Saturday, September 17, 2011

Who wants a "phased approach"?

MyBroadband reports on feedback to ICASA about local loop unbundling (LLU)

One of the highlights from MyBroadband's submission is (my emphasis):
A phased implementation of the unbundling options listed in the Discussion Paper would be preferred
The passive voice is disliked as it is used here.  The source of opinions is obfuscated, which allows these opinions to be dressed up as inviolate fact.

Who prefers a phased implementation of loop unbundling?  I don't, do you?  In whose interest is it if ICASA were to mandate a phased implementation?  I'll tell you who benefits: Telkom.  The slower the meteor approaches Chicxulub, the easier it is for the dinosaurs to adapt at the slow rate their big bodies prefer, in order to keep those whippersnapper mammals in line.

I wonder if this is part of where Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions' "extracted the most reasonable views" - the views that, obviously, conflate consumers' self-interest with Telkom's.

Framing matters.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Malemagate - some contradictory thoughts

My opinion of Julus Malema is mixed. I abhor the interests he is willing to sacrifice in his quest to the top, but I can only admire how he strategically pursues his. The fact that his interests differ from or even oppose mine, does not mean that he is "stupid", as many seem to think. That he flunked woodwork in high school means that he flunked woodwork in high school, not that he is incapable of making something out of himself. Anyone who doubts that he has made something out of himself, should please explain how this man is able to afford the Breitling watches and other trappings of material wealth, as well as the political influence, that he seems to enjoy.

The meaning of a message is the response it elicits

If there's one thing you need to know about NLP it is this. I find it somewhat arrogant to suggest that the entire meaning of a message can ever be embedded in only its form and medium. We say that jokes are funny not only because there is something inherently funny about their words, but because we laugh at them. When most of an audience misunderstands a message, it is not the audience that is "wrong" or "stupid", but the message that is inadequate. Accepting this tenet of communication frames the problem as a pragmatic, empirical one, where outcomes are more important than intentions. This is how it should be, if you care about getting what you want.

When Julius Malema sings Shoot the Boer, it means exactly the reaction it's getting: fearful white people making a brouhaha, Afriforum taking him to court, the ANC retreating into their afro-laager crying foul over the legal challenges. Malema is finally in a spot of trouble, so part of the meaning of this song, when he sings it, is, "I'm scared. Please help me by showing solidarity with me. Here's a pro forma enemy for you to use as an excuse." (This is now. I believe he has been singing this stupid "song" for longer than he's been in the poo.)

I don't treat seriously any suggestions that when Julius sings this so-called song, he intends literally to command members of his audience to go out and shoot people. I don't even take seriously the suggestion that any members of his audience interpret it as that, let alone being likely to execute its instruction. It's far more fun just to freak these white people out. Always them and their white tendency to fear the nag van die lang messe (night of the long knives).

The 48 laws of power

Read this book if you want to recognize Juju's master plan. He wants to be president, and if we keep reacting to him the way we are, he's going to get there.

Remember those armed bodyguards walking him to the Cape High Court? That was spectacle (Law 6, Law 37) from the sop shelf. Afriforum? Law 2 (learn how to use enemies). Getting others to keep him in the news with lawsuits etc.: Law 21 (play dumber than your mark). Coming up with some new scandalous thing apparently every month, and having everyone react to that: Law 31 (get others to play with the cards you deal). And when he calls for nationalizing mines? I bet that's just Law 45 (preach the need for change, but never reform too much at once).

But I think there's a law that Julius forgot about: Law 1 - Never outshine the master. He went too far when he muttered something about regime change in Botswana. Time will now tell if he, or Jacob Zuma, will pay the price.

Sticks and stones may break my bones

But words can never hurt me. Most people reacting so vehemently to Malema's antics don't even understand the language in which he sings that stupid song. It's like going to the opera as an Englishman and fussing about the Italian words the soprano belts out, the Italian words an Englishman doesn't even know.

A double standard?

When some paler member of our society gets caught out saying the word "kaffir", it is an instant political and commercial death penalty. I'm undecided about whether a stupid racist epithet warrants the ending of a career. Refer again to "Sticks and stones may break my bones" above - I believe there is far more harm in a superficially liberal capitalist (wordlessly!) overlooking black employees for promotions, merely for being black, than there is in some unreformed Afrikaner going all kaffir-this-kaffir-that at a braai, yet who never gives practical effect to any of their lingering prejudices. Yes, I believe that such people exist, and even that they are not uncommon. To them (and I encourage fearful white people to apply this qualifier to the meaning of "boer" in that stupid song), the word "kaffir" is merely a colloquialism for "black man", a bad habit they learned in our bad old days. At the braai the word means only the response it elicits from others at the braai - there is no lynch mob or shotgun commando or any other hostility. Most likely there is a mild feeling of superiority of a kind that the men present probably feel towards women too, but mostly the connotation is that of a very-different man, and not much, if any, hostility. And, as surprising as it might seem, I have heard the word "kaffir" being used in an almost reverent fashion, where it's meaning seems closer to the original "unbeliever" - an affirmation of both differentness and respectability. (That's not an argument for using the word. I wish white folk here would just forget that past-expiry-date word.)

Yet when some ANCYL leader (whether as the present incarnation in Julius Malema or as previous ones in Peter Mokaba) sings some "liberation song" whose words literally translate as "kill the farmer" or something to that effect, words which almost all white people recoil at as vehemently as black folk recoil at the word "kaffir", one needs to drag these ANCYL leaders, kicking and screaming, to a less inflammatory stance.

I accept the truth of the saying, "The victor writes the history books". The victors here have decided that the punishment for getting caught saying "kaffir" shall be the political death penalty, while for similarly inflammatory utterances with inverse polarity, there shall be only a delayed (if it comes at all) and grudgingly administered slap on the wrist. This imbalance grates me. In my perfect world, people in positions of influence would receive the political death penalty equally, whether they said "kaffir", "kill the boer", or "wait till Mandela dies".

What to do if you dislike Julius Malema


Your reaction is his source of power: stop feeding it. The next time he mouths off about something and the media rejoice over the opportunity to hit high circulation numbers, ask yourself whose cause you are helping in gobbling it all up. Can you, personally, make him recant his statements? Didn't think so. Would you, personally and directly, be affected even if he does get his way and has mines nationalized? Not really - unless you own a mine. How likely is it even, really, that he would ever get his way? Do you think Patrice Motsepe will just roll over and let the government take his mine(s)? Or the trade unions, who own large chunks of the mining industry? Apply those critical thinking skills you claim to have as an advantage over him! Remember that whenever Julius is in the news, there is probably something else that got pushed out of the news. Something boring and unimportant like your right to know about the "Zuma tapes", for example.

In short: stop caring so much. That is what I do. There are many ways to push my buttons to get me upset, but Julius Malema ranting about something isn't one of them. I care more about YOUR caring about Juju, than I care about him himself, and my writing this post is more about you and your reaction than it is about Mr Malema.

I realise that in writing this post I am feeding the monster I wish to vanquish. I see this as a tactical retreat - giving up a little territory in the hope of finding reinforcements from the army of the apathetic.