Leon Lemmer oor George Reisman: Tot lof van Westerse beskawing

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George Reisman (gebore in 1937) is ‘n afgetrede Amerikaanse ekonomiedosent en ‘n aanhanger van Ayn Rand (1905-1982) se objektivisme en individualisme (bv anti-kommunisme en individuele ondernemingsgees)*. Reisman is ‘n sterk voorstander van kapitalisme en het bv Thomas Piketty se boek, Capital in the twenty-first century (2013), gekritiseer. Piketty begin by boek met verwysing na die Marikana-slagting (2012) en wyt dit aan ‘n wanverhouding tussen lone en maatskappywinste. In sy boek, Piketty’s capital: wrong theory, destructive program (Laguna Hills: TJS Books, 2014, 68p; Amazon Kindle $3.41), het Reisman dit teen Piketty se sug na die ekonomiese gelykmaking van mense en sy waardering vir ongebreidelde massademokrasie. Heel voorspelbaar het hierdie twee sake vir Piketty aanhangers in linkse geledere, insluitende die ANC, besorg. Tydens sy besoek aan Suid-Afrika in Oktober het Piketty minimum lone, die toelating van werkers tot direksies, versnelde grondhervorming en hoër belasting op rykdom bepleit. Die voor die hand liggende waarheid dat ryk individue en maatskappye hoër lone kan bekostig as hulle minder belas word, is nie deur Piketty aangespreek nie. Wat hy gerus ook kon gedoen het, is om te pleit vir ‘n spesiale belasting op diegene wat met min inspanning en weinig talent om etniese redes as’t ware oornag stinkryk in die nuwe Suid-Afrika geword het. Reisman plaas sy kapitalisme gebaseer op individuele inisiatief teenoor Piketty se gelykmakende sosialisme. Kapitalisme stel enige persoon met die nodige vermoëns in staat om welvaart vir homself en andere te skep.

[* Die idees van Ayn Rand is iets waarvan ons plaaslik gerus in groter mate kennis kan neem. Sy is in Rusland gebore maar het in Amerika studeer en haar daar gevestig. Rand het die manier waarop die Amerikaanse grondwet toegepas word, gekritiseer:

“While applauding its guarantees of freedom of lifestyle and peaceable assembly, she insisted that no individual should be a non-voluntary mortgage on another. The Constitution wisely, in her view, made no mention of a duty to help others in need, although doing so voluntarily might well be regarded as a laudable act on the part of the individual undertaking it. The function of government is to protect its citizens by assuring their rights to non-interference by others. It is not to impose duties except to the extent that the duties are entailments of others’ rights. The whole of my duty toward you can be summed up in my duty not to infringe upon your natural rights” (Geddes MacGregor, The Everyman Dictionary of Religion and Philosophy, London: Dent, 1990, p 523).

Vergelyk Rand se standpunt met die eenrigting-ubuntu waarmee ons gebreinspoel word en die ANC-regering se roofbeleid waarvolgens alles wat blankes besit suiwer op grond van ras en sonder enige teenprestasie in toenemende mate aan swartes vervreem word. Lees bv Anthea Jeffery se boek, BEE: Helping or Hurting? (2014). Volgens Reisman (kyk hier onder) is massa-onteiening ‘n barbaarse wanpraktyk.]

In sy essay, How the 1 percent provides the standard of living of the 99 percent (Laguna Hills: TJS Books, 2015, 11p; Amazon Kindle $3.41), verduidelik Reisman dat kapitalisme in linkse geledere moedswillig en verkeerdelik as die blatante uitbuiting van werkers voorgestel word. In werklikheid verskaf die eienaars van sake-ondernemings vergoeding aan werkers, wat dit vir hulle moontlik maak om lewensmiddele te bekom, lewenstandaarde te handhaaf en sinvolle, selfs gelukkige, lewens te lei. Kapitalisme is ‘n ekonomiese stelsel wat vir almal toeganklik is; waar enigeen potensieel suksesvol kan wees. Dié sukses is vir enkelinge beskore en druis dus in teen die huidige verheerliking van die gepeupel.

Soos gebruiklik vul ek die outeur se idees aan met my eie om die tekste plaaslik meer tersaaklik te maak. Uit die geskiedenis is dit duidelik dat dit enkelinge is wat die leiding neem en die gemeenskap in sy geheel beïnvloed; dat ‘n klein aantal mense die heil van die massa bepaal. Dit is waarom ek dit so afkeurenswaardig vind dat die onderwysstelsel eensydig op die opheffing van die agterosse, die minder talentvolles, ingestel is. Wat in die openbare belang is, is dat alle moontlike geleenthede ook aan begaafde individue gebied moet word sodat hulle hulle talente vinnig en optimaal kan ontwikkel, of daar moet vir sulke individue ten minste genoeg ruimte gegun word; dus dat begaafdheid aangemoedig en nie ingeperk moet word nie. Maar die amptelike gelykverklaring van mense ontmoedig begaafdheid omdat valslik voorgegee word dat almal (potensieel) ewe begaaf is.

In ‘n ander opstel, Freedom of opportunity, not equality of opportunity (Laguna Hills: TJS Books, 2015, 13p; Amazon Kindle $3.41) sluit Reisman by die voorafgaande opmerkings aan. Gelyke geleenthede is ‘n mite, want dit is nie moontlik dat alle mense dieselfde ouers en voorouers kan hê en in dieselfde omstandighede kan grootword nie. Reisman gee hiermee erkenning aan die feit dat sowel afkoms as lewensomstandighede ‘n rol by prestasie speel. Dit gaan nie net om (eenderse) empiriese geleenthede wat tot almal se beskikking gestel word nie. Die individu moet die inherente vermoë hê om geleenthede te benut. Daarvoor is bv toewyding, deursettingsvermoë en insig nodig. Met inspanning en inisiatief kan enigeen die hoogste sport bereik as hy die nodige kapasiteit het. (Vergelyk dit met hoe talle mense in die nuwe Suid-Afrika in die hoogste poste gekom en in die hoogste inkomstegroepe beland het. Die leiding wat van diesulkes uitgaan en die voorbeeld wat hulle stel, kan onmoontlik ‘n suksesvolle, vooruitstrewende land tot gevolg hê.)

Maar ek wil eintlik oor nie-ekonomiese sake skryf en dus liewer oor ‘n ander essay van Reisman, Education and the racist road to barbarism (Laguna Hills: TJS Books, 2014, 13p; Amazon Kindle $3.41). As Amerikaner en kapitalis plaas Reisman die klem nie op Europese beskawing nie, maar breër, op Westerse beskawing, met Amerika as die ekonomies suksesvolste voorbeeld. Hy beweer selfs: “In most respects, since colonial times, the United States has always been, intellectually and culturally, the most Western of the Western countries” (Kindle 102); maar Amerika het myns insiens met verloop van tyd al hoe minder Europees geword.

Volgens Reisman word beskawing gekenmerk deur die vermoë om via inligting en die verwerking daarvan kennis te bekom en dit suksesvol toe te pas. Die bereiking hiervan is potensieel aan enigeen beskikbaar. Dit gaan om die aanvaarding/toe-eiening van sekere idees en waardes. Westerse beskawing word deur Reisman as die hoogste vlak van beskawing beskou: “Incomparably the greatest civilization which has ever existed” (148). Dit het “objective superiority” (148). Hoewel blankes die Westerse beskawing tot sy huidige vlak van ontwikkeling gevoer het, is dit nie (eksklusief) rasgegrond nie. In die Ooste het lande soos Japan, Taiwan en Suid-Korea suksesvol geword omdat hulle tersaaklike elemente van die Westerse beskawing oorgeneem en by hulle omstandighede aangepas het (67, 90), sonder om wenslike aspekte van hulle Oosterse kultuur op te offer.

Hierdie teks van Reisman is oorspronklik in 1990 as ‘n artikel in die tydskrif The Intellectual Activist gepubliseer. Sy uitgangspunt is die druk wat op Amerikaanse onderwys uitgeoefen word omdat dit na bewering te Eurosentries is. In Amerika het hierdie druk sedertdien baie vererger en dit het ook na Suid-Afrika oorgespoel. “According to The [New York] Times, ‘Eurocentrism’ is a pejorative term supposed to describe ‘a provincial outlook that focuses overwhelmingly on European and Western culture while giving short shrift to Asia, Africa, and Latin America'” (48). Eurosentrisme dui glo op bevooroordeeldheid. Daar word gevolglik geëis dat leerplanne en handboeke herskryf moet word. “Students descended from Asiatics or Africans, it is assumed, can feel at home only to the extent the curriculum is revised to give greater stress to ‘the ancient civilizations of China, India and Africa, the growth of Islam and the development of sub-Sahara Africa.’ The critics of ‘Eurocentrism’ proclaim themselves to be opponents of racism. In fact, they accept exactly the same false premise they claim to oppose – namely, that civilization, or the lack of it, is racially determined” (171).

Wat met beskawing bedoel word, word soos volg deur Reisman verduidelik. “Those peoples who possess a written language may be called civilized, inasmuch as writing is an indispensable means for the transmission of substantial knowledge, and thus for the accumulation of knowledge from generation to generation. Those who possess not only a written language but also knowledge of the laws of logic and the principle of causality are in a position to accumulate and transmit incomparably more knowledge than people who possess merely the art of writing alone. On this basis, Greco-Roman civilization is on a higher plane than any that had preceded it” (136). Daar word na die wette van die logika verwys omdat rasionaliteit, die vermoë om korrek/konstruktief te dink, noodsaaklik vir die ontwikkeling van beskawing is. Insig in kousaliteit/oorsaaklikheid, dus begrip vir die verband tussen oorsaak en gevolg, is ingsgelyks noodsaaklik vir die uitbouing van beskawing. Logika verskaf die grondslag vir wiskunde en kousaliteit die basis vir wetenskaplike kennis.

Wat ons hier het, is “the essential ‘Western’ doctrine of individual free will and individual responsibility for choices made” (177). Byvoorbeeld, as ek A doen, is B die voorsiene gevolg. Hierdie basiese vereistes word soms gesystap as sommige mense, bv armlastiges, sonder meer voorgehou word as die onskuldige slagoffers van die boosheid van andere, bv rykes. Alternatiewelik, as verantwoordelikheid vir die lot van swartes sonder kwalifisering op bv blankes en apartheid afgeskuif word. Die vraag is of mense wat ongeletterd is, dus diegene wat nie self kennis via geskrewe taal kan bekom en die gemeenskap se kennis kan vermeerder nie, hoegenaamd toegelaat behoort te word om as kiesers inspraak te hê in die regering van enige land wat ontwikkeld en vooruitstrewend wil wees; om van hulle vermoëns mbt logika/wiskunde en oorsaaklikheid/wetenskap nie te praat nie.

Die outeur verduidelik hoe beskawing voorheen van die Verre- en Midde-Ooste na Europa en daarna na die Amerikas versprei het en verder ontwikkel is. Omdat beskawing evolusionêr ontwikkel, is alle beskawings nie ewe goed nie; die lateres neig om beter as die voriges te wees (188). Beskawing is nie rasgebaseer nie en is “open to everyone. Indeed, important elements of ‘Western’ civilization did not even originate in the West” (78). In die toekoms kan die ontwikkeldste beskawing moontlik weer in die Verre-Ooste aangetref word (84). “One does not have to have been born in Western Europe or be of Western European descent to admire Western civilization, or, indeed, even to help build it. Western civilization is not a product of geography. It is a body of knowledge and values. Any individual, any society, is potentially capable of adopting it and thereby becoming ‘Westernized'” (84). “There is no reason for believing that civilization is in any way a property of any particular race or ethnic group. It is strictly an intellectual matter – ultimately, a matter of the presence or absence of certain fundamental ideas underlying the acquisition of further knowledge” (136).

“Not only is Western civilization open to the members of every race, but its present possessors are also potentially capable of losing it, just as the people of the Western Roman Empire once lost the high degree of civilization they had achieved. What makes the acceptance of the ‘Eurocentrism’ critique so significant is that it clearly reveals just how tenuous our ability to maintain Western civilization has become” (212). Het Suid-Afrika sedert 1990/1994 op die pad van (Westerse) beskawing gevorder of was/is daar onmiskenbaar ‘n breuk? Deesdae word daar amptelik openlik na Afrika-oplossings vir Afrika-probleme gesoek. Geen wonder dat daar so baie uitdagings vir die regering is nie. “Uitdagings” het ‘n eufemisme vir onvermoë/onbekwaamheid geword. Jacob Zuma beweer al Suid-Afrika se probleme het met die aankoms van die blankes begin. Daar is blykbaar weinig (amptelike) waardering vir die uitsonderlike prestasies van blankes wat Europese beskawing eeue lank in Suider-Afrika, dus baie ver van Europa af, met ‘n groot mate van sukses progressief gevestig en uitgebou het.

Reisman noem dat sy voorouers in Rusland gewoon het en barbare was: “totally illiterate, highly superstitious, and primitive in every way” (96). Later noem hy ander voorbeelde van onbeskaafdheid/barbaarsheid: “ritual sacrifice, cannibalism, mass expropriation, slavery, torture and wholesale slaughter” (153). Daar is ‘n vraag wat gevra kan word: Kwalifiseer die gewelddadige nuwe Suid-Afrika as ‘n beskaafde samelewing? Sedert 1990/1994 het beskawing plaaslik ongetwyfeld drasties agteruitgegaan. Ek noem dit die brutalisering van die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing. Die woord “beskawing” het plaaslik uit die openbare diskoers verdwyn. Tydens die blanke bewind is groot waarde aan die begrip (Westerse) beskawing geheg, maar die nuwe bewindhebbers assosieer dit met iets wat Afrika-vreemd en ongewens of nie haalbaar is nie.

“I am a Westerner because of the ideas and values I hold. I have thoroughly internalized all the leading features of Western civilization. They are now my ideas and my values” (90). “I have developed a Western mind, a mind enlightened and thoroughly transformed by the enormous body of knowledge that represents the substance of Western civilization, and I now see the world entirely on the basis of that knowledge” (108).

Diegene wat Eurosentrisme uit die onderwys wil weer, is besig met “a radical devaluation of civilization, knowledge and education” (195). “Such a program means the explicit obliteration of distinctions between levels of civilization, and between civilization and savagery. It presents ignorance as the equivalent of knowledge, and superstition as the equivalent of science. Everything – logic, philosophy, science, law, technology – is to be ignored, and a culture limited to the level of making dugout canoes is to be presented as the equivalent of one capable of launching space ships. And all this is for the alleged sake of not offending anyone who supposedly must feel inferior if such a monumental fraud is not committed” (201).

“The preservation of Western civilization is not automatic … Western civilization, or any civilization, can continue only insofar as its intellectual substance lives on in the minds of new generations. And it can do so only if it is imparted to young minds through education. Education is the formal process of transmitting the intellectual substance of civilization from one generation to the next and thereby developing the uncultivated minds of children into those of civilized adults … the intellectual substance of Western civilization is nothing other than the highest level of knowledge attained anywhere on earth, in virtually every aspect of every field, and if the purpose of education is to impart knowledge, then its purpose is to impart Western civilization” (218).

“To the extent the process of education is undermined, the whole of civilization must also be undermined, starting a generation later. These results will appear more and more striking as time goes on and more and more defectively educated people take the place of those whose education was better. The worsening results for civilization as a whole will likely be further intensified as those whose own education was defective themselves become educators and thus cause succeeding generations to be still more poorly educated” (231). Die vinnige agteruitgang van skool- en universitêre onderwys vind onmiskenbaar in die nuwe Suid-Afrika plaas. In die geval van skole is dit die gevolg van veral onbekwame onderwysers wat in die stelsel geduld word en die gebrek aan inspeksies en die toepassing van toereikende dissiplinêre maatreëls. In die geval van universiteite is akademiese agteruitgang die noodwendige gevolg van die polities korrekte dwaasheid om studente by toelating en andersins en dosente by aanstelling en bevordering primêr ingevolge ras en geslag pleks van na akademiese verdienste te evalueer.

“The equivalence of all cultures, the equivalence of civilization and savagery, is the avowed claim of the doctrine of cultural relativism, which has long been accepted by practically the whole of the educational establishment. It in turn is a consequence of the still older, more fundamental doctrine that there is no objective foundation for values – that all value-judgments are arbitrary and subjective. The new racists are now merely cashing in on this view and attempting to apply it on the largest possible scale, in the process substantially altering the manner in which subjects are taught” (248).

In die nuwe Suid-Afrika word skoolkinders of skoliere deesdae “leerders” genoem; blykbaar om die feit te kamoefleer dat daar al hoe minder geleer word. In Amerika is daar insgelyks ernstige agteruitgang in die onderwys. “The decline has become visible in such phenomena as the rewriting of college textbooks to conform with the more limited vocabularies of present-day students. It is visible in the functional illiteracy of large numbers of high school and even college graduates, in their inability to articulate their thoughts or to solve relatively simple problems in mathematics or even plain arithmetic, and in their profound lack of elementary knowledge of science and history” (230). Wat ook nodig is maar ontbreek, is “the ability to think critically – an ability which contemporary education provides little or no basis for developing” (242).

“Education is now to be a matter of pressure-group politics based on the totally false assumptions of racism. If there are now more black, Hispanic, or Asian students than white students in an area, then that fact is to be allowed to determine the substance of education, in the belief that these groups somehow ‘secrete’, as it were, a different kind of civilization and culture than do whites and require a correspondingly different kind of education” (259). As studente kursusse in die gedrag van voorouers soos die Vandale of Hunne eis, sal dit in die huidige geestelike klimaat geredelik ingestel word. “All that the students would have to do to get their way is to act the part of their ancestors and threaten to burn down the campus” (265). In Suid-Afrika gaan studente maklik tot brandstigting oor (hulle oefen dikwels met buitebande) en as hulle skade aanrig, is sommige van die universiteitsrektore oorgewillig om hulle om verskoning te vra omdat die universiteite glo toegelaat het dat studente se frustrasies sulke ernstige afmeting aangeneem het.

“This is no longer an educational system. Its character has been completely transformed and it now clearly reveals itself to be what for many decades it has been in the process of becoming: namely, an agency working for the barbarization of youth. The value of education is derived from the value of civilization, whose guardian and perpetuator education is supposed to be. An education system dedicated to the barbarization of youth is a self-contradictory monstrosity that must be cast out and replaced with a true educational system. But this can be done only by those who genuinely understand, and are able to defend, the objective value of Western civilization” (271).

“I regard the discoverer of the Western hemisphere to be Columbus … not because of any such absurd reason as a preference for Europeans over Asiatics … but because it was Columbus who opened the Western hemisphere to the civilization I have made my own. Columbus was the man who made it possible to bring to these shores my ideas and values” (113). Om dieselfde rede behoort alle Suid-Afrikaners elke jaar op 6 April die aankoms van Jan van Riebeeck in Tafelbaai met groot dankbaarheid te gedenk, want dit was die begin van die daadwerklike ontwikkeling van Suider-Afrika danksy ‘n meer ontwikkelde beskawing wat die potensiaal van voorspoed ingehou het.

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