Nation needs evidence-based debate and decision making

THERE appears to have been an "awakening" in SA; the spate of vile online commentary has induced a profound and powerful response.

BDLive, 20 January 2016

The virtues and dangers of this "awakening" are many — and not entirely obvious. Multiple essays and interviews have already addressed this point, although no doubt there is more to say. Similarly, the true depth of the ideological and discourse change that is happening in SA’s public sphere is unclear; it may be widespread or it may be limited to very specific urban communities. In general, it is not easy to evaluate such claims, nor is it really a white man’s prerogative to hold court over SA’s racial discourse. Either way, it appears an intellectual change is upon the country.

Speculation about the origins of this movement suggests twin forces. A rising black African middle class has produced, and been met by, a new and outspoken intelligentsia in public and social media. The movement is resuscitating the works and ideas of postcolonial critical theory, black consciousness and the like. These are ideas that have perhaps been too swiftly forgotten in the ascendancy of modern liberalism.

Their thinking is challenging, especially to whites like me. It is powerful, angry, extremely personal, yet also reflective, philosophical and analytical. In many ways, it is painfully insightful and quite correct. It is also important: the conversation is not occurring in a vacuum. It is intertwined with the #FeesMustFall and #RhodesMustFall movements. It percolates government and political parties, and will probably make its way into law as we begin to examine the limits to free speech and hate speech.

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Daniel de Kadt is a political science PhD candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology