The apology was a setback for both freedom of expression and for freedom of thought. The message that we need to all think alike that we are unable to tolerate an alternative view is dangerous and frightening, writes Howard Feldman
Really? Did anyone in Africa genuinely think that Patrice Mostepe was actually suggesting that he had spoken to the entire continent of Africa when he told Donald Trump that Africa loves him.
Did we really require him to check with all the residents of the continent, so that we could all agree, collectively, that indeed we all love the man.
Or should we have stopped for a moment to perhaps consider that he was speaking figuratively and that it was an expression to convey the warmth that he feels towards the US President.
Warmth that some (in Africa) might not feel.
And yet we chose to be outraged by the statement. As though it was an affront to our very sensitive selves.
We really are a bunch of hypocrites at times.
If we are to be honest, we need to consider what our reaction would have been had Motsepe said the same thing about Barack Obama?
In most likelihood, we wouldn’t even have noticed. Or cared. And if we did happen upon the statement, even if we were not fans of the then US president, in most likelihood, we would have said nothing.
Because, really, who cares?
We might want to consider further what we said when Motsepe generously brought Beyoncé to South Africa for our viewing pleasure?
I remember specifically never being consulted on it.
Had I been asked, perhaps I would have suggested that he bring another artist. But he brought Beyoncé and everyone was happy. We didn’t complain that he had negotiated, paid and arranged the visit to the country. All without checking with us first.
And when he paid between R45m and R100m to bring FC Barcelona to South Africa, just because, I don’t recall anyone suggesting that he should have asked for agreement before doing so.
After all, I would have preferred him to bring Liverpool.
Even though Messi is pretty cool.
Which means that the reaction he received was not about that which we say it is. It is not because he doesn’t represent us, but simply because we don’t like him having a view that is not the same as ours.
Whether he consulted the continent or not, we would hardly complain if his view or if his actions were ones that match our own.
The greater concern for me was that Motsepe succumbed to the pressure and outrage and that he apologised for his view.
By saying sorry, he succumbed to the bullies and awarded them a victory.
The apology was a setback for both freedom of expression and for freedom of thought. The message that we need to all think alike that we are unable to tolerate an alternative view is dangerous and frightening.
And is something that we need to guard ourselves against.
The Motsepe incident is a powerful and important one.
The speed at which Twitter turned against a man (Motsepe) who has shown such enormous generosity, elucidates just how afraid we are of another opinion.
It is an example that we need to take note of, if we don’t want to become that which we fear the most.
– Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.
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