[DEBATE] : Law and Morality
tsholomodise at yahoo.com
Wed May 10 15:22:34 BST 2006
Law, State and Morality
The debate around the Zuma verdict has, predictably, produced views that, if one was to demand that they be taken to full conclusion, will eventually leave very few of us standing. In one of the letters of the Christian book Jesus dares one of the judges/priests who wanted an adulterous woman to be stoned Let anyone of you who has not sinned be the first to cast the first stone. It is then said he (Jesus) started writing something with his main toe, looking downwards. We are then told that by the time he lifted his head no one was there, except the woman, who accordingly unconditionally apologised to the Lord. He was forgiven. Go my daughter, and sin no more.
The above is critical and important. Why? Because most people, and to my surprise even on this list, have become moralists. Now, for me once you enter the moral realm do so completely or dare not enter it, like the judges/priests in the bible.
The fact is that many of us in this debate have unwittingly adopted Judeo-Christian morality and yet we call ourselves communists, socialists, anarchists, post-modernists and so forth. There is a lot of disingenuousness. But before I come back to these clear contradictions let me follow-on the morality trail.
The question of Zuma sleeping with someone half her age does not stand at all in a secular society, a product of different revolutions, starting with the bourgeoisie revolution which overthrew feudalism through to modern revolutions. Let us be reminded that the bourgeogieo revolutions of the 18th century (remember the French Revolution?) sought amongst others to cut the ties between the state and the church. It signified the end of the Holy State. From there onwards the distinction between the church (morality) and the fight for justice (including for state power in terms of class interest, in this case working class power) was established.
Secondly, morality as we understand it now, or as it is propagated, is nothing else than bourgeoisie morality. At another level, as we have already said, it is based on Judeo-Christian principles, found as it were in the Old Testament and Canonical Gospels. It would preach about age, fidelity and so forth. Now, if we really want to become moralists lift up your hands those who follow this morality strictly.
Lets see: who of us obey the laws of fidelity? Who of us obey the laws of abstinence? Who of us obey the laws not stealing others peoples partners? Who of us obeyed the clear message about not engaging in sexual intercourse before marriage? Who of us obey anti-abortion principles?
Anyone still remaining?
Yes, this is morality as some in this list seem to preach. See, that is why some of us did found Max Du Prees assertion that Thabo Mbeki is a womaniser quite stupid, to say the least. Do we judge Mbeki on his personal morality or on his policies? Some of us argued then, and I maintain my argument: Thabo and his club must be judged on their neo-liberal policies. Period! What he does away from the glare of the public is none of my business, for I am, in my own darkness, also a sinner. Some of us watched the stupidity of the American press and political circles when it wanted to prosecute Clinton for personal morality. For Gods sake Clinton should be judged for the murderous USA foreign policy. Finish and klaar.
Even if we were to take the morality discourse further it would not pass the test of rigorous, modern and progressive Christian (and other religions) thinking. For instance, progressive moral theologians, and philosophers, attach more meaning to the element of harm done to another human being. This dovetails very well with the human rights discourse. For instance, if the sex was consensual between Zuma and the complainant, who was harmed? Was a 31 year old harmed here? No ways! Harm would apply to an under-age girl, or boy, whose mental, intellectual and emotional processes have not developed to the level of informed consent. The issue of whether she is the daughter of a former comrade does not even arise. It is weak. There is no incest here, in the biological sense. Otherwise, how many of us have found ourselves in a relationship with the former husband/wife of a former friend or acquaintance? Isnt this the same as sleeping with the daughter of a former friend? See,
that is moral argument for you!
It is important therefore that we understand the opportuninism and limitations of the seeming moral arguments. For me it matters not whether JZ slept with a woman who was thrice as young as him, or who is the daughter of a former friend. The determining factor would be whether that woman is old enough (has she reached age of legal majority?) or not. If he had slept with a fifteen year old I would be joining the frontline in a toyi-toyi against him and call him a pig.
It is however important to take the argument further and rescue it from what are clearly limited and opportunistic arguments. Let us agree that none of us, unless there are nuns and monks in this list, can stand up and claim cleanliness in the strict house of morality. Now, fellow sinners, let us consider other factors.
Morality as propagated by the bible and as has permeated the psyche of our society is, upon deeper scrutiny, a conservative discourse. A reading of Engels Origin of the Family, and his other text which talks about Working class Morality, and then a diverse reading of Alexander Kollontais texts, should assist us to close the chapter on bourgeoisie morality and then open one on justice.
According to the above texts such arrangements as family, and restrictions such as fidelity, especially as applied to women, is nothing else but a repression of sexuality and promotion of enslavement of the female body form, especially. They are backward. Kollontai went even further to preach Free Love. Some people might grinch at this, but upon critical engagement few can disprove the validity of Engels and Kollontais arguments, that regulation of sexual conduct is informed by conservative values. Wives are turned into private property.
Where I agree with JZs critics, and unfortunately these are the points they do not mention is in the following. First, he is a polygamist. Polygamy, at least as we know it, is based on that a man has access to all his wives, while they are restricted to him. This is sexist. There is no equality here. It is chauvinist. Secondly, even though he somehow understandably talked about dress code under the duress of cross-examination, his reference to the dress code were out of order. It should not matter whether a woman was wearing a skirt for the first time. It is her right. (This does not refer to the no-underwear and kanga story, which is another dimension.) But let us make it clear that the polygamist story is a totally new debate that we must not link to the rape story.
I however do not see the point in the no-condom argument. For Gods sake the two seemed to have been heated up and both made a stupid mistake. Why single out JZ and not the woman? All of us, men and women, should carry condoms with us; in case of unforeseen circumstances, and not only men. At least van der Merwe lashed both. It takes two to tango. Whether one is a leader or not a heated moment can blur judgement; dare I say most of us in this list. Isnt it many people acquired Aids this way? The argument: he should know better does not hold at all. Such an argument in fact, when taken to a logical conclusion, would cast blame on the millions of our people who are infected. Are we telling them: You should have known better?
It is important in engaging the JZ case to be able to separate issues. Opportunistic, self-serving, and selective criticism does not advance the course of debate. Instead, careful criticism, which acknowledges certain points and rebuts others, assists in the formation of robust ideas. Unfortunately what seems to be coming out is that creation of mutually exclusive positions. It is either you hate JZ with passion and therefore everything that he does would be wrong (am telling you the next time it will be how he laughs we do not want a president who laughs like that or that he likes singing, yes remember how our struggle song mshini wami - has been vilified? we do not want a president who likes singing) while everything that his detractors say is good and holy. This is dangerous. But more importantly it is misleading. And let me explain why.
Unwittingly the left (I guess that is what I can call this list) has found itself, either consciously or not, choosing sides within that big soap opera that is the ruling club. Suddenly JZ is a bad fellow, as if to suggest that another looter that we will be assigned under as our next president will be better. Secondly, the disdain against JZ has seen the left failing to raise fundamental issue of liberal democracy/civil liberties (which are important as they give us space to advance our course) simply because they were done against JZ.
The first example was the raid at his house. As the left we should have been the most vocal that the act signified the creation of a Gestapo operation where the civil liberties of citizens could be violated willy-nilly. We kept quite, because it was Zuma. Do we remember the say that (and I paraphrase) when they came for the catholics I kept quite, because I was a protestant; when they came for Jews I kept quite, because I was a gentile and so forth
then they came for me, and no one was there to defend me?
Without at all defending Zuma we should have risen up on a principle and pointed out that the raid constituted erosion of basic civil liberties, in the same way that we rise up when LPM etc are harassed. Remember, this is how Stalin started. When he went for Trotsky many (the likes of Zinoviev) kept quite (no, supported him). We all know that many, including Zinoviev, were later executed at the Moscow Trials. Our failure to rise up on principle, simply because of our disdain for Zuma, is allowing the creation of Gestapo-type Stalinist tendencies to develop unhindered.
Lastly, it is surprising how many are simply not asking critical questions about how JZ is being treated and yet how many others are left off the hook. Let us assume that JZ is guilty of corruption in the forthcoming case. Just how many looters continue to walk the streets free, and yet we say nothing? Just check at least investigative reports (in newspapers) in the last five years then you will see that the alleged R500 000 that JZ is alleged to have looted is nothing compared to the Tiara scandal, the Oilgate (R10million), Sun International kickbacks, and many others. Yet people are walking free. Where is justice? Where is fairness. But what is more disturbing is that as the Left we have blindly allowed ourselves to buy into an internecine violence between looters. Just where is our old stance: Neither Moscow nor Washington? It seems we say some looters are better than others.
Our journalist comrades, those on the list and beyond, have also failed us dismally. No wonder comrades in many parts of the world, especially in the USA, care less about the so-called freedom of _expression. Journalist have been fully seduced by one side of the internecine violence. See the following http://www.news24.com/News24/Columnists/Jon_Qwelane/0,,2-1630-1633_1929008,00.html .Then they will cry foul later when they are attacked, yet they take sides.
Let me conclude by saying that the manner in which the Left (or should I say this list) has handled the debate is very disappointing. There is no class analysis. There is no independent, critical analysis. Even the feminism that has been advanced here is a very liberal. Where is radical or Marxist feminist analysis, that would take into account race/class dimensions in this debate? Where is our bell hooks? Instead we see self-professed radicals adopting and mouthing very conservative moral arguments. For Gods sake lets leave those to the monks and nuns. Our morality should be a class morality. One that is concerned about the looting that is taking place in the world. One that seeks to overthrow class rule by the bourgeoisie and aim to replace that by a dictatorship of the proletariat. That should be our morality.
For me the debate should consider the following:
The condition of the working class woman in the era of neo-liberal onslaught
The condition of the working class in the era of the Aids pandemic
The condition of free _expression and continued enjoyment of civil liberties by the working class in the era of emerging abuse of state power by the bureaucracy.
For me this should be the debate.
No to any of the looters!! No looter is better than the other!!
Talk is cheap. Use Yahoo! Messenger to make PC-to-Phone calls. Great rates starting at 1¢/min.
More information about the Debate-list