelie said in that Rapport interview when she confessed that she “didn’t like black people” because she “didn’t understand them”. But, in a way, let’s face it, she was also rather disarmingly honest. Just as disarmingly honest, in fact, as you and me, Jon!
Here’s an analogy.
Between you and me, Jon, I don’t understand Moslems (I have often tried to read the Koran, but it still doesn’t make any sense to me). If however, I were to go one step further, like Mevrou Annelie did, and say publicly “I don’t understand Moslems, therefore I don’t like Moslems”, wouldn’t that be a crime? It would certainly be very rude. It would also be faulty reasoning. (Even if you don’t understand quantum physics, you can still like it.)
The point I’m trying to make, however, isn’t that the same thing the Western propaganda machine is saying — “we don’t like Moslems” — all the time? And they’re not even giving reasons!
By passing laws against the wearing of the simple burka, by spreading rumours — true or false — about Osama bin Laden’s pornography habits, by constantly taking political decisions that lean ever so slightly towards a pro-Israel, anti-Arab bias, the forces that shape prevalent Western opinions are constantly trying to persuade me to “understand” how inferior and inherently evil the Islamic worldview is!
Have you ever noticed that, Jon? I’m sure you have!
And, you know, Jon, if I did not have Moslem friends, if I had never lived in the Bo-Kaap, if I had never spent time with the locals of Istanbul, I would probably have believed them. But now I know better. I know that every single Moslem person I have ever met (with the possible exception of Najwa Petersen) is a likeable and warm human being worthy of my affection and respect. Maybe I was just lucky, but that’s how it is. True enough, I can’t make head or tails of the Koran, but I happen to like Moslems anyway! So what! Does that make me a weird person, too?
What I’m trying to say is this, Jon: the Dictatorship of the Politically Correct is a very real thing in this supposedly civilised world we live in, and we should all be afraid, very afraid.
I think people should be more afraid than they are of the dictatorship than they are of one or two weirdos who would not have been noticed by anybody if the dictatorship hadn’t pointed them out to everybody in the first place.
Look at it this way, Jon. The Dictatorship of the Politically Correct is a dictatorship that punishes cold-blooded murder and supposedly values freedom of speech while at the same time denying Bin Laden a fair trial and a lawyer.
Jon, it is a dictatorship that ridicules Jacob Zuma for having three wives at a time but ignores the trigamy of Hugh Hefner and the girls of the Playboy mansion.
It is a dictatorship that denies women in Belgium and France the right to cover the bottom half of their faces but admires Lady Gaga for turning up dress-less for the David Letterman show with the top half of her face covered, Jon.
It is also a dictatorship that criticises the ANC’s info bill while trying their best to stifle Julian Assange and assassinate his public image.
Hell, Jon, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the other guys are always right, or that I agree with the info bill. Especially not that. I’m just saying it’s time we took a long, hard look at ourselves.
So: if you are guilty of something, Jon — and I’m sure you are — so are all of us. None of us have the right to cast the first stone.
What’s the lesson in this?
Well, Jon, from my part, and speaking personally, all is forgiven, that’s what I’m saying. You can come home from Uganda now. And ag okei, you can even hate gays if you really want, I don’t mind.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau springs to mind: “I don’t agree with you, you f**kin’ weirdo, but I am prepared to die for your right to be a f**kin’ weirdo.” (Of so-iets.)
Baie liefde en groete,
Your fellow weirdo,
PS: Oh, just one more thing, Jon. Whatever you write next, PLEASE don’t EVER compare homosexuality to bestiality again. My gay friends felt really uncomfortable when they read that, and my dog is very depressed about it too.