Letter: Ideologues on both sides dislike liberty - Mercury

5 December 2019 - Where liberty used to be called a left-wing idea by the Right, it is today called a right-wing idea by the Left. The only conclusion to be drawn is that ideologues on opposing sides are indistinguishable in their suspicion and dislike of the idea of liberty – for it undermines the ideological premise common to both that society must take instructions on how to live.

Though Imraan Buccus, like most commentators of the Left, mistakes name-calling for argument (‘Rejecting the normalisation of right-wing ideas’, 4 December), the name-calling he indulges in is instructive.

Where liberty used to be called a left-wing idea by the Right, it is today called a right-wing idea by the Left. The only conclusion to be drawn is that ideologues on opposing sides are indistinguishable in their suspicion and dislike of the idea of liberty – for it undermines the ideological premise common to both that society must take instructions on how to live.

Liberals, on the other hand, have always had greater trust in people, their indivisible humanity, and their capacity and right to choose how to live.

This, however, appears to worry Buccus no end, an anxiety he attempts to obscure by slurring freedom as a ‘right-wing idea’, and expressing alarm that the IRR, among others, has ‘taken up’ this cause ‘with a confidence that would have been impossible a few years ago’.

In fact, the IRR has been at it since 1929 with a confidence undimmed by the hostility of detractors during the 46 years of apartheid and – after the, in part, deceptively promising ‘liberation’ – over the subsequent 25 years of democracy.

When Buccus refers to ‘the normalization of right-wing ideas’, what he really means is the insistent desire of ordinary people to be freed from the damaging, limiting and stultifying intrusions of the state – Left or Right – on their hard-won freedoms.

Indeed, popular confidence in this cause is to be applauded, for change is urgent. For the bulk of South Africans, policy that deters investment and job growth, empowerment that focuses on race instead of persisting disadvantage, dysfunctional services such as education and healthcare, and the chronic and widespread squandering of resources have the effect of denying yearned-for freedoms that only opportunities, skills, and material well-being can secure. Most of those denied these things are black people, but the burden is South Africa’s as a whole.

Not by a long shot, as intelligent readers will immediately grasp, could this be taken as the motivating analysis for change of a ‘right-wing’ organization. On the contrary, the data illustrates the cruel and unwanted chokehold of leftist ideology on liberty.

Michael Morris

Head of Media, Institute of Race Relations

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