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Secret letter to Jon Qwelane

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
Germany!

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?

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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!

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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,

Koos

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.

Author

  • Koos Kombuis, the legendary Afrikaans author and musician, has published two books under this English pseudonym Joe Kitchen, the childrens' story "Hubert the Useless the Unicorn" and the satirical novel "Sushi with Hitler", which is available as a Kindle download on Amazon. In his free time, he drinks coffee and sells his amateur art works online.

28 Comments

  1. Tinyiko Tinyiko 3 June 2011

    though immensely disagreeable, this is brilliant argumentation – from one weirdo to another about another.

  2. Jeremy Jeremy 3 June 2011

    I’ve been looking for the ‘Like’ icon but can’t find it. Bugger!

  3. Dave Harris Dave Harris 4 June 2011

    I find it bizzare that you deliberately make no mention of the REAL SOURCE of this new form of hate in Africa – those fundamentalist Christian groups from Western countries bankrolling these evil laws by using Africa yet again to spread their fundamentalism. This time a jihad against GLBT rights!

    Mark Gevisser wrote an excellent article on this: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-06-04-homosexuality-and-the-battle-for-africas-soul and the Dec 2009 article “Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill: Inspired by the U.S.” http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1946645,00.html provides more insight.

  4. Andrew Lees Andrew Lees 4 June 2011

    Love your work, Koos. Very good read. Just one thing, if Jean-Jacques Rousseau did say that, I think ha was quoting Voltaire.

  5. Sipho Verwoerd Sipho Verwoerd 4 June 2011

    Koos, what pisses most people off however is that people like you and Jon actually have opinions and you entitle yourselves more right to express them as more valuable than others, which leads to a closed loop. The more you express yourself the more you believe you are right. So shut the f*ck up and enjoy life a bit more. Sipho

  6. benzo benzo 4 June 2011

    The answer to all your problems (and Jon’s) is mutual tolerance: “live and let live” and allow for the odd “bad hair” day.

  7. MLH MLH 4 June 2011

    Delightful! Such a way with words…

  8. GD GD 4 June 2011

    Koos, that’s a nicely provocative piece, but I’m not entirely sure what your message is. I get the impression you are in favour of free speech (since it’s an essential component for a western democratic system) but only if it is polite and respectful.

    I don’t agree with that. In my opinion, anything falling short of incitement to violence (or other crime) towards a certain group is acceptable. (Btw such crime should be the only type classifiable as “hate crime”, unless we want to give government an even bigger stick for controlling the little people.) Offensive free speech must be allowed unless we want to be ruled by your Dictatorship of the Politically Correct. Without free speech, we cannot identify, discuss and fix social problems.

    Of course, people will abuse their right to free speech, but let the social corrective mechanisms take care of that (or the legal system, in cases of slander or libel).

    About the burka-ban: do not consider this in isolation. It was partly a reaction to a perceived assault on Western culture and partly based on common sense (being identifiable). Yes, masks, masques and other facial coverings are allowed in Western culture, but not to the extent that they interfere with daily life. As for Lady Gaga, she employed the mask in her role as a celebrity and this, too, has always been allowed in the West.

    Looking forward to more of your thoughts on this subject,

    GD

  9. Jon Story Jon Story 4 June 2011

    The dog worries me. Depressed? Surely you did not tell him(her) the facts of life? Is jy ffing gek?
    It could be the kos you feed him of course or did you have him/her gedokter?

  10. Rory Short Rory Short 4 June 2011

    Excellent post!

  11. Lockstock Lockstock 4 June 2011

    Jon Qwelane is a political appointee, an actual Ambassador of the nation, representing South Africa in Uganda. His previous and continued gaffs, opinions and musings must have been taken into consideration when receiving this appointment. Mnr Kombuis – with all due respect – writes in his own capacity and his thoughts and ramblings are there for everyone to discuss, or leave. They raise no international hackles at any level, never mind politically. Qwelane’s opinions have far reaching effect as it can be considered that they, with his narrow mindedness and his evident racism, is fairly representative of the views of the SAn government and it’s people.

    In all fairness, Jon pretty much epitomises the New (unimproved) South African in all it’s splendour. Zuma’s antics and personal excesses most certainly would confirm this, especially if you consider who he hung around with on his recent road-trips for the municipal elections. Malenema, Zuma and Jon all seem to be cut from the same, tatty cloth.

  12. Eugene Eugene 4 June 2011

    Good article, exactly my thoughts, but I could not have said as articulately as you have.

  13. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 4 June 2011

    The idiocy of it all is that Jon Qwelane is now being tarred and feathered because he allegedly tarred and feathered gay people and/or animal lovers. As it were.

    I think RAW said it best:

    I think this issue arouses so much fury because people are not aware that group-hate has never become unfashionable. Only the target groups ever change. Thus, the Ku Klux Klan’s dogma “All black men are potential rapists” is ignorant, awful and politically incorrect, because it targets a group now on the “unfashionable to hate” list. The feminist “all men are potential rapists” is enlightened, educated and politically correct because it targets a group now on the “fashionable to hate” list.

  14. Koos Kombuis Koos Kombuis 4 June 2011

    Andrew: Oepsie. Dave Harris: I’m starting to like you. You should start your own blog!

  15. Shaman sans Frontieres Shaman sans Frontieres 5 June 2011

    Eish. Lumka nja!

    I for my part know a most attractive hyena and coyote.

    Good opinions, by which I mean opinions that make people take delight, and learn, are golden and rare. Ornery opinions are worth two cents and are legion, and even more ornery ones worth a half cent are made because the speaker knows they’ve got a captive audience of fellow bigots.

    The most ornery of all are nothing more than the mirror reflection of the dark side of the speaker, and that’s to some degree, paradoxically speaking, enlightening. Jon Q is very Q in this regard.

    Thank you for your honesty, Mr Kombuis. I was sorry to hear of the passing of another musician name of Kitchen – any relation?

    I have no truck with those who cast opinions upon the waters in the full knowledge that theirs are both partisan and guaranteed of partisan concurrence, but also vicious at the same time.

    J Q would not be wanted at my dining table because since the eighteenth century I have only had time for polite, engaging, and delightful conversation at my table.

    In the bush I feel different. In the bush I am prepared to have drunken speakers of dark truths blurt things out around the fire. Dronkverdriet is their recompense and others are too occupied next morning with survival to be bothered.

    But since we’re no longer, collectively speaking, in the bush, Jon Q is not welcome at my table.

  16. EA Blair EA Blair 5 June 2011

    koos, do you have some insight into Dave Harris’s identity? P.s. Dave I thrilled to say that I agree with you this time.

  17. flic flic 5 June 2011

    Koos, you rightly come out against Qwelane as a bigot but use intolerance against Muslims as a comparison.
    But, really, Koos, it’s not hard to understand the Koran “Whoever you catch committing the act of the people of Lut (homosexuality), then kill both parties to the act”. Just like Leviticus. Some countries have the death penalty for gays. However if you or I call this hate speech, it can be construed as hate speech against Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
    We’re buggered if we do and buggered if we don’t.

  18. Gail Gail 5 June 2011

    Loved the column and the responses.

  19. Al Al 5 June 2011

    Dave Harris: Can I deduce that you are equally critical of both Qwelane and the Christian fundamentalist groups in Africa, or are some gay-bashers more equal than other gay-bashers.
    Yes or No? You need offer only a one word reply!!!

  20. Albertus Albertus 5 June 2011

    Koos, my view on poolitical correctness.

    Political Correctness:
    Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

  21. Leon Leon 5 June 2011

    Dankie, Koos. Jy’s die man. Sit dinge in perspektief. Een van my kinders swot nou vir sy LO (Lewens Orientering) eksamem- graad 9. ‘ ATKV Redenaars finalis. Ek gaan verseker seker maak dat hy die blog lees. Jou rede gaan hom baie help. Ook die SA konteks. Danke.

  22. Dave Harris Dave Harris 6 June 2011

    @EA Blair
    Why is my identity of any importance? I don’t understand.

    @Al
    No.
    Koos’s anger is misplaced since the they guys that decide the fate of this bill are the mega churches from the US, not Jon Qwelane! Why doesn’t Koos have the courage to speak out against the leaders of churches? I suppose its the same reason why most white South Africans voted for the National Party and continue to vote for the DA.

    Just like the architects of apartheid, have a special place in hell, so too do the religious fundamentalists, the architects of these inhuman laws. i.e. most of the racists and homophobic among us are victims of the system of hatred conceived in the ivory towers of these fundamentalist institutions.

  23. Gersie Dee Gersie Dee 6 June 2011

    very funny read

  24. emile emile 6 June 2011

    Good stuff Koos! A friend said this, I think it’s appropriate here: “I’d like to live in a country where Malema can sing his song, but chooses not to”. Live long & prosper!

  25. Mitishamba Mitishamba 7 June 2011

    This is my first time reading your Blog Sir, and I’m glad I came across it. Your work is from a place I think that’s sturdy – the heart.
    Politically correct people lack heart so they diminish words because they are hiding the true intent of their heart. So they say a lot to hide the little meaning that can be found in how they feel about an individual. I think if words are without hate, they’re just that – a basic form of communicating an emotional thought – heart.
    I think that’s what I’m doing with @ http://www.mitishamba.com ….trying to get Afrikans to speak with pride because it’s not words that define us, its our hearts – actions. Your actions in this and your other work is heart.

  26. Lucky Ntuli Lucky Ntuli 17 June 2011

    My bokkie,

    Altyd, Sterkte!!

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