SONA2015 Debate: Maimane’s Sermon On The Mount

A few days ago, DA Parliamentary Leader Mmusi Maimane told Jacob Zuma where to shove it.  “For you, honourable President, are not an honourable man,” he declared.  “You are a broken man presiding over a broken society.”

I heard of black ANC supporters that said they will vote for the DA in the 2019 elections after hearing Maimane’s words.  I heard of these people from non-black people who were stunned that one man’s voice could shake the 62%.  But I didn’t come across any of these black people myself.

Maimane didn’t say anything Lindiwe Mazibuko didn’t say.  So contrary to impressed reports about how Maimane changed black people’s minds, I have instead met many black people that were repulsed by Maimane’s words, calling him a “puppet” that’s played into the white minority’s hands.

“Maimane has proven how unAfrican he is,” an Indian ANC-supporting colleague pointed out in his lecture to me about African manners, values and etiquette.  “I don’t care what Zuma’s done; you don’t speak to an elder like that”.  He was not impressed by the black messiah’s Sermon on the Mount.

The Standard Response

The Standard Response

Most of us darkies were raised on a diet of fierce tribal loyalty, an unquestioning respect of elders and the fear of the rod. Apartheid exacerbated this through its culture of violence, oppression and control; nobody could rise much higher than the known environment.  The problem with corporal punishment is that it causes pain.  Pain is trauma, and where there is trauma, consciousness is distorted by its attempt to withdraw from or cope with the point at which trauma is inflicted.

Consider domestic abuse.  The beaten wife normally doesn’t leave her husband; instead, she tries to earn his “forgiveness” for whatever she believes she’s done to “deserve” the beating.  She must be the one in the wrong, she thinks; why would someone so strong and powerful pick on her unless she really deserved to be hit?  In her eyes, he becomes the embodiment of goodness, and she sees herself as riddled with sin.  She needs him to validate her worth; his desertion would be eternal damnation.  He is her savior.  She will try to appease and placate the one she believes has power over her and her conscience – that is, the power to forgive her sins and restore her sense of self-worth; the power to silence those voices in her that told her she’d never find a man because she wasn’t a good-enough woman; the power, with one bouquet of roses and a promise of “I won’t do it again, I’m so sorry”, to ease her niggling self-doubt.

We view those who’ve inflicted pain on us through a lens of fear though we don’t always realize that we are afraid.  Fear is in conflict with our ability to think rationally or tell our thoughts from our feelings.  Dissonance then occurs between what we (should) intellectually know about the situation, and what our fear tells us.  Unable to remain close to those who inflict pain on us without explaining their abusiveness away, we invent a story that allows us to cope with remaining in intimacy with them in spite of their ongoing abusiveness.  I’m not a psychologist but I think this is why beaten wives invent the story of their own guilt as explained above.  The abuser relies on her trust (she is psychologically cornered) and on her buy-in for the story to serve its purpose; he feeds and encourages it.  It’s why hostages sometimes exhibit signs of Stockholm Syndrome.  Wikipedia says that “Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors.  These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness”.  Note that: victims mistake a lack of abuse for an act of kindness.  In the words of my Indian colleague we need instead of focusing on everything that’s gone wrong under Zuma, to focus on everything that’s still intact and praise the ANC for it.

Unable to cope with the idea that those in power over us are indeed evil, we locate the evil somewhere outside of them whether that somewhere else is in ourselves or another place.  For in what kind of universe is power in the hands of the wicked?  The notion is untenable.  So we invent a story and we hold to it as though it were religious dogma.  Because that’s precisely what it is.  We are sinners.  We deserve to be punished.  Otherwise we’re being punished unjustly without a greater power (that we know of) to rescue us.  Such a universe is the essence of hell and we’d never admit its possibility.  The story saves us from such a possibility.  Alternatively, we find sacrificial lambs and scapegoats who take away the sins of the nation.

If you’re Mmusi Maimane and you attack the captor of someone who has Stockholm Syndrome, you’re the bad guy; the captor isn’t.  In other words, Jacob Zuma laughed through most of the debate because Maimane was playing into his hands.  Zuma knows his people because he was one of them before the ANC made him bigger than they were, exposing to him many things about the human psyche.  Maimane won black voters over for Zuma.  All that was left for Zuma to do was charm everyone else.  And so he did, especially white people with his speech about how the Afrikaner “will not be driven into the sea”.  But he knew that like good beaten wives, black people would stay loyal one way or the other; that was in the bag.  So he laughed.

The ANC’s intense hatred of “clever blacks” who have “forgotten where they come from” and “how they were raised” is because these blacks didn’t “learn” to switch off original thought and obey what they were told by their unquestionable elders and tribal chiefs.  Maybe they weren’t hit hard enough.  Maybe Mom and Dad didn’t give them enough of the Sergeant-Major treatment.  They didn’t conform.  Most alarmingly, clever blacks refused to remain underdog victims along with other black people.  Black people’s security blanket of perpetual victimhood can serve a purpose other than always telling the truth.

Raised, as most black people are, on the holy communion of the bodies and blood of those martyred by apartheid, black people have much too much vested in not taking real control of their destinies.  For one, whenever a black person takes responsibility for his fate, he is forced to admit that he’d previously relinquished it for absolutely no good reason.  He is forced to admit that he’d lived in fear of those with power over himself, as described above.  The domestic abuse survivor who tries to leave knows she will get the worst beating ever if she is caught, so she goes fetal position even in her mind where she now blames herself for wishing things were better. Black people who wish their lives were more decent begin to feel guilty for it so they recommit to the struggle for “democratization”.  They know that once they start speaking out against what they’re seeing and what they know, they will be punished, so they switch off or they also partake of the corruption and crime.  It’s the only option the system offers.  The oppressed joins and becomes the oppressor.

This doesn’t mean that black people in this situation completely lose the ability to rationalize: it means that this ability now must be channeled into explaining why they support an essentially broken system.  Wishing to save face and stay loyal to other members of their tribe, the black man would rather blame the past and present circumstances than break out of self-limiting patterns or take responsibility for his fate.  This isn’t to say that past and present circumstances don’t exist: it is to say that on some level, the black person needs them to exist so they can corroborate his story about why he remains disempowered or chained to a government that leaves him powerless.  It’s safer to have that story than to point out the reason and expose its abusiveness.

Being stuck in an abusive situation also churns up feelings of inadequacy.  Accusing other races of racism protects the black man from having to confront where these feelings of inadequacy begin.  For if he admitted that the elders he listens to, the superstitions he holds to and the political mistakes he repeats are the reason he suffers and has a low view of himself, he’d be admitting that he, along with the black South African majority, have been doing it to themselves.  So he’d rather believe that the white MPs behind Mmusi Maimane are the reason he continues to suffer, and he’d rather believe this no matter how clearly they articulate their desire for non-racist policies.

White skins and faces are “other” so accusing them of racism helps him expel these built-up feelings of self-imposed anger and frustration where it’s morally safe to throw those feelings.  White people are extras in the story, and through these evil extras, the black man may weave a story that, unlike the abused wife’s story, locates the evil not in the abused or the abuser, but in a third party.  In those instances that it has no basis in objective reality, the black man’s charge of racism allows him to project his insecurities into the other’s face as contempt whether contempt was there in the first place or not (“Seek and ye shall [eventually] find what you’re looking for”).

The black man cannot, however, afford to recognize the real contempt in the leaders and middle class who share his skin colour as they treat him with absolute arrogance.  Contempt from his people sticks.  Contempt from someone who shares his skin colour is a family betrayal; it’s too much power in the hands of people too close and too powerful – a moral contradiction the mind rejects and replaces with the easier story of white racism.  In this new story, Zuma wasn’t laughing at democracy’s death; he was laughing at the failure of white counter-revolutionary and undemocratic elements to thwart the advance of the Liberation Struggle.  Aluta Continua!  Rather than admit that her husband is beating her, this abused wife has been afforded a scapegoat to blame.  Whites become the sacrificial lambs in this religious sacrifice, taking away the combined sins of apartheid we thought we abolished and the tribalism we never even learned to name.

Contempt from fellow black people wounds as deeply and personally as if the mirror reflection leaned back and spat in one’s face.  It is because white people are “not human” or are “secondhand humans” that racism from them doesn’t count as much.  In a bizarre table-turn on Eurocentricism, blackness becomes the unquestioned normal against which every other race is measured and viewed.  This is a healthy sign of selfhood intact despite centuries of being told to worship a white God and reject a black Satan.

In this algorithm, whether whites truly are racist or not is of secondary importance; their racism – invented or not – becomes a welcome relief from having no other story to explain the irrational loyalty to factors that inhibit growth and success.

So in morality’s most scandalous hypocrisy caused by history’s deepest wounds, the reason many black people seek and identity racism even when it isn’t there, is the racism whereby they feel morally permitted to impute a lessened humanity to white people.  Growing up I was told that if I so much as dreamt of a white person it meant I had been tainted by a tokoloshe.  Well into my adult years, I would wake up in a panic if my dreams had white visitors.  Tellingly, the Zulu word for human (“umuntu”) is always assumed to mean a black person and is never used to denote a white person (“umlungu”).  I know of only one black person has ever questioned this linguistic anomaly.  So intense is this suspicion of white people that they are understood not just as an entirely different “race” but almost as an entirely different species.  This doesn’t necessarily make them less-than human, but it does make them extremely “other” and human at the same time.

So for many black people, watching Maimane talk down a black elder with white people clapping in the background – even if that crowd had some token colour splashed into it – was a sight so bizarre, so “window-dressed” and puppeteered, that it will forever be remembered not as the moment the DA declared victory over the ANC but as the moment that the DA’s “apartheid tendencies” stretched to whiten the black out of yet another African child, divest him of all the behavioral hallmarks of “sound” Africanness, and spit the talking shell back at black people in what they’d see as an arrogant display of “white” or “unshackled” behavior.  It was a middle finger at black people; possibly the last they’ll tolerate.  But Zuma is immune from such harsh and unfair judgment.

Moses told Pharaoh to go to hell, but the slaves he’d been sent to free resented Moses for causing their taskmasters to worsen their burden.  They didn’t blame the Pharaoh.  Black people will blame anyone but Zuma just as the Jews affirmed that it wasn’t Jesus but Caesar that they acknowledged as their king.  Caesar was divine and therefore not accountable for the blood of 200 000 Jews crucified by the Roman machine.

Mmusi Maimane gave an excellent speech.  He “spoke so well”, as many have said.  And that’s the problem.  The black child who “speaks so well” transgresses both white and black limitations on black people’s abilities.

The black child is not supposed to be clever.  That disturbs the narrative told about him.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive overview of all that’s happening. It’s just my two cents’ worth.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate feedback – Please don’t forget to follow me @Skhumalo1987 (I follow back – let me know if I haven’t) on twitter, and also to retweet the link to this article.

3 thoughts on “SONA2015 Debate: Maimane’s Sermon On The Mount

  1. Pingback: Six Things Most Black People Don’t Realize They Have (à la @VerashniPillay & @Ernstroets) |

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