Provocations

The aim of Provocations is to offer a number of short bursts on one or several issues, about which the author feels strongly, but on which his or her views may yet not be fully formed.  They are meant to be the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one, and are chosen especially for their provocative and discussion-inducing content.  Our hope is that they will engender intelligent and impassioned exchanges among our readers.

Provocations may come from any of our contributors and will reflect a number of different personal, social, and ideological orientations, which strikes us as a Good Thing.

4 Comments »

  1. Dan,
    I think this is a great idea, though I did note the implied filter “which strikes us as a Good Thing“. We tend to be in favour of provoking the other side but like it rather less when the other side provokes us. Provocation should not be the one sided throwing of stones at our favourite targets. I can think of many provocative subjects but my dinner party favourite, which always infuriates my listeners, is when I explain that Apartheid was a successful policy and its main goals have been secured. Yes, I know, it is a surprising point of view, but that is the whole point of a provocation, to surprise by showing a wholly new way of looking at the subject. One may reject the point of view but one may have gained surprising insights.

    What I would love to see are book reviews(and perhaps movie reviews where they have thoughtful implications)). I always find book reviews valuable. I suggest that you invite your readership to submit book reviews. Reading books consumes significant time so spreading the load among your audience would help a lot.

    I look forward to your first provocation. I won’t even try to guess what it might be.

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  2. I can think of many provocative subjects but my dinner party favourite, which always infuriates my listeners, is when I explain that Apartheid was a successful policy and its main goals have been secured.

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    You’ll have to explain this. On the surface it sounds pretty appalling.

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  3. Dan,
    On the surface it sounds pretty appalling.

    Not so appalling. Because of that we have Africa’s strongest economy(by far), a well functioning university system, the only true democracy in Africa, a good justice system and the best infrastructure in Africa(by far). And unlike most of Africa, we have no terrorism or armed insurrection. The rule of law works. Unlike the rest of Africa, the skilled, productive white community has not been ejected and continue to enjoy a good lifestyle, making valuable, indeed irreplaceable contributions, stabilising the country. I say this with some feeling because my family lost their farm in Kenya. We, with 60,000 others were the first wave of refugees. Some of us settled in South Africa with nothing, having lost everything. My later adolescent years were ones of penury, squalor and desperation. My father was unable to adjust to the change. He was a middle aged farmer with nothing but the clothes on his back and he utterly lacked the skills for survival in a city. I know what it is like to be a refugee.

    This is the appalling fate that could have been repeated in South Africa. Indeed it was highly likely and then there would have been four million refugees fleeing to Europe to escape wild bloodlust. But Apartheid stabilised the country delaying necessary change until it could be achieved under optimum conditions that guaranteed a fair place and a productive role for the white community. A monstrous tragedy was averted. I’m glad I never had to live through that tragedy for the second time.

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  4. Are We Provoked Yet?

    I hope we can get past just being shocked that such a view would be expressed in our space. PC has its problems, although the very clever demonization of PC is IMO a bigger problem. History, and practically all narratives, whether holy books or novels, are usually written with heroes and villains.

    It is tempting to view the awful chaos in much of sub-Saharan Africa is just a continuation of the trajectory of the continent that has long lagged furthest behind in the development of civilization and technology, and it is natural that some people should be saying “Thank god for the wise promoters of Apartheid.”, but let’s see, why didn’t Rhodesia/Zimbabwe follow the same path? Were they less invested in an Apartheid like philosophy than white South Africa? Maybe South African whites had a wiser more restrained opposition in the form of the ANC? Maybe South Africa, with its climate, was more congenial to European style coastal cities where a much larger white minority settled, and developed a diversified way of life and more defensible settlements?

    I haven’t studied it extensively, but Robinson and Acemoglu’ _Why Nations Fail_ gives a credible view of the tragedies of Southern Africa in 9, Reversing Development: How European Colonialism impoverished large parts of the world, and Chapter 14 “Breaking the Mold” which focuses on exceptions to the rule such as Botswana.

    While not comparable in size, Botswana (3% white) is said to have a GDP/capita of $18,825 while South Africa’s (20% white) is $5,902. They have almost identically bad wealth distribution however (GINI 63 and 63.1 respectively).

    The several memoirs of Alexandra Fuller, daughter of Rhodesian farmers, also provides a sad but I think balanced perspective.

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