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I know there are many people blogging about the ANC recalling Thabo Mbeki, so I won’t take up any more virtual space on that topic here, because I have already …
Sticking with politics, however, I have noticed that the world tends to have something against intelligent people … like Thabo Mbeki. I am not entirely sure if there is a prejudice against intelligent people, or whether there is a tendency to use people’s intelligence against them. This observation of mine is not based on scientific study, but on mere dipping-into-the-newspapers.
Case non-study South Africa: in the beginning – ca. 1999 – people liked Thabo Mbeki. There were disgruntled mutterings about an exile running South Africa, but those were kept to a minimum and generally people were happy that he was president. There was an understanding that South Africa had an intellectual president.
Case non-study United States of America: in the beginning – ca. 2007 – people liked Barack Obama. At first there were doubts about a black man running for president of the United States, but then he proved to be more popular than Hillary Clinton – a woman! – and the mood changed and people were happy to support his bid for president of the US as the Democratic Party’s candidate. In The New Yorker of March 2008 Obama was commended for his intelligence and for his style in Talk of the Town:
Obama’s ability to contemplate the contradictions in Americans of all colors without going mad – to be made stronger by them – accounts for his power as a politician. He also pays the electorate the supreme compliment of assuming that it, too, can appreciate complexity.
I was buoyed by this take on Obama’s use of complexity. It made me think back to Mbeki’s ideas on HIV and AIDS and how South Africans did not appreciate Mbeki’s use of complexity, nor did we appreciate that Mbeki expected that we could appreciate complexity.
Case non-study South Africa: enter Jacob Zuma. He likes to sing and dance. South Africans warm to him because he’s apparently not an intellectual.
Case non-study United States of America: enter Sarah Palin. She can see Russia from her house. Middle American mothers warm to her because she has children and because she’s not an intellectual like Obama.
Case non-study South Africa: South Africa wants to be led by a man they would not call intelligent.
Case non-study United States of America: America wants to be led by a woman no-one would call intelligent.
Okay, so maybe it’s not the world that is suspicious of intelligence; maybe it’s just South Africa and the States.