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M Blackman

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

London’s Mayoral Race

London’s incumbent mayor Ken Livingstone, like his strongest opponent in May’s London mayoral election, Boris Johnson, has miraculously survived the fallout from racially tainted verbal slip-ups. Although Livingstone’s slide in the current polls may have something to do with the race issue (in that it has in part to do with fall of his advisor of race relations Lee Jasper) it is Johnson who, despite his lead in the polls, has the major hurdle of projecting himself as capable of embracing the ethnic minorities that make up 26% of London’s population.

Johnson has in the past been outspoken in his condemnation of what has been termed the ‘race relations industry’ – an industry that Ken Livingstone extols. In a recent interview on the BBC Johnson refused to be drawn on whether he would do away with a ‘race relations advisor’ answering that he would put a ‘lot of energy’ into getting institutions, like the police force, to be more representative. He added finally that many of his advisors would be from ethic minority backgrounds.

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Resentment or Revolt

My last two months in South Africa were, from a political standpoint, the worst I have experienced since the end of apartheid. They saw the government and the ruling party testing political depths that many of us thought were the preserve of the National Party. Alongside the election to the ANC presidency of Jacob Zuma (a man already adjudged to have shared a ‘corrupt relationship’ with a convicted felon) they saw a lead prosecutor of the National Prosecuting Authority arrested on trumped-up charges only days before he was to be in court prosecuting Police Commissioner Selebi, the very man in charge of those arresting him. This development was followed by President Mbeki’s claim that he had not heard, until the previous day, that Selebi was closely connected to a convicted drug dealer. Mbeki’s claim strained the bounds of credulity given that Selebi himself had acknowledged the association in public. Shortly thereafter followed a rare mea culpa from our President on an unrelated national issue. Mbeki opined that it was not in fact Eskom but his own government that was to blame for the fact that we were all going to experience rolling blackouts for the next five years which could result in economic growth, initially projected at about 5% falling to anything between 3% and 0.5%. Perhaps with a hint of irony these blackouts have gained the title of ‘load-shedding’ which suggests a surplus rather than a paucity – it perhaps refers to the ‘shed load’ of government incompetence, mismanagement, greed and corruption that is within the ruling structures. Finally, came the coup de grace – the announcement in Parliament by the Minister of Police that the Scorpions (this country’s singular crime-busting success story) was to be ‘disbanded’. Needless to say, the rainbow of hope that was in a considerable state of tohubohu.

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Dr. Chitiyo’s Zimbabwe

Reflections on a lecture I attended at the London School of Economics dealing with the crisis in Zimbabwe. The title of the lecture was ‘Zimbabwe: 1980 – 2007: Past, Present and Future’ presented by Dr Knox Chitiyo, head of the Africa Programme at the Royal United Services Institute.

Political commentators have found it difficult to put the troubles in Zimbabwe, and South Africa’s response to them, into perspective, often proffering analyses bordering on the Quixotic. There have been those (many in the South African liberal establishment) who have decried Mugabe’s apparent fall from a once liberal leader to the anathema who can utter such lines as ‘let me be a Hitler tenfold’. Others have argued that Mbeki’s policy of quiet diplomacy has been delicately crafted to stop Zimbabwe from imploding, and (astonishingly) that the policy has achieved a measure of success. Finally, there have been those who have trailed out that old hat that Mugabe’s policies are deranged, that he has gone mad (some even suggesting through venereal disease), and that his policies are selected out of the lucky-dip-hat of evil deeds.

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How to Get Everybody to Hate You

M BlackmanHello and welcome to my blog.

Recently I have been doing some work on a concept for a book that I wish to get underway in 2009. Its working title is, How to Get Everybody to Hate You: the Liberal Pursuit. It will broadly evaluate at the views expressed by liberals such as George Orwell, Isaiah Berlin, HLA Hart, Karl Popper and Albert Camus and look into why such antipathy has been directed towards their views and to them as people. In this research the person whose thoughts have most awoken me from my dogmatic slumbers of late have been those of Isaiah Berlin and his notion of pluralism; a word that has been tainted by its association with moral relativism. It is widely believed that pluralism and relativism both express the same notion; the conception that just as giving money to the poor can be considered as morally good in Britain so the cutting off the heads of western aid workers in Iraq can be considered morally good within certain Muslim sects. This is to say that morality is merely relative to the society one finds oneself living in. This is an unqualified misinterpretation of Berlin’s thesis.

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