Leon Lemmer: Die ondermyning van kragdadigheid

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In die goeie ou dae het mense geweet waaraan hulle glo, wat hulle waardes is en dit uitgeleef. Daar was ‘n vastigheid in die lewe wat nie deur relativering ondergrawe is nie. Afrikaners het geweet waarvandaan hulle kom, wat hulle bereik het en was met reg trots daarop. Afrikaans was ‘n kleinood wat vertroetel is. Daar is nie toegelaat dat met Afrikaners en Afrikaans gemors word nie. Sedertdien het dinge radikaal verander. Nieblankes, vol van “pyn”, is met hulle oordrewe kritiek op die Afrikanerdom losgelaat. Maar daar is ook baie Afrikaanssprekende blankes, insluitende oud-Broeders, wat verkies het om hulle mantels te draai en sedertdien aan die voorpunt van die verfoeiing van Afrikaners is. As hedendaagse hanskakies probeer hulle om naatloos by die ANC en sy verengelsingsbeleid aansluiting te vind. Geradbraakte Afrikaans krap nie aan hulle siel nie.

Dit is nie uitsluitlik ‘n plaaslike verskynsel nie. In die Weste het daar ‘n wil- en koersloosheid ingetree omdat twyfel gesaai word oor bv die nalatenskap van imperialisme en kolonialisme. In nie-Westerse geledere word Westerse prestasies en tradisionele waardes gekritiseer en verkleineer. Hierdie aanslag teen die blankedom kom wêreldwyd voor. Westerlinge word geïntimideer om te transformeer; nie (noodwendig) om te verbeter nie, maar om ooreenkomstig die mode te dink en handel. Hulle wyfel om koersvas en kragdadig ingevolge hulle tradisionele waardes voort te gaan. Donald Trump poog om hierdie selfvernietigende tendens om te keer.

Westerlinge weet in baie gevalle nie meer wat om te glo nie. “The retreat of the strong gods from the culture of the West leaves a dangerous vacuum” (RR Reno, bron hier onder, Kindle 1420). “We are imperiled by a spiritual vacuum and the apathy it brings” (1555). Daarenteen weet die kulturele marxiste en die Moslems waaraan hulle glo en wat hulle wil bereik; dikwels op ‘n fanatiese en fundamentalistiese manier. Terwyl Westerlinge oor hulle waardes twyfel, kan hulle ten prooi val van diegene wat die ondergang van hulle beskawing begeer. In hierdie opsig is die tragedie wat sedert 1994 in Suid-Afrika afspeel, ‘n mikrokosmos van wat in die res van die Westerse wêreld kan gebeur as daar nie betyds en kragdadig opgetree word nie.

Dit is teen hierdie agtergrond dat die publikasie van die volgende boek van RR (Russell Ronald) Reno (gebore in 1959) verwelkom kan word: Return of the strong gods: Nationalism, populism, and the future of the West (Washington: Regnery Gateway, 2019, 207p; Amazon Kindle $14.94). Reno was dekades lank ‘n teologiedosent. Sy verwysing na gode in die boektitel is dus verstaanbaar. Maar die nie-religieuse gode waarom dit hier gaan, word in die newetitel en in die teks genoem. Reno is sedert 2011 die redakteur van die tydskrif First Things. Dit is ‘n ekumeniese maar konserwatiewe publikasie, waarin bydraes oor die Joodse religie ook opgeneem word. Reno was vroeër lid van die Episkopale Kerk, maar het in 2004 na die Rooms-Katolieke Kerk oorgegaan. Sy vorige boek is Resurrecting the idea of a Christian society (2016, Amazon Kindle $11.49), wat deur die idees van onder meer TS Eliot (1888-1965) beïnvloed is.

Reno verduidelik die titel van sy jongste boek soos volg: “The strong gods are the objects of men’s love and devotion, the sources of the passions and loyalties that unite societies … Truth is a strong god” (Kindle 75). “King and country, insofar as they still arouse men’s patriotic ardor, are strong gods. The strong gods can take the form of modern ideologies and charismatic leaders” (81). “No culture survives without strong gods. This is as true for an open society as a traditional one. A society lives on answers, not merely questions; convictions, not simply opinions. The political and cultural crisis of the West today is the result of our refusal – perhaps incapacity – to honor the strong gods that stiffen the spine and inspire loyalty” (1550).

Die outeur verduidelik sy doel met die boek soos volg: “I want to understand how the West was reconstructed after 1945 in accord with openness and weakening and how they debilitate us today, threatening to destroy the Western tradition they are meant to redeem … I will show how anti-fascism and anti-totalitarianism inspired a general theory of society … characterized by a fundamental judgment: whatever is strong – strong loves and strong truths – leads to oppression, while liberty and prosperity require the reign of weak loves and weak truths” (86).

“The violence that traumatized the West between 1914 and 1945 evoked a powerful, American-led response that was anti-fascist, anti-totalitarian, anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist” (12). “In the second half of the twentieth century, we came to regard the first half as a world-historical eruption of the evils inherent in the Western tradition, which can be corrected only by the relentless pursuit of openness, disenchantment, and weakening” (17). Die twee wêreldoorloë word deur anti-Westerse elemente misbruik om blankes as bv gewelddadig, fascisties en rassisties te brandmerk. As rehabilitasiemaatreël word daar van Westerlinge verwag om hulle oop te stel aan ander idees en waardes; dus om hulle tradisionele lewenswyse te verander. Vandaar bv globalisme, identiteitspolitiek en multikulturalisme.

“A uniquely Western anti-Western multiculturalism deprives people of their cultural inheritance. Mass migration reshapes the social landscape. Courtship, marriage, and family no longer form our moral imaginations. Borders are porous, even the one that separates men from women” (33). Die tweede helfte van die vorige eeu het chaos in Westerse samelewings gesaai. Slegs van Westerlinge is aanpassings verwag. Dit is opvallend dat bv Westerse sportspanne wat internasionaal meeding ‘n bonte mengelmoes van rasse en etnisiteite is terwyl nie-Westerse sportspanne in groot mate steeds monokultureel is. Die winde van verandering het weens ongekende dwaasheid ook die blanke bewind in Suid-Afrika vernietig. Albert Camus (1913-1960) het aan sulke gebeure uitdrukking gegee met die opmerking: “Disaster is today our common fatherland” (59) – dink aan Eskom. Reno noem dit ‘n “civilizational shoah [holocaust/whirlwind]” (65). Plaaslik is beskawingsverlies sedert 1994 deel van ons daaglikse ervaring. Ons eens Westerse land is in ‘n Afrikaland getransformeer.

Reno noem die anti’s (gelys in die voorlaaste paragraaf hier bo) “the postwar consensus … The postwar Left fixed its attention on moral freedom and cultural deregulation, seeing them as natural extensions of the anti-authoritarian imperative, while the postwar Right focused on economic freedom and market deregulation for similar anti-totalitarian reasons” (65). “The postwar consensus is more than political. Its powerful cultural influence is evident in the emphasis on openness and weakening in highly theorized literary criticism and cultural studies in universities, often under the flag of critique and deconstruction, and in popular calls for diversity, multiculturalism, and inclusivity, all of which entail a weakening of boundaries and opening of borders” (70). Wim de Villiers se Stellenbosch University as ‘n Afrika-universiteit is ‘n sprekende voorbeeld hiervan.

“The postwar era saw a shift in our metaphysical dreams to openness and a lightness of being [Milan Kundera] in response to the decades of catastrophe in the first half of the twentieth century. In pursuit of those dreams the postwar imagination seeks the ministry of weak gods … Today, one of our leading imperatives is inclusion, a god who softens differences. Transgression is prized for breaking down boundaries – opening things up. Diversity and multiculturalism suggest no authoritative center” (97). “The basic contrasts that have dominated the West since 1945 [are] open versus closed, spontaneous versus authoritative, weak versus strong” (108). Die mode-konsensus is: “We need to understand and overcome the powerful orthodoxies that govern public life in the West – the ‘open-mindedness’ that polices dissent, the ‘diversity’ in which all think alike” (135). “The utopian promises of multicultural ideologies [are] that diversity will be our strength … or that breaking down walls will promote harmony” (157). Daarenteen is Reno van mening: “We need to recover the ‘we’ that unites us … This century begs for a politics of loyalty and solidarity, not openness and deconsolidation. We don’t need more diversity and innovation. We need a home. And for that, we will require the return of the strong gods” (169). “Our danger is a dissolving society, not a closed one; the therapeutic personality, not the authoritarian one” (1560).

Militarisme en aggressiewe nasionalisme word die skuld vir die twee wêreldoorloë gegee (185). “The inescapable lesson, most came to believe, was that war and destruction arose from close-minded modes of life and thought … We must banish narrow-mindedness and cultivate a spirit of openness. Instead of dogmatic convictions and passionate loyalties, we need a spirit of critical questioning. Rather than reinforcing dominant social norms, society should loosen up and allow for greater freedom and experimentation … Cultures need to expand their imaginative boundaries to welcome the contributions of new peoples. The world benefits from creative innovation, not conventional thinking. The spirit of openness, not dutiful obedience, is what we must cultivate” (190).

Hierdie verwerping van tradisionele oortuigings en waardes en die daarstelling van openheid vir nuwe idees is volgens Reno veral deur Karl Popper (1902-1994) met sy boek, The open society and its enemies (1945), geïnisieer. Dit is myns insiens wenslik om skepties, krities en oop vir nuwe idees te wees, maar dit moet nie daartoe lei dat jy sonder oortuigings gelaat word nie. Wat as bv kritiese teorie (en soortgelyke frases) aangebied word, is dikwels vermomde kulturele marxisme wat hoogs onkrities met sy eie uitgangspunte omgegaan. Een van Popper se leerlinge (449), George Soros (gebore in 1930), met sy wêreldwye Open Society Foundations (455), toon hoe destruktief en geslote “openheid” kan wees.

Reno som Popper se standpunt soos volg op; “By Popper’s reckoning, civilization faces a choice. We can live in a tribal or ‘closed society’, characterized by deference to authority and the subordination of the interests of the individual to those of society, or we can break free from this ‘collectivist’ impuls and build an ‘open society’, one that ‘sets free the critical powers of man.’ The future of the West depends upon choosing the latter” (200). Popper “denounced strong truth-claims as threats to freedom and widwives of totalitarianism” (248). Popper verkies om oor “‘meaning’ instead of ‘truth'” te skryf (282) omdat “meaning” ‘n “weak god” (288) en “truth” ‘n “strong god” is. Dit gaan om die verskil tussen “fact-based truth and self-chosen meaning” (315). “According to Popper, the strong truths are strong gods. They command our loyalty rather than being open to critical questioning and empirical falsification. As a consequence, they pose a threat to liberal norms. They are enemies of an open society” (264). “An open society must be true to openness above all, not to truth” (397).

Popper se stellinginname geskied teen die andergrond van die Tweede Wêreldoorlog. Hy is ‘n Jood wat uit Oostenryk gevlug het. Reno skryf oor Popper se standpunt: “Never again shall we allow totalitarian governments to emerge. Never again shall societies reach a fever pitch of ideological fanaticism … We must banish the strong gods of the closed society and create a truly open one. One of the strong gods that the nations of the West must overcome is the nation itself” (212). Popper se boek kan as een van die oorspronge van die hedendaagse globalisme en anti-nasionalisme beskou word. “Popper expounds his conviction that an ‘attitude of reasonableness’ must be the basis for a democratic society” (304). “Reasonableness” is ‘n “weak god”, soos ons al dikwels in die nuwe Suid-Afrika agtergekom het omdat dit talle vertolkingsmoontlikhede toelaat.

In 1945 is ‘n boek getiteld, General education in a free society, saamgestel deur James Bryant Connant en ander Harvard-akademici, gepubliseer. Daarin word besin oor die rigting wat onderrig ná die Tweede Wêreldoorlog behoort in te slaan, bv groter klem op wetenskaplike en tegniese onderrig (648). Maar die prominensie van Westerse kultuur, bv “the great books”, is gehandhaaf (665). “The Harvard committee sought a delicate balance between the authority of great books and independence of critical questioning” (677). Teen die 1980’s en 1990’s is hierdie standpunt verwerp met ‘n vraag soos: “Why should ‘dead white males’ and their Western civilization be privileged? A new, multicultural vision of education would expose students to cultural pluralism and awaken them to the persistent racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia supposedly encouraged by dominant strands of the Western tradition” (682).

“The race, class, and gender pedagogy was seen by the liberal educational establishment as the next stage of the ongoing effort to build an open society” (687). Met die oog hierop is “racially and culturally diverse teachers” aangestel (687). “Most education professionals think it’s good for young children to have transgender teachers. Their opinion runs counter to common sense, which tells us that children need the stability that comes from being conformed to human reality, at the heart of which is the dichotomy between male and female. But the postwar consensus overrides common sense, celebrating the transgression that breaks down walls and inculcates the critical virtues necessary for sustaining an open society. This is our crises: a disquietude [ongedurigheid] born of homelessness. I see it everywhere, the existential consequence of wholesale weakening [slapgattigheid]” (1652). “Openness today means an intensely competitive marketplace for wealth and status without the guardrails and road maps of cultural norms” (1657). “The openness we inherited from the postwar generation is no longer counterbalanced by consolidation and rootedness” (1690).

In die plek van rasionaliteit het gevoelens en instinkte ‘n al hoe groter rol aan bv universiteite begin speel. “By the late 1960s and early 1970s, Popper’s open society had evolved to include open marriages, open drug use, and a general conviction that open discussion of the most intimate details of life would bring greater happiness and self-acceptance. Demands for an open and ever more non-Western literary canon, as well as other elements of multiculturalism, were only natural” (849). Die oop samelewing “now requires the policing of political correctness” (854); bv plaaslik deur die ANC se Menseregtekommissie. “The women’s movement, gay liberation, and … transgender rights” het kenmerkend van die oop samelewing geword (859). So ook ‘n groter mate van insluiting, diversiteit en bemagtiging (859).

Daarvolgens moet patriargie (mans regeer) en “cisgender dominance” (oorheersing deur die twee tradisionele geslagte) bestry word (881). “Gay liberation was supposed to overturn the bourgeois order, but in fact the gay lifestyle has become the ne plus ultra of discerning taste and self-oriented consumption” (1176); dus as uitnemend navolgenswaardig en daarom eintlik bo kritiek verhewe. Alles is veroorloof. “We engineer our lives, even choose our sex” (1495). “It is forbidden to forbid!” (1188). Daarom word daar bv nie pleidooie vir suiwer(der) Afrikaans gelewer nie. Ons kan maar lekker loslit opneuk totdat Afrikaans as ‘n taal uit eie reg vernietig is.

Die term “disenchantment” [onbehae, onvergenoegdheid], geïnisieer deur Max Weber (1864-1920), gee uitdrukking aan die ingesteldheid van die oop samelewing (740). “Disenchantment came to be seen as redemptive. The postwar consensus embraced ‘critical thinking’ as an indispensable cultural theraphy, necessary to prevent the development of the authoritarian personality and forestall the return of totalitarianism” (751). Die marxis, Norman O Brown (1913-2002), se hipotese is: “instinctual satisfaction as the final test of social justice” (827). Plaaslik kom ons hierdie soort destruktiewe dwaasheid daagliks teë. “What is today called ‘critical thinking’ amounts to a thoroughgoing therapy of disenchantment” (887). “To be an educated person today means acquiring the virtue of disenchantment … The rising generation should be guided toward what Philip Rieff [1922-2006] calls ‘deconversion’, the condition of critical knowingness that makes us ‘faithless’, not in the sense of believing nothing but of not believing anything strongly” (897). “We must drive out the strong gods from the West. We do so by relativizing them, putting them into their historical contexts, critiquing their xenophobic, patriarchal, cisgender, and racist legacies, and showing how they are products of a sociobiological process that produces in us a reptilian ‘tribal mind'” (903).

“The less educated tend to cling to their guns and religion. But we need not despair. The ruling class, educated in how ‘meanings’ are produced and sensitive to ‘historical and cultural context’, will manage their loyalties with techniques of disenchantment” (909). “Multiculturalists … pursue disenchantment, which transforms truth into meaning – and then meaning into preferences, impulses, and urges” (1098). In navolging van bv Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) is die humaniora aan veral Amerikaanse universiteite deur “‘cultural theory’, the highbrow form of multiculturalism,” oorgeneem (1109). Daar is nie meer plek vir die tradisionele kursusse in Westerse beskawing nie. “According to Derrida, reality is ours to make anew” (1147); dus gerieflik subjektief. “We should not seek a refounding of the West in accord with a new ‘given‘. That would reestablish the closed world of the old, discredited gods. What we need is something intrinsically open, a reality-based ‘genetic indetermination’ and ‘seminal adventure’. In a word, play “(1147).

Met verwysing na James Burnham se boek, Suicide of the West (Praag 1.10.2016), skryf Reno: “Liberalism sought ‘dialogue’ when firm resistance was needed” (1208). Is dit nie presies wat in 1990/94 plaaslik gebeur het nie? Pleks van terrorisme en marxisme kragdadig te bestry, is mandaatloos tot (algehele) oorgawe “onderhandel”. Anders as Burnham in sy verdienstelike boek, kom Reno met hierdie eienaardige vertolking vorendag: “Communism, an ideology born and bred in the West, became the most powerful tool of Western cultural imperialism throughout the world in the decades immediately following World War II, expanding the global influence of European culture. Mao’s communist rule destroyed China’s traditional Confusian culture, paving the way for Westernization. The totalitarian application of Marxist ideology did more to Westernize Russia than the policies of Peter the Great [1672-1725]. It provided a distinctly Western ideology for many third-world revolutionaries who sought to overthrow ancient monarchies, tribal systems, and the remaining colonial administrative elites” (1213).

Ek sou eerder beweer dat hoewel marxisme in die Weste ontstaan het, dit nie ‘n tipies Westerse ideologie is nie. Dit het immers nooit oorheersende aanhang in die Weste geniet nie. Lande soos Rusland en China het eers ná die mislukking van hulle marxistiese beleid in groter mate Westerse lande begin navolg. Plaaslik streef die ANC-regime met romantiese idealisme steeds na volskaalse marxisme in sy sogenaamde nasionale demokratiese revolusie, wat die vernietiging van demokrasie insluit. NP van Wyk Louw (1906-1970) het voortbestaan in geregtigheid bepleit. Plaaslik ervaar ons egter veel eerder “justice without virtue” (1256). Selfs “viewpoint diversity” (1240) word al hoe minder geduld.

“Justice, which is a strong god, requires race-blind policies, not the race-conscious policies with which universities recruited black students. To avoid that mandate [of justice], our leadership class turned to the muddy concept of ‘diversity'” (1834). ‘n Amerikaanse universiteitsrektor, Harold Shapiro, het in die 1980’s belowe: “The proper mix of race, sex, ethnicity, and religion … would contribute to ‘freedom of thought, innovation, and creativity’. Sexual orientation and other categories were soon added to the list, and corporations joined universities on the diversity bandwagon, asserting that a diverse workforce was essential for business success” (1840). “Diversity is a slogan of the open society. It isn’t a principle. It’s a therapy” (1861). “Multicultiralism … is another post-45 open-society therapy” (1861).

“In the 1950s and 1960s, the ideal employee for a major corporation was a married man. His domestic responsibilities were thought to make him steady and reliable. By 2000, the dominant cultural ideals had shifted toward fluidity and openness, epitomized in the notion of diversity. Now, the cherished employee is single, perhaps gay, but certainly eccentric to the mainstream and thus more likely to be innovative, creative, and mobile. The solid middle-class person who is married, goes to church, and has a network of communal responsibilities has become a liability in the open economy and open culture. He’s the sort of person who is ‘inflexible’. He’s likely to be ‘conventional’. What’s needed, says the postwar consensus at this late stage, are nimble, self-creating personalities able to boldly test the boundaries. The media are fixated on transgendered celebrities, multicultural settings, and other ‘decentering’ stories and images” (1930).

“‘De-centering’ means driving what was once privileged to the margins, and in real life that is accomplished through shaming, mocking, and deriding – a tactic otherwise known as ‘political correctness'” (1941). “They serve the common good by weakening norms. Those who trumpet diversity, innovation and transgression deserve to rule, not the ‘clingers’ who are susceptible to ‘nostalgia’ and vulnerable to ‘fear’, if not outright racism” (1957). “Aren’t the populist calls for closed borders clear indications of a reactionary impulse, a neo-colonialist effort to cling to the privileges of the ‘center’?” (2047).

Richard Rorty (1931-2007) het waarheid gedefinieer as “what your contemporaries let you get away with” (1327). “Viewed sociologically, what counts as truth depends on the social consensus” (1327) – plaaslik soos geformuleer deur die ANC; dus die “dominant opinion” (1332). Is dit nie in oortreffende mate waar van die nuwe Suid-Afrika met sy 80%+ swart bevolking nie? Rorty “thinks most people are captive to false opinions” (1332). Maar dan is demokrasie gebaseer op een mens, een stem, veral in ‘n land soos Suid-Afrika, mos volslae dwaasheid.

Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) skryf: “There can be no society which does not feel the need of upholding and reaffirming at regular intervals the collective sentiments and collective ideas which make its unity and its personality” (2116). “In every political culture the ‘we’ touches upon sacred things” (2307). Dink bv aan die verblydende herlewing onder Afrikaners van die herdenking van Geloftedag op 16 Desember 2019. Daardie “ons” is nie-inklusief. “The miracle of the ‘we’ turns contingent familial solidarity into something more precious than our universal humanity” (2312). “The concerns that drive populism in the West – immigration, borders, and national sovereignty – reflect a growing sense that the ‘we’ needs shoring up, which means calling upon the strong gods to renew our shared loves” (2362).

“If it is ‘nationalist’ to cherish self-government, then we should be nationalists. The strong god of self-government and sovereignty, which calls upon us to use our freedom and reason, is ennobling” (2389). “Those who shrink from the strong god of truth are sure to see danger rather than blessing in the strong god of patriotism” (2448). “Public life, domestic life, and religious life: these are what Russell Hittinger [born in 1949] has called the three ‘necessary societies'” (2480). “The sacred always calls to us. The strong gods return, renewing our inheritance, giving us a place to stand” (2545).

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