Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This is not the Transformers

I am not now, nor have I ever been of the view that our current policies on Employment Equity and Black Economic Empowerment are without foundation or not born of necessity given the racial history of our country, but I am of the view that the time has come for us to look at the statistics and start to ask some serious questions surrounding the current format of the legislation, because the simple fact of the matter is that the statistics, as compiled by the South African Institute for Race Relations, simply do not tell the whole story. While I will not reiterate my misgivings with regards to the statistics (having already done so on this forum), it must be said that statistics without context can easily be twisted to fit any political agenda one would care to mention. So why does it now become time for us to critically re-evaluate these pieces of Legislation?

The economic question: What are we even talking about?
We are talking about Black Economic Empowerment, Employment Equity and so-called economic freedom, often referred to as Economic Transformation, but while Employment Equity is rather self-explanatory, the other concepts require some further investigation.

As a political theory or buzzword designed to attract votes, then notion that black people who were previously excluded from the business world can be empowered through ownership works brilliantly well, but the inclusion of the word “economic” makes it rather problematic.  In the true text book definition of the word, having ownership of something does not make one empowered, it makes you rich, while true economic empowerment can only come from the skills and knowledge needed to either use your wealth to generate income or in the very least maintain our gotten wealth. Because of this fact, economic power will always flow to the person/people in the economy who are most empowered, i.e. the people who can employ their skills and knowledge the best.

The concept of economic freedom, a buzzword that’s become so popular that it has spawned a brand new political organization, is a rather new concept on our political landscape and it is yet to be defined. As far as I can figure, the political definition of economic freedom entails a system whereby the people (through the proxy of the State) own all the resources (physical and financial) in the country with no private ownership and no excessively wealthy or poor people. In economic terms, this would be called communism, but what does economic freedom mean when one considers the theory? I’ll admit at this point that I am nowhere near educated enough to put forward a full definition of Economic Freedom, but I will state that it entails the “Unhampered pursuit of an individual (and perhaps juristic persons like companies) to obtain the highest levels of education, employment and wealth allowed by his/her potential or ability in an homogenous economic system.

Then we come to the concept of transformation and we can definitely say that you get transformation and transformation. Many a political commentator and economist have highlighted the fact that our systemic economic problem is that it has been built around a small elite that is reaping large scale economic rewards from a large pool of unskilled labour and, while the transformation numbers quoted by the SAIRR and Peet van Aardt do indicate some success in the racial transformation of our economy (more blacks in the elite), there is little indication of the success/failure with regards to the transformation of the systemic economic problem we have mentioned. Incidentally, economists will refer to this transformation as economic development; we develop the skill base of the general population in order to move from a resource based economy towards an economy where manufacturing and the rendering of services play the largest part.

The philosophical question: When does historical redress become racial engineering?
Like I’ve said before, the initial reasoning behind redress legislation is beyond debate, but we have reached the point in time where it becomes a very real possibility that we will start to see “double rounds” of redress taking place when the children of EE or BEE beneficiaries begin to stand in line to receive redress as well. The argument that will doubtlessly be put forward here is that the erstwhile Apartheid System gave its beneficiaries preference for centuries with no regard for double or even ten rounds, with no “sunset clause” in sight. It has been brought to my attention that there is indeed a large knock on effect with current EE and BEE legislation whereby the empowered also use their wealth to empower members of their extended family, but this is certainly not a new or a black only phenomenon. As a matter of fact, the knock on effect from Apartheid legislation is still painfully apparent today, but in today’s political climate and vernacular this often forms part of what is referred to as white privilege.

While what happened before surely does not take anything away from the validity of these arguments, it certainly cannot be called redress when we attempt to ensure the future financial/professional success of a child who has had every opportunity to secure his/her own success in the same, and often better, circumstance as their counterparts. The only success that will be had with such a system is that it will further strengthen the economic elite at the cost of the poor, so ultimately, the possibility and inevitable occurrence of double redress becomes a social question.

The social question: Who is benefitting and who should benefit?
Up until now, and most likely for the foreseeable future, we have not yet seen any indication of who the major beneficiaries of our redress system have been and it is thus impossible to monitor the general success of the policies and legislation. Specifically, we must consider whether the majority of beneficiaries are the politically well-connected or the ordinary “grassroot” people of the townships and while there is certainly nothing wrong with a politically connected person or even an ANC member reaping the benefits of redress legislation, it would simply be wrong for that person to gain those benefits purely because of political connections and it saddens one to state that this does seem to be the case, if we are to take a look at the staggering value and instances of Government corruption, tenderpreneurship and openly practiced policy of cadre deployment. Some people will even go as far as to say that certain members of the ruling party have hijacked this system in order to pay for political favours or support. For those who are interested, here is a report from Business Day on how large scale BEE deals really work.

The simple question we need to answer is whether it would be proper or even moral for us to allow for the continued upliftment of black people on account of being black or if we should rather focus on uplifting people because they are poor and I remind you that cutting a pie into more pieces does nothing to enlarge the pie. I leave you with the concluding paragraph of the SAIRR report.

The report suggests that turning these figures around will depend on the three Es – education, entrepreneurship, and economic growth – the only way in which real empowerment can occur, particularly for those who were disadvantaged by the racial policies of the past. Future progress may therefore come to depend less on racial policies such as Black Economic Empowerment and more on ensuring access to sound education while fostering a climate conducive to economic growth.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Know your rapist: A general guide

Having cast a glance or two at Melissa Rodrigues/Ferreira’s post (the comments too) on Voices24 with regards to rape and victim blaming, I’ve come to realize that these are some seriously misunderstood issues. Thus, I have started a brand new blog to try and cast some new light on the subject at hand.

What is not to be misunderstood in any way is that rape is definitely the most heinous crime any person can commit. The physical, psychological and emotional repercussions are immense to a point that they are virtually beyond description, but what is often misunderstood is the motivation for the crime being committed in the first place.

Contrary to popular belief, the motivation for the majority of rapes that occur in the world is not male lust. This false perception, when tied in with the grossly offensive and outdated notion that women have to act in some kind of proper way in order to be the custodians of sex and procreation because men are incapable of controlling their sexual urges, is also directly responsible for the victim blaming that occurs when a rape takes place. Victim blaming, refers to the notion that the woman somehow encouraged her own rape by dressing in some provocative way or responding to the rapists initial sexual advances and incidentally, female jurors in the USA statistically show a higher proclivity for victim blaming than male jurors do. But if lust is not the motivation for the vast majority of rapes, what is?

In broad terms and without getting into too much psycho babble, the two most common motivations for rape is male insecurity and male anger.

Insecure men (even those who do not show it) turn into what is termed humiliation rapists and their insecurity stems from a feeling of inadequacy with regards to women or other men that is often due to personal aspects like educational or professional failures, social awkwardness, broken or violent homes as children and in some extreme cases overly aggressive or seductive mothers. Humiliation rapists then seek to reaffirm their own manhood through the physical and emotional humiliation of their victims. Due to their insecurity and often cowardice, humiliation rapists tend to operate by conning their victims into a situation or location that would facilitate the commiting of the crime.

Anger rapists on the other hand rape because they project their anger at a certain person onto their victims. The anger most often stems from having had “unhealthy” homes as children with a pattern of drug or alcohol abuse, but religious or political extremism has been quoted in some cases. Unlike the humiliation rapists they are known for professional success and social adeptness, which makes them more dangerous than humiliation rapists, even though they show a less frequent pattern of rape. Anger rapists seek an outlet for their anger (sexual gratification in some instances) through the suffering and, in many cases, the death of their victims. Anger rapists also use the con method of attacking their victims due to their social abilities, but they are far more criminally sophisticated and organised, which makes them more likely to use a blitz attack, like abducting a victim from a public place like a parking garage.

What becomes clear from this is that the mere notion that “we should educate men that rape is wrong” would be rather ineffectual and that the most power to stop this scourge on our country lies in the hands of potential victims. I also find it a case of too little too late when a rapist is jailed when viewed through the eyes of a particular victim because it does not undo the damage that has already been done. This brings us to the next question; is it possible to spot a potential rapist?

As a matter of fact, it is. All rapists (and abusers too) share certain character traits that could assist one in identifying men that could be prone to rape and spousal abuse. Any combination of the following thirteen behavioral traits (where it forms a habit) indicates a higher likelihood that you are dealing with a potential rapist or abuser.

1.       Insensitivity towards others/emphasis on self – Does he place an unhealthy emphasis on his own needs, feelings and well-being often with a blatant disregard for others? He feels the world owes him everything he wants or needs and will try to make you feel bad for not doing what he wants.

2.       Belittling comments or behaviours towards others – Does he habitually make nasty comments about other people with regards to race, income, social standing or gender, even under the guise of joking? If he can consider himself superior to others based on whatever criteria, then he can consider himself superior on the basis of gender too.

3.       Negating behaviour or comments – Does he try to tell you what you are thinking or feeling or more importantly what you are not? If he can attempt to project his feelings or thoughts onto you, what is to stop him from doing the same thing sexually?

4.       Hostile or threatening language – What choice of words does he use? An habitual choice of words, like calling women “bitches,” indicates a subconscious assumption about certain topics and doing something is not that far removed from thinking about it.

5.       Bullying – Does he make constant use of overt or subtle threats? Bullies are cowards by nature and will always get violent (as opposed to the threat of violence) with someone they consider weaker and safer. Bullying can quite easily turn sexual too.

6.       Excessive anger – Does he go off at the slightest little thing? This can indicate that there is much lingering anger already and that he will need to vent at some stage. Virtually nothing stands in his way of doing this sexually.

7.       Brooding/Revenge – How long does he hold on to anger? Men like this have to win at all costs and will often turn their attention to those who refuse their sexual advances.

8.       Obsession – Why can’t he get the message? Closely tied in with no.7, this is most commonly seen with acquaintance rapes, because the constant rejection of his sexual advances can turn to anger; do not be alone with him.

9.       Extreme mood swings – Does he go from being very happy to extremely sad at the drop of a hat? Men like this can often use their “hurt feelings” as justification for an unlimited amount of violence and damage. A common indication of people with anger issues.

10.   Physical Tantrums – What does he do when he gets angry? Men who often launch an assault on their environment can easily turn their violence on you.

11.   Jock or Gorilla mentality – The jock mentality promotes the use of violence and aggression in order to achieve some goal through positive reinforcement and is common among participants in contact sports. It could often cause them to fail to differentiate between the sports arena and normal life.

12.   Mean Drunks – A person’s actions when intoxicated always show what lurks underneath. Do not put yourself in a situation where you have to deal with him alone and most importantly, ensure that you are in full control of your faculties.

13.   Alcohol or Drug Abuse – The overwhelming majority of rape cases involve some form of intoxication on the part of the rapist. The drugs don’t necessarily cause him to rape, but it diminishes the social taboo of actually doing it. Be careful.

Do note that not all men who exhibit these traits are rapists or spousal abusers and that certain rapists will exhibit very few or none of them depending on their criminal sophistication, but they are clear danger signs that this man can turn violent.

For Melissa’s sake, I won’t call this a manual, so let’s call it a guide.