Monday, August 16, 2010

South Africa appears to be ahead of the Totalitarian Curve

In general, I am a President Zuma supporter. In general, I believe President Zuma has led South Africa well.

At times, this has been through his active involvement in issues. At other times, this has been achieved through his staying out of the issues.

But I am disturbed by his recent comments regarding The Protection of Information Bill - a bill he openly supports

Throughout history, there have been people in positions of power and control that believed that what they did was in the mass's best interests. These people usually started out in movements that fought for the rights of their people. These people usually began their political lives fighting against injustice. These people usually embarked on political journeys, fighting for the freedom their followers were so desperate to enjoy.

At some point in time, these people won their battles for freedom. At some point in time, these freedom fighters won control of state structures. At some point in time, the oppressed masses gained their freedom from the all powerful state.

And then, at a later point in time, the people in positions of power became 'holier than thou'. These people believed they had access to the 'truth'. These people started fighting to protect their own interests. These people started to protect their own interests. These people started using state structures to further their own political ambitions. These people started placing 'The State' above the rights of individuals. These people told the 'ignorant' masses that these laws were in their best interests. These people told the populace that new laws were being introduced to protect the state and its organs.

These people started out as liberators, freedom fighters and as voices for the oppressed. These people included Verwoerd, Stalin, Hitler, Kim Jong-Il, Ahmadinejad and Mugabe.

These people followed typical cycles: Fighting the Oppression that was justified as the 'State's Best Interest'. Then winning Liberation for their followers. Then, oppression in the Name of the State's Best Interests

The Protection of Information Bill would give the State the power to classify any information it deems to be in the national interest. The bill would also make publishing what The State can regard as top secret information, punishable with up to 25 years in prison.

The Protection of Information Bill does not surprise me in the least. It's (potential) adoption was inevitable.

After all, freedom fighters forget their roots.

What does surprise me is the speed at which such a bill came into the political debate. In 1994, South Africa held its first free and fair elections. 16 short years later, and ANYONE can (potentially) be arrested if they uncover/report on/question something that THE STATE deems not to be in THE STATE'S best interest

Here is my advice' to our leaders:


Remember what it was like when a regime used 'protection of the State' as a justification to limit the rights of citizens

Remember what it was like to be persecuted for uncovering the truth

Remember what it was like to fight injustice - and go to jail for doing so

Remember what it was like to speak out against corruption - and be prosecuted for doing so

"I feel..that most people in the world if given the choice between being guaranteed food...shelter...and other basic necessities of life..if given the choice between those basic needs and their freedom of speech...would give up that freedom" Dalton Trumbo (Blacklisted American screenwriter and novelist, 1905-1976)

Maybe freedom of the press is no longer an issue for most South Africans.

Perhaps freedom of speech is overrated.

Perhaps I have nothing to fear.

After all, I don't do, say or think anything that is a threat to The State

Well, let me be more accurate: I don't do, say or think anything that is a threat to The State, according to my interpretation of 'threat to the state'

I just have to pray that The State sees things the same way I do

And I pray that's true for all of you too

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