Picture: EPA/NIC BOTHMA
Picture: EPA/NIC BOTHMA

How about we take a bucket of human excrement and dump it in the living room of one of the University of Cape Town brownshirts? Or, even better, we dump it in the study of an academic who condones their behaviour — ideally a young academic who lives alone, so others aren’t affected.

Alternatively, how about this? We find a "fallist" apologist who has a child and we get hold of his exam paper, in his toughest subject, and burn it or flush it down the toilet, taking care not to disrupt the other students sitting that subject.

Both those ideas are, of course, awful. The point though is that they seem — at least to my white, bourgeois mind — far more defensible than what has actually been done on the campus over the last few days. They are more targeted and thoughtful, and more situation appropriate.

I’m entirely convinced — though this can’t be proven — that a large part of the bilious student "animus" is derived from the encouragement, implicit or explicit, they’re getting from credible progressive academics. In other words, those who should be channelling key struggle virtues such as discipline, empathy and tactical nous are instead acting like virtual cheerleaders.

Privileging ideological solidarity over moral rectitude is problematic at the best of times. It’s especially damnable, though, where the cause itself is far from irresistible given other claims on the fiscus, the methods deployed are manifestly destructive and the victims are (mostly) disadvantaged and (all) innocent.

Scorched-brain tactics such as invading exam rooms and burning down buildings might be warranted in circumstances of intense repression or privation, such as under apartheid. However, when they’re deployed in a democracy — a functioning, fledgling, floundering democracy — that’s simply not okay. We are talking depravity unworthy of the "blocks, stones and less than senseless things" of Shakespeare’s Roman mob. A tenured academic who abets or condones such practices needs an extended stint in Pyongyang.

Glen HeneckCape Town

Please sign in or register to comment.