by Hannes Wessels
My problem in trying to understand the mindset and behaviour of ‘liberals’ today begins with trying to define this particular class of people that I believe should accept much of the blame for so much that is wrong with our world. Because, if a liberal is someone who believes in a doctrine that emphasizes individual autonomy, equality of opportunity, intellectual liberty and an acceptance of Christianity as a bedrock of Western democracy, then I feel I should be an easy fit; and yet I find myself utterly estranged from the class that today classifies as ‘liberal’. And, while I feel I differ from them on many of the major issues of the day, I also believe I and my fellow-minded ‘conservatives’, comport ourselves differently in the way we deal with disagreement and this leads to trying to understand a contra distinct behavioural pattern.
Yet another example unfolds as I watch the rancorous impeachment proceedings underway in the United States Senate, led by liberal Democrats Chuck Schumer, Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler. They shrug off responsibility for representing a party that is responsible for so many of the nation’s woes, including the collapse of many of the once great American cities, uncontrolled migration and involvement abroad in senseless wars. I listen and am reminded of a subtle but crucial difference between people calling themselves ‘liberal’ and those calling themselves ‘conservative’.
Few would have predicted that Barack Obama, a ‘black’ (i.e. mixed race), liberal socialist with an Islamic pedigree, who had never held down a proper job, would be elected president of the United State in 2009. A virtual unknown, he suddenly burst on the political stage with the vital assistance of a devoted media, and stormed to power.
This came as a shock to many millions of conservative, Christian Americans who were deeply concerned by the man the majority chose to lead the country. But being true to the democratic traditions of the country they hold very dear, these people chose to bury their differences, and in some cases their prejudices, and accept, and indeed in many cases embrace, the people’s choice.
While political opposition from his Republican opponents continued, it was conducted in a respectful, constructive and well-mannered way. With the surprise election of Donald Trump, a similar display of common decency and acceptance of defeat has been utterly absent from the liberal political leadership and their powerful allies in the media. In response to his winning the presidency, he has been rudely hounded, harassed and viciously vilified, from before he was even inaugurated to the present day. I dare to suggest no American or Western politician in history has ever been so harshly and relentlessly attacked by his political opponents as has Donald Trump.
Trying to understand this paradox and this aberrant behaviour, I reflect on what I have seen of liberals and liberalism in Africa. The entire decolonisation project, that swept through Africa, starting with Ghanaian independence in 1957, was motivated by the liberal politicians of the Western democracies who came to dominate the political landscape after WWII. They successfully promoted the trope that all whites in Africa were racist oppressors and all blacks were innocent victims.
Thus, following this line of thought, Chaka Zulu, a psychotic mass-murderer who terrorised an entire sub-region, has been universally lionised, while Cecil Rhodes, who as far as I know never killed anyone, who built roads, railways, bridges, hospitals, schools, universities and supplied the funding for the most prestigious scholarship of the modern era, is remembered as a heartless, avaricious, monster. On the back of this and many other big lies, one of the greatest man-made catastrophes of all time has unfolded in sub-Saharan Africa, which has cost millions of lives in wars and endemic continental violence leaving hundreds of millions of people trapped in a deepening poverty spiral.
As a white African, who has always wanted the best for the continent and my country I have to bear witness to this humanitarian tragedy, which was entirely avoidable, with equanimity and resignation because I know I am powerless to stop this process, let alone reverse it. I also know that the post-colonial political leadership must accept responsibility. But my silent, impotent anger is reserved for the liberal intelligentsia and their political leadership; the champagne socialists, who initiated, nurtured and facilitated this unfortunate development. This anger would be somewhat assuaged if any member of the liberal establishment had ever mustered the intellectual courage to announce to the world that they had got it wrong, that they must acknowledge the mistakes of the past and stop compounding their errors; but nary a whisper of this nature is to be heard.
Instead, in mimicking the intolerance of the Democrats now trying to crucify Trump, they will ruthlessly attack and destroy people such as I who dare to question the wisdom of the decolonisation exercise and condemn us as ‘racists’, ‘neo-colonialists’, ‘white monopoly capitalists’ and members of the ‘far-right’. From them, there is zero tolerance of any divergent view and absolutely no open discussion allowed. Just as they insist the subject of ‘global-warming’ is incontrovertible and unchallengeable so is the decision to rid Africa of any vestige of European political leadership or influence.
There is some irony in all this too. When I look back over the years at the liberally inspired political convulsions that have wrecked the countries I have lived in, I notice that most of those raucous, righteous, demagogues of the left, who demanded the immediate and in some cases violent, termination of white rule have long since left the benighted continent for the fairer, more civilised climes of Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and North America. They reside there in relative comfort and safety while we, who opposed them and their acolytes are left to deal with a daunting future while we rummage through the rubble of the continent they did so much to destroy.
Reflecting on them and the Democrats attacking Trump, I sense a similarity in the psychological mindset that binds them. Across the liberal spectrum there seems to exist an inability to accept any form of defeat; but more importantly there is also a frightening refusal to accept and acknowledge that they may have done something wrong and take responsibility for their actions. Which leaves me wondering if modern-day liberalism is not underpinned by people afflicted with a sociopathic tendency. If so, then the people I find myself opposed to, begin to take on a truly terrifying persona. And the chance of finding solutions borne out of constructive discourse, where one of the parties to the discussion refuses to understand or accept the frailty of the human condition and the adage, ‘to err is human’, comes to nil.