Why Helen Zille is the Demonic Alliance
Last month, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille again defended her assertion that the legacy of colonialism wasn’t entirely evil. Committed to her interpretation of the rule of law (and the right it affords her to ventilate her views for debate), she projected herself into a future that called her to nobly martyr herself for her version of intellectual honesty.
A corresponding commitment to historical honesty could compel someone to likewise project himself into the future and from that vantage point, observe that the legacy of civil war won’t have been entirely evil for South Africa, either.
Some say civil war would be unwise, mooting the whole discussion on its potential legacy. But our hypothetical time-traveler could ask: why, to the question of civil war (in which white people would also suffer losses) does our generation argue for a wisdom that sees legacy as beyond pros-cons analyses, without applying that standard to the question of colonialism’s legacy? Is it because black lives don’t matter?
At stake is a selective application of our understanding on the difference between intelligence (knowing how to split an atom) and wisdom (knowing why not to split it). “Why” reasons bypass the clinical and take into account the personal not as one of many things that matter but as something whose importance qualifies everything else. That’s why, “How did the chicken cross the road?” can be answered by a biologist or an engineer whereas “Why did the chicken cross the road?” leads to unanswerable questions like, “Is the chicken a personal being? Are animals non-human persons? What distinguishes humans from animals?”
The relevance of our ambiguity where animal personhood is concerned is racists have been calling black people “animals” to undermine their right to make their own “why” decisions. Reopening on the debate on colonialism’s legacy is not for the sake of intellectual honesty, but for the maintenance of the economic status quo left by colonialism.
European imperialism never intended for Christian missionaries to prioritise the humanity of black people. Religion was used to argue intellect is supposed to be muted in the service of “wisdom” (meaning, in this instance, docile acquiescence to the colony’s missionaries’ teachings) when the arguer sought to advance the interests of said colony. “The fear of the Lord”, read: white Jesus, “is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Then, as explained following an interview about You Have To Be Gay To Know God (Kwela Books, 2018), liberal secular atheism maintained that status quo by advancing an ahistorical starting point for measuring individual merit, while deeming impersonal intellect superior to personhood-recognising wisdom.
White supremacist, a/theistic, ir/religious (note the slashes!) programming keeps colonialism winning, and colonialism’s legacy is white people (e.g. Adam Kantzavelos, Helen Zille) who see black people as things and will change the terms of a discussion to reinforce that view.
The assertion (based on classical liberalism) that race should not be seen as a legitimate proxy for poverty appears scientifically innocent. But its failure to account for the intersectionality of oppressions and discriminations (which plays out when power is held by institutions and persons who turn out racist) suggests the political parties holding to this ideology seek to protect the status quo. And right now, Zille is the Christian-professed de-facto leader of the DA’s classic liberalism faction, whose God is neocolonialism.
Compare her stance to Adriaan Vlok’s CapeTalk responses to allegations that Magnus Malan sexually abused black boys: there is “no way” he “could’ve done the things he is accused of”; “he was a wonderful person and he was not a guy attracted to men, particularly children.” Note carefully how grevious accusations of violence against black people are answered by appealing to the humanity of the accused. The goalposts shift so sentiment — not alibis, not alternative explanations for the evidence implicating Malan — circumvents evidence-based debate. But for “the legacy of colonialism”, black people are supposed to plumb history for proof that they’re too human for the “benefits” to have mitigated the evil aspects.
We have to prove and perform our personhood until it isn’t one variable amongst many, but the decisive variable that qualifies all others, while Malan rests in peace for keeping white people safe from the dark-skinned people colonised on their behalf.
And since being human is like being a lady in that once you’re baited into saying you’re one you are automatically outsmarted by the baiter, Zille’s invitation to this debate is best answered by Toni Morrison’s observation that the function of racism is distraction: “It keeps you explaining, over and over again” why you cannot be treated a certain way. Once you’ve started explaining and debating, you’ll never be seen as good enough that you can afford to stop. Your performance acquires a commercial value because through it, you, black explainer, feed a vicious cycle in which there “will always be one more thing” between black lives and economic transformation.
Therefore, at the University of Johannesburg’s LGBTI+ Summit (to be hosted by their Transformation Unit), I may just follow Zille’s intellectual leadership to ask: in the face of this well-maintained (and well-denied) hetero-patriarchal Christian white supremacy, won’t civil war be the most workable path to transformation?