Dostoevsky’s Demons – still hungry for destruction


Perhaps my biggest influencer in 2017 is a man who’s been dead for 136 years. Discovering the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky has been a joy seldom experienced. He’s made me consider and think about big concepts and existential issues to an extent which no other author has been able to. Perhaps another reminder that I’m living in the wrong time.

In the past week I’ve completed the novel Demons. It was one of the more difficult novels I’ve ever worked my way through, but was rewarding nonetheless, as all his works usually are. It’s a novel about an ominous group of political activists attempting to undermine and overthrow a small town’s governing class. The ‘Demons’ of the title are not ghouls or actual Demons, but ideas which possess certain people and lead to ruin. Early in the novel, one of the lead characters, Stepan Trofimovich an ageing intellectual liberal, describes what he observes with new liberals in the big city he visits. “You cannot imagine what sorrow and anger seize one’s whole soul when a great idea, which one has long and piously revered, is picked up by some bunglers and dragged into the street, to more fools like themselves, and one suddenly meets it in the flea market, unrecognizable, dirty, askew, absurdly presented, without proportion, without harmony, a toy for stupid children.” 

This was to be something of a theme through the novel, as we watch a group of nihilists, seduced by the ideals of Communism, wreak havoc in this small town in 1800’s Russia. One of the members of the group, in a confession at the end of the novel, explains exactly what they set out to do: “The systematic shaking of the foundations, for the systematic corrupting of society and all principles, in order to dishearten everyone and make a hash of everything, and society being thus loosened, ailing and limp, cynical and unbelieving, but with an infinite yearning for some guiding idea of self-preservation – to take it suddenly into their own hands.”

Dostoevsky’s arguments in Demons would probably remain the same today if the man were still alive. It’s seemingly a universal truth: In the absence of a greater, higher power, mankind has the tendency to be very easily seduced by political ideologies. The novel was a warning of what was to come in Russia in the early to mid 1900’s. Unfortunately, no one listened. Dostoevsky was observing the sparks that would eventually lead to Lenin, Stalin and one of the most murderous regimes in the history of the world. One of the central characters of the novel, Shatov, in observing this group of radicals in the novel, says: “They’d be the first to be unhappy if Russia somehow suddenly got reconstructed, even if it was in their own way, and somehow suddenly became rich and happy. They’d have no one to hate then, and nothing to spit on, nothing to jeer at. All that’s there is an ism”

This one quote said it all about the Bolshevik Russia that was to come. In pretty much all revolutionary communist movements, it ends up not being about equality at all. These movements are driven by hate – hate of the oppressor, of the bourgeois, hate of the system and that hate can only manifest in you once you have become possessed by ideas. That hate also doesn’t really go away once it has captured you. And once the goal is achieved – what then? When a movement is fuelled by hatred and ideology, it often ends up going over the edge.

Dostoevsky used this novel to warn that liberalism had been hijacked by a dangerous group. If he were alive today he’d be warning us about the same thing. There seems to be a movement of destruction sweeping through the world. Liberalism in the wrong hands is a slippery slope to radical fundamentalism powered by resentment.

The term “liberal” in its original form described somebody who resisted the state in order to be liberated from state control – i.e. to gain ‘liberty’. In its original form liberalism was about freedom of individuals, freedom of speech, equal opportunity and judging people on the content of their character rather than anything else. Nowadays if you identify as ‘liberal’, you most probably want larger governments, you probably want to restrict speech you don’t like, you probably have the tendency to put people in boxes based on their skin colour, gender etc, and you probably want to take away more individual rights than you’re willing to give.

20th century liberalism did an incredible amount of good in the world. There were noble causes that it fought for. Women’s rights, gay rights, non-white rights etc. Noble causes which were essential in progressing society in the right direction. But in the absence of noble causes, is it once again in danger of going over the deep end? The following are actual headlines I’ve seen in the last few months from large outlets such as the New York Times and The Guardian include the following:

“Church of Sweden to stop referring to God as ‘He’ or ‘Lord’”

“Why climate change is creating a new generation of child brides”

“Want to fight climate change? Have fewer children”

“Is it ok for my child to have white friends”

“It’s time to take the ‘great’ white men of science off their pedestals”

“Yes, we must decolonise: our teaching has to go beyond elite white men”

“Christmas is ruined by children”

“Fascism bad – Communisim good(ish)”

“It’s time to do away with the concept of manhood altogether”

The danger is that the wrong ideology is possessing liberalism once again, and has been moving towards this for the past two decades. Hardcore liberalism now seems more of an attempt at destruction – A destruction of Western Civilisation. A destruction of the traditional family structure. Destruction of law and order. A destruction of capitalism, the system that has lifted millions out of poverty and led to the great inventions of the past 200 years. Destruction of healthy cultures and identities. This is of course, underpinned by an attempted destruction of Western religion.

Is it pure co-incidence that the two biggest mass murdering regimes of the 20th century – those of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, both rejected religion? Now I’m not saying that atheism equals mass murderers, that would be ridiculous. But I am saying that where Christianity is lacking there is a void in humans which could get filled by anything. Communism, after all, rejects religion. There’s a reason for this – if people are living for their faith, how can they live for the state?

“Wait a minute,” you might say. “What about all the evils of fascism!” Yes, everyone knows this. Of course fascism is bad, and always has been, with a horrifying track record. That’s just the point – fascism is just another ideology, and as soon as people are sucked into an ideology, it always becomes a dangerous ground. Also, the point I’m trying to make is that most brutal regimes in modern times have always started as liberation movements. Dostoevsky was a liberal himself. He even got arrested in his younger years and was nearly executed because of this. However, like myself now, I get the sense that he looked at liberalism at the time with a growing sense of unease.

Dostoevsky, a Russian Orthodox Christian was particularly good at portraying strong arguments contrasting his own views, sometimes even stronger than his own arguments. The prime example of this is his creation of Ivan Karamazov, in the novel The Brothers Karamazov. Whilst Ivan was a sceptic of the existence of God, he couldn’t help but feel that “In the absence of God, all is permitted.” Even though he himself wasn’t convinced on the existence of a God, he did admit that human beings in general need religion.

A few years later, Frederich Nietzsche, a philosopher heavily influenced by Dostoevsky, wrote his famous “God is Dead” line: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

It’s worth noting that Nietzsche was a non-believer, yet these weren’t words of triumph. These were lines of anguish and foreboding. This was a dire warning to humanity saying that in the absence of the guiding principles of religion, what would happen to ordinary people?

Yes, there are many of you out there right now disagreeing with this, and thinking that you can live a perfectly moral and good life without religion as your guide. Yes, that might be the case, but there’s a strong chance you’re a university educated person who’s been exposed to much that has grown your mind. Consider for a moment the poor man, who’s received little to no education, who has perhaps grown up in a broken home? In the absence of religion, in this situation, who does this man turn to for moral guidance? Now picture this man standing on the brink of committing crime. If this man truly believed in judgement from a higher power, that would surely be infinitely more of a deterrent than the idea of the law. And what happens when a dangerous political movement comes along, and promises this young man that he can get things for free and now is the time to stick it to the oppressor?

It’s not just the poor, uneducated who are susceptible to fall for politicised fundamentalism. I see this with my own eyes on social media – affluent, successful people sucked into political grandstanding, endlessly spewing out their clichéd, recycled hate of something or someone, usually with an incredibly angry tone. Generally losing all sense of reason, fact and critical thought in the process. You can guarantee two things with people like this: 1. They’re non-religious. 2. They have found no purpose or meaning within themselves. They need to find it elsewhere.

As religion has declined over the past 100 years in Western countries, governments have generally increased in size, often quite dramatically. This leads to the unfortunate possibility of ordinary people, in the absence of religion, looking to large governments as their moral authority. Governments know this. They also know that the more they can get the plebs to depend on them, the more they control them. As The Grand Inquisitor in the Brothers Karamazov succinctly put it:  “For who shall reign over human beings if not those who reign over their consciences and in whose hands are their loaves.”

My feeling is that perhaps we can divide the world into two groups. In the first group are those who can live autonomously, finding meaning, morals and purpose from within – who can exist perfectly with no higher authority. And the second group – those who cannot do this, and who actually need a higher guiding power. Perhaps the most dangerous people in the world are the people in the second group who have rejected the idea of God. They easily end up possessed by something, our putting their faith in something that isn’t always entirely healthy. As Dostoevsky’s character put it, these people are susceptible to “an infinite yearning for some guiding idea”.

I don’t think I’m suggesting that religion is going to heal the world. Society has moved beyond that. What I am suggesting is that if you’re getting your opinions from your ideology you’re part of the problem, rather than the solution. If your societal viewpoints are coming from external sources, there is a strong chance that your sense of meaning, purpose and happiness are also relying on external sources. Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor summed this up perfectly in a fictional conversation with Jesus: “The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”

If Western Religion is indeed on the decline, perhaps the biggest thing we need to be teaching the next generation is to find true meaning and life purpose within themselves, and for them to understand that fulfilment and happiness comes from within. Without a strong sense of internal purpose and meaning, or without religion, anything can come fill the void of the young adult mind. 

The Disturbing Power of Google

An employee by the name of James Damore was fired by Google last week after writing an internal memo criticising their diversity policy. He wasn’t being anti-diversity at all. In my view he was simply providing an extremely rational and reasonable response. His memo basically stated that there are inherent biological differences between men and women which go a long way to explaining the workforce disparities in the tech industry, and that ultimately people should be treated as individuals rather than placing them in tribal groups. He was a Harvard biology graduate no less, and the memo was rooted in science and fact. That didn’t stop Google. Ironically Google fired him after stating that they valued differences of opinion. If you want to read more about it, Google it (irony intended) and read through the whole story. The memo sparked controversy and a huge debate from all sides. As usual most of the reactions were completely hysterical, which probably contributed to his dismissal. Within the repercussions were grown men exclaiming that they were ‘shaken to the core’ by this. You can read his memo here:

I always try to see both sides of the story but in this case it was clear to me – Google were 100% wrong, and so were the people hysterically defending Google’s decision to fire the employee. His memo didn’t contain any sexism or hate speech at all in my opinion, he was simply asking the employer to consider a different point of view. I didn’t agree with all of it, but it was well researched and written, and based on fact and reason. No matter what your political views are, we should all be highly concerned when the views of a large group are hounded and shut down. What was even more disturbing was seeing senior Google managers stating (actually bragging) about how they keep an internal spreadsheet blacklists based on spying on employee emails. Radical left wing ideology and censorship has taken over universities and much of the entertainment industry. Is the corporate sector the next to go?

As much as people complain though, Google is a company operating in the private sector. They can do what they like, and the purpose of this post is not to delve into the actual story, but raise the bigger issue that I see. There’s something much more disturbing about Google, and it dawned on me after I angrily declared that I was boycotting them in favour of Bing or DuckDuckGo. Someone asked me if it meant I was going to stop using Youtube (Owned by Google). What about Google Maps? Gmail? Google Drive? Google Playstore? Chrome?

How could you boycott Google? In this day and age is it even possible? If something Pick n Pay does upsets you, you can just go shop at Spar or Checkers. However, Google has ingrained itself within our lives like some part of our DNA.

A few decades ago, The Doors lead singer Jim Morrison famously quoted that “He who controls the media controls the mind.” Very true, but in the time since that quote, I don’t think any single force has actually controlled the media. The power of the internet is changing that. In the history of mankind, no media has wielded more power than Google. They have by far the largest search platform, the largest email platform and the biggest entertainment platform. When people search for something, Google has the power to feed them not necessarily the top results, but rather the results that Google sees fit. Indeed they’re already under investigation for this sort of behaviour. When people watch Youtube, Google has the power to suggest the right videos Google wants you to watch next. Google has the power to de-fund channels and entertainers that don’t suit their narrative, ensuring that millions of people never even get exposed to them. Google have the power to control the conversation and public discourse. I’m no I.T. expert, but as I understand it, Google already knows pretty much all of your online habits and probably a scary amount about your general life. Who knows how far this rabbit hole goes? While Google has a monopoly over search, video and email, Facebook have an equally large monopoly over social media and messaging – controlling Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. A few months ago I saw a photo of Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg sitting next to his laptop. The camera and sound receiver both had black tape over them. Not disturbing at all.

With this in mind Google have the power to alter public opinion, heavily influence political elections or drive ideological agenda – and I’m pretty sure they’re doing this already, to an extent. Still think you’re coming to your own informed decisions and opinions? It’s worth remaining very very vigilant. As someone who’s read 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451, this all seems a little too familiar. When reasoned dialogue and speech is being shut down and owners of the media have this much control and power, we should be extremely concerned. So now we have the precarious position where the monopoly holders of social media, the internet, mainstream media, academia and Hollywood all have the same political outlook, and all seem hell bent on telling you what to think. 1984 here we come.

The Futility of the Political Rabbit Hole


I’m done with political debates and arguments. I really am.

There was a six month period last year when I really got into politics. Particularly US politics. I found myself on a rather unpopular side of the fence, which is a recurring theme for me.  I got there through my interest in where culture and society is heading, as well has this burning thirst to know more about the world, which seems to have taken over me since I turned 30. For someone who is interested in the world its quite easy to get sucked into politics, and it can become like an endless rabbit hole. But although I’ll remain interested and fairly well informed, I’ve taken the decision to withdraw myself from much international political talk and debate. Political arguments have become incredibly destructive. Politics itself turns people you used to like into people who annoy you. And what’s the point of bringing the arguments and facts of Sowell or Friedman to the table when society bows down to feelings over reason. We’ve reached a point where for many, politics has become less of a debate about ideas and policies and more a case of “good vs evil”, with one side declaring themselves the moral judge.

Where do I start? Firstly, I’ve been struck by the level of obsessiveness that’s crept into the world. I can understand people not liking Trump, but my word, the hysteria levels have made me lose huge respect. So many people have become literal whinging cry-babies. Stephen King – one of my heroes growing up, has literally become unhinged to the extent that I unfollowed him a while back. Authors Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, who I have a great deal of time for, have also become increasingly deranged and hysterical. Robert De Niro can’t stop himself from whining about Donald Trump every time he has a platform. Roger Waters, who wrote scathing Pink Floyd lyrics down the years opposing the establishment, has now found himself on the side of . . . .  the establishment, doing entire concert sets bashing Trump. How edgy. Coldplay stated at a concert that people who voted for Donald Trump are no longer welcome at their concerts. How tolerant. Johnny Depp stated that maybe it was time for a presidential assassination. How peaceful. Meryl Streep decided to spend her lifetime achievement speech bitching about Donald Trump – to a room filled with people who agree with her. How brave.  These are merely a few examples. Many of these people claim to care so much about the welfare of ordinary man, but in the next breath call Trump supporters bigoted hillbillies, or something like that. How many of these people ever got of their high horse at all to understand the common Trump supporter? I would guess very few. The ability to understand others is becoming a rare trait. People opposing him is perfectly fine, and healthy for a democracy in fact. Healthy democracies need strong, critical opposition. But it’s the way they’re doing it and their descent into hysteria to the extent that it’s all they talk about, which disappointed me. In my opinion it’s reflected worse on them than it has on Donald Trump.

Where did this all come from? Have people been like this for decades or has the modern world changed us? We’ve become a society where gratification is at our fingertips more than ever. Technology focused around convenience makes it easier and easier to get what we want when we want it. So when we don’t get what we want – i.e. when elections don’t go our way, we’re not quite as well adjusted to deal with it. We go a little crazy.

Most of these writers, actors and celebs have lived cushy, comfortable lives and have been drowning in money and luxury for years. They know nothing of real struggles and real fights of previous generations. So when Donald Trump comes along, they finally find something they can latch onto as a cause. It makes them feel good about themselves. They’re part of the fight and they feel important, like they’re at the front lines of battle. Oh look, they think, when I tweet about Trump I get more retweets and likes than I ever have before! People are cheering me on!  They say I’m brave!  They’re fighting something and it’s giving them a rush. The wealthy middle class isn’t immune from this either. It’s now edgy to criticise the president to their echo chamber of followers who all agree with them. All feel good about themselves in this battle of Good vs Evil.

Like I said, I understand if people don’t like Donald Trump. I really do. The guy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea by a long way. I’ve been falsely accused of being a Trump supporter for wanting him to beat an opponent I liked less than him, who in my opinion, in the greater scheme was far more dangerous. At times it’s seemed that way to people I know as well as twitter followers, when I was actually just defending the guy from the ridiculous media, celeb hysteria and double standards. I like some of Trump’s positions on certain things. Similarly, I dislike some of his other positions and think he’s idiotic at times. I’ll praise him when he deserves it and call him out when he deserves it. It’s not that difficult. People don’t seem to realise that you can actually have a balanced opinion on the guy and judge him as he goes, on results. Another reason I got behind Trump was because I have a very keen sense that Western Civilisation is under attack. People I know often roll their eyes when I say this. But then again, no one I know personally is as well read as I am on this issue. The fate of Western Civilisation has interested me more than any other issue in the last 12 months, and the parallels between the Roman Empire’s decline and the current plight of Western Civilisation is concerning. Very concerning. So I guess I see him as some sort of necessary evil. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong on all of this.

People’s one sided bias and inability to see another angle gets quite amusing. It gets to the point where you realise politics and forthright political opinions are quite silly. A great example is when Trump met the Pope. A photo went viral of the Pope looking highly serious, an expression perhaps on the verge of annoyance. Of course, everyone loved sharing this, saying things like “OMG the Pope feels the same way we do!!” Blissfully unaware, of course, that there were other photos of both of them smiling at each other. A week later the Pope was pulling the identical expression with Canadian Prime Minister and liberal poster boy Justin Trudeau. Did people go crazy about this photo? No. Did it go viral all over Facebook and Twitter? No.

But enough about Trump. Watching celebrities go hysterical about him has been a lesson for me, and perhaps the main reason for the thoughts behind this piece. In a world where we’ve become so intolerant of alternate political beliefs, why put them out there? I don’t work in politics, I don’t make money from it, so why potentially alienate people? It’s not like I’m going to become the new Andrew Breitbart or Glenn Greenwald.

I don’t even consider myself right wing, but having read the likes of Thomas Sowell, Ayn Rand and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, I don’t think I could ever find myself supporting a Left leaning political party. Yet there’s very little ‘right wing’ about me. In the true sense of the word, I’m more liberal than most of the ‘liberals’ I know. I identify as a Libertarian. I’m worried that the word is becoming pretentious, but it’s the best way to describe myself. Libertarians are essentially pro-individual freedom and oppose authoritarianism, and this can come from the Right or the Left. These days it happens to be coming from the Left. I believe in equal rights, regardless of your gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. I believe that people should be judged on their character and ability and never their skin colour. I believe people should be free to practice any religion they want to, whether it’s Christianity, Islam or the Spaghetti Monster, provided it’s not forced on anyone or infringes on others’ rights. I believe many drug and marijuana laws should be relaxed to the point of legalisation as this would end much drug violence. I believe government should be as small and efficient as possible. I don’t believe in ever going to war unless it’s for defence only – and as a last resort. I believe governments should be doing all they can to provide an optimal environment for business. I believe in unwavering enforcement of individual and property rights. I believe that a job will always be better than social welfare. I believe that the leadership of a country should be putting their country’s citizens future and culture before anything else. But we’ve come to view government as some sort of saviour of everything and the lord almighty, and that’s why people like me are ostracised. Governments don’t like people like me.

The celebrity point is particularly perplexing. Of course, they all have the right to say whatever they want on a public platform. Unfortunately, many do, often revealing their stupidity. Or is it an alarming level of indoctrination? I’m not sure. Stephen King for example must surely know that his country is split pretty evenly between Democrats and Republicans. So why go and alienate potentially half your fan base with your hysterical political mutterings? It really doesn’t make sense to me. Of course, there is a level of arrogance with these people which would probably lead them to say something like “I don’t need sales form those people or fans that are rednecks”. There are hundreds of cases like this, all equally annoying. I’ve just looked at them and been reminded that politics is divisive, now more than ever, and I’ve decided I don’t want to be like them. At all.

The other reason to avoid political arguments is that people don’t change their minds due to the influence of other people they know. Especially when it comes to politics. You’re more likely to change someone’s religious views, but you’re never going to ever change someone’s mind on politics. Often the contrary occurs, and they’ll hold their beliefs even more steadfastly. I can happily speak for myself in this regard. We’re all guilty. Pascal observed this 350 years ago when he realised that people only change their minds or beliefs when they feel they have come to that conclusion themselves. The Stoic in me says Control what you can control. Can I control politics? No. Can I influence politics? On an infinitely small scale. So why bother?

My recent sense of disillusion on all this has been further accentuated by other, more disturbing observations as well. There a disconcerting level of sneer and hate that has come to dominate the public discourse of politics. On social media I follow followers of both the Left and Right. The reason for following quite a few Left leaning people is that I like different opinions, but also because I support Liverpool Football Club, and as you may know, Liverpool is very much a Left wing Labour stronghold. In the run up to the UK election in June I was shocked by the sheer hate and intolerance that was spewing from the Left. If anyone disagreed with them about a Corbyn or Labour policy they were instantly labelled a “Heartless C*nt”, “Tory scum”, “Racist prick” or other delightful terms. I saw very little of this go the other way, despite following a number of Right-leaning accounts. What I saw in the other direction was a more reasonable criticism of policy and competence in a far more civilised form. When politics starts making you annoyed with your own football club’s supporters, of course you become disillusioned – with all of it.

There have been a couple of occasions where I’ve commented on a left leaning media person’s social media post with something that disagrees with their point, only to be attacked by countless comments and insults. I’ve been called “clueless”, a “cupcake”, a “c*nt”, “a special kind of stupid” and so on and so forth. One pleasant gentlemen told me to “Put four fingers in your mouth and shut the fuck up”. My favourite was someone telling me to “Go read a book”. Hence I don’t even bother commenting on anything like that. You end up waking up the next morning with 35 Twitter notifications and name calling from lunatics you’ve never met.

When I’ve looked at all this I’ve realised more and more that I don’t want any part of this. I’m all for debates around economic facts, reason and logic, but that’s not the case anymore.

He’s a racist bigot” is not an argument

You’re a c*nt” is not an argument

Tories are scum” is not an argument

You don’t care about people” is not an argument

I don’t like his face” is not an argument

He’s going to destroy the planet” is not an argument

The Republican Party is now the party of death” is not an argument (This is an actual Hillary Clinton quote from June 2017)

Sharing gifs and cartoons is not an argument

Sharing a video of someone snubbing a handshake from Donald Trump and commenting “OH MY GOD THIS IS GREAT!!” is not an argument.

Yet this is the political debate that happens nowadays amongst common folk.

Before you accuse me of being too one sided, I must say that this is a problem from both sides of the political spectrum. Many on the Right are equally obsessed and hate filled. Nothing demonstrates this gaping divide between the sides than the days following a terrorist attack. It quickly descends into a case of “NO MORE MUSLIM IMMIGRANTS!” vs “ISLAMOPHOBIA CAUSED THIS!” Zero objectivity, zero balance from both sides.  People don’t seem to see that there are two angles to pretty much every issue. That’s exactly what’s missing from this world. Balance. On this blog I mention the concept of critical thought a lot. The ability to look at an issue from different angles and understand the opposing arguments. Very little of that is happening. Never before has the Left and Right seemed so divided. My personal view is that the two sides haven’t necessarily drifted apart. The Right has stayed pretty much Right of Centre while the Left has lurched over to the far Left. This is what has caused the outbreak of hate and the vast divide. It seems to me that it’s a natural tendency of the Left to just move further and further Left, like weeds that grow if you don’t pull them out. Lenin said himself that ‘The goal of socialism is communism’. In the UK and US we see the leadership of parties on the Left moving away from centre further and closer to the far Left, embracing more socialistic principles as it goes while pulling hordes of millennials with them, indoctrinated by their Marxist university professors who’ve never held down a job in the real world. People marching on the streets of London and New York waving hammer and sickle Soviet flags, completely oblivious of the destruction and death this ideal has caused. It’s as if nobody has learned from history and fact. Communism has killed more people than both world wars combined. But is a Marxist eventually going to get into power in the U.S. or UK? Probably. Sooner rather than later is my guess. Is the 21st century going to repeat the mistakes of 20th? Probably. What’s the point in fighting back – humans never learn.

I can’t help but think that a lot of what I observe is a little bit cult-like in belief system behaviour. The vast majority of hate I’ve observed has come from the Left leaning pro-socialist side. This side has appeared to position itself as the moral authority and the Good people fighting the Evil forces of Capitalism and privilege and all those evil things. In an increasingly atheistic society, are people subconsciously looking at political ideals as their guide? Many seem to have succumbed to the church of ‘Feelings’ over anything else. Social Justice is the religion. Privilege is now the Original Sin, and as mentioned earlier there seems to be a growing urge to divide the world into Good vs Evil rather than ideas to be debated. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thought that people can live morally without religion. But although many people think they can be independent of a higher authority, perhaps this isn’t actually the case. The larger more socialist, authoritative government essentially says Give us more money because we know what to do with it. We know what’s best for you. Are more and more people subconsciously looking to big socialistic governments as their form moral authority and real ‘god’? Maybe.

So ladies and gentlemen, this is me taking the moral high ground this time. I’m above all this shit. I’m going to step back and observe all this from a distance. Just like John Galt, I’m retiring my energies from this battle. I reserve the right to call out stupidity as I see it. I believe it is essential to continue fighting for free speech, but I’m seeing it as increasingly futile to engage in debates that change nobody’s mind and ultimately leave people judging you from their moral high ground. I say again – why bother. Of course, remaining well informed about the world and international politics from a critical viewpoint is always a good thing, and something we should all be doing. I reserve the right to say what I like. My beliefs are my beliefs. I hold them dear. I’ll defend them when under attack. I’ll live as much as can according to them. But will I try to influence others to think like me? No. It’s not the Libertarian way, after all.

When the Pillars of Reason at Universities Crumble

Before I start this, it’s probably worth a quick foreword of sorts. Sometimes I feel the urge to write about something that’s disturbing me. Subsequently I’ll sometimes need to look for material on the internet to give me more facts around the argument or idea I’m trying to put across. In the case of researching this particular piece, there was literally so much content and so many examples, that I actually had far too much content, and was drowned in material. I was left selecting a random sample of examples, but know that this is really the tip of the iceberg, and I myself have read of countless other instances at universities around the world over the last couple of years.  

I’m disturbed. I’m disturbed by what I’m seeing on university campuses across the world. To illustrate, here are a few examples:

Last year the University of Tennessee Office for Diversity and Inclusion suggested in a campus campaign that their students use the appropriate gender pronouns when referring to a particular person. They insisted that correct pro-nouns must be used for whatever gender the person ‘identifies with’. And no, this doesn’t mean just ‘he’ and ‘she’. Some of these pronouns include the terms ze, xe, hir, hirs, or zirs, instead of the normal ‘he’ or ‘she’. Because you know . . . some people identify as a ‘xe’ rather than a ‘she’.

The madness has even crept into world renowned establishments such as Oxford, where the same thing has happened and students are encouraged to use gender neutral pronouns such as ‘Ze’ rather than ‘He’ or ‘She’.

Students at the University of London are demanding renowned, essential philosophers and writers such as Plato, Descartes, Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell should be largely dropped from the curriculum simply because they are white. These names have echoed down the ages in terms of providing critical thought and wisdom, however they appear to be too white be used as subject matter for certain students.

The madness is replicated elsewhere. The student union at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) is insisting that when studying philosophy ‘the majority of philosophers on our courses’ should be from Africa and Asia. The students say it is in order to ‘decolonise’ the ‘white institution’ that is their college.

Closer to home at the University of Cape Town, in a public forum, a certain student leader said that “Science as a whole is a product of western modernity and the whole thing should be scratched off. Especially in Africa.” She went on to say that “I have a question for all the science people. There is a place in KZN called Umhlab’uyalingana. They believe that through the magic‚ you call it black magic‚ they call it witchcraft‚ you are able to send lightening to strike someone. Can you explain that scientifically because it’s something that happens?”

Back to America. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is now offering “Men’s Project” – a six-week program that aims to counter the alleged harmful effects of society’s masculinity paradigms and pressures and empower participants to promote “gender equity.” In their words: “The Men’s Project creates a space for critical self-reflection and dialogue about what it means to be a man and how masculinity impacts us and those around us.”.

Something similar is now in the course offering at Duke University where they now also offer the same thing –  The Duke Men’s Project, a programme run by the Women’s Center. This is a nine-week program for “male-identified” students to discusses male privilege, patriarchy, “the language of dominance,” rape culture, pornography, machismo and other topics.

The Princeton University HR department has attempted to ban the word ‘Man’ from all university material. A published policy memo states things such as this:

  • “Instead of using “man,” employees are told to use words such as human beings, individuals or people.
  • Instead of “man and wife” use spouses or partners. Switch out “man made” with artificial, handmade or manufactured.
  • Don’t use the verb “to man,” as in to work something, instead use to operate or to staff.
  • Never use the term “workmanlike”. Instead replace it with “skillful”.

The University of Ottawa in Canada was forced to cancel its yoga classes in 2015 because they were a “cultural appropriation” and yoga was connected to “cultural genocide.”

At Stirling University’s archaeology department, the programme professors were forced to give students an advanced warning that they would be shown an image of a well-preserved archaeological body in case they found it “a bit gruesome”. This same university has also told its gender studies students: “We cannot anticipate or exclude the possibility that you may encounter material which is triggering – i.e. which can trigger a negative reaction –  and we urge that you take all necessary precautions to look after yourself in and around the programme.”

Oberlin College, Ohio, advised its faculty that “Anything could be a trigger – a smell, song, scene, phrase, place, person, and so on”, and concluded that “some triggers cannot be anticipated, but many can”.

Universities including Edinburgh, the London School of Economics (LSE), Goldsmiths, Stirling and Central Lancashire are pre-warning students of lecture material they think could be ‘disturbing’. Therefore they are giving them the option of leaving the lecture room if they decide to. These warnings have been issued in relation to lessons in areas such as Christianity, popular culture, history, forensic science, photography, politics and law.

So practically speaking, if slavery is a key content element of my history class, I can leave because I’m emotionally hurt by the idea of slavery.

Bristol University had to cancel their musical production of the play ‘Aida’ after protests from student groups. The musical, which is written partly by Elton John, is based on Verdi’s opera “Aida”. It involves an Ethiopian princess, Aida, who is held prisoner in Egypt, where she’s a slave but falls in love with an Egyptian general. The protests were around the fact that white students would be cast as leads and expected to portray Ancient Egyptians and slaves. Seeming to forget that around 80% of ancient Egyptians were slaves.

At Drexel University in Philadephia, the professor George Ciccariello-Maher, a white associate professor of history and politics at the university, tweeted on Christmas eve of 2016 the following words: “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide”. The professor remains undisciplined for this.

In October 2016 students staying on campus at the University of California’s Berkeley campus decided that segregation seemed fashionable again, so they decided to take us back 60 years. During a violent protest, non-white students demanded that they have safe “spaces of colour,” away from those white students on campus. They decided to created human wall so keep the white people out of their “safe space”, and white students were also prevented from using one of the campus’ main bridges, because of the colour of their white skin.

Last year the University of Colorado at Denver decided to offer “Problematizing Whiteness: Educating for Racial Justice” in their course collection for this year.

Students at Loyola University were apparently uncomfortable with one of their classmates, a policeman, who attended class in his full police uniform because he had a shift afterwards. They decided this was too much for them to bear, and wanted him removed, and therefore called the police – to remove a policeman. No surprise, the policeman was within his rights and was told to stay.

In December 2016 a psychology instructor at Orange Coast College in California informed the class of her belief that election of Donald Trump was “an act of terrorism” This was caught on video by one of the students. On that note, in the wake of the US presidential election, a Yale Economics professor decided to make an exam optional for students who were too ‘traumatised’ by the election outcome.

All of this utter lunacy is one thing, and it’s bad enough. What’s worse is how these groups of imbeciles are thought-policing and attempting to shut down the opinion of anyone who disagrees with them.

I follow a guy on Twitter called Ben Shapiro. I also follow a speaker and writer called Milo Yiannopoulos. These guys are both conservative leaning media personalities with a strong online presence. Part of what they do is go around to campuses in the U.S. talking about free speech and ideas of liberty, individualism and critical thought. They are particularly critical of the aspects and ideas mentioned above. Their repertoires are very much based on using facts as arguments. One of Shapiro’s favourite lines is “Facts don’t care about your feelings”. Yet at countless universities, angry mobs of ‘progressive’ students have used violence and intimidation to either create violence and havoc to the extent that a police team is needed, or they manage to shut the event down completely.

On 21 January, Milo Yiannopoulos was doing a speech at the University of Washington. The crowd outside got so heated that a conservative supporter was shot. Inside, many of the attendees were wearing Trump hats (this was just after the inauguration). The crowd outside was so violent that the attendees were told to remove their Trump hats and were escorted through an underground exit.

Let that sink in for a second. They were forced to remove hats which showed support for a political idea, and were forced to scramble away.

You know, the idea of being a liberal originally meant freedom of individuals, freedom of speech, tolerance for different ideas, equality and non-discrimination. Not anymore.

Just this week, Wednesday the 1st of Feb, the same Milo Yiannopulous wanted to do a talk about America’s future and ideas of free speech at the University of California’s Berkeley campus (them again!). However, violent anti-Trump left-wing protestors decided to burn campus property, pepper spray peaceful attendees, smash men with shovels, use pipes to knock people unconscious, attack women and use other forms of physical violence on the attendees to the extent that the lecture was called off. This has happened a number of times.

Some of them were holding up signs against Fascism. Fascism – you know, the authoritarian ideology that bans free speech and doesn’t allow contrary views. The number of times Trump supporters have shut down a left wing speech, lecture or rally? Zero. Who are the real fascists?

Why is this so concerning? Well, for one reason, exactly 100 years ago a group of radical, left wing, protesting Bolshevik fascists overthrew the government of Russia, leading to five decades of suffering, atrocities and 50 million deaths.

The other reason all of this is so disturbing is because I always thought of university as being the antithesis of the “safe space” – a place where different ideas and viewpoints can be brought out into the light for public scrutiny, evaluation and debate. University should be a place to go to broaden your thoughts and ideas, expose you to other realities and on many occasions, show you thoughts or ideas that might make you uncomfortable, but ultimately grow and strengthen you. If a pro-communist lecture happened to occur at WITS, I wouldn’t try to go shut it down or use violence to protest – I just wouldn’t go. But that speaker should have the right to speak.

What hope do we have when university kids are having a problem being taught the theories of colossal figures like Plato – because they don’t like his skin colour? This move to censor aspects of history and society instead of exposing students to all variants and realities result in many being completely deluded on a grand scale. Is this perhaps what liberal university professors want? I mean, there a real people out there who think Lenin and Stalin were real ‘men of the people’, for the people and seen in a positive light. Legions of young people idolise Karl Marx. When Castro died, the outpouring of positive sentiment from young people left me shaking my head in disbelief at the lack of critical historical knowledge.

If kids are being coddled and kept ‘safe’ from ideas they might not like or disagree with, what hope do they have in the real world? What happens when they face real hardships, disputes or problems. They’re being taught that it’s ok to block off and silence what you don’t like. Well, the world throws a whole lot at you that you don’t like. If universities are emotionally over protecting students from ideas and concepts they that disturb them, in the process they’re creating emotionally crippled people of the future.

To fix this we have to go back to the roots. Is this partly down to university professors who’ve been in their echo chambers all their lives, divorced from the real world, influencing kids with cultural Marxist theories? University heads are supposed to be the facilitators of critical thought, yet it seems to me they’re doing the opposite. And how much are parents to blame, for raising kids in a way that makes them feel like they’re the greatest at everything. Where winning and losing is equally over-rewarded.

Whatever it is, it has to stop. We’re raising a new society of delinquents who can’t accept failure, can’t handle a contrary opinion, who fail to use reason in any shape or form and who go around blaming convenient targets for all their own failures.

Why are governments not run like public companies?

Sometimes I write things which I’m not entirely sold on, but are still relevant hypothetical questions or scenarios to ponder. This is one such occasion.

A government’s role can be summarised into the following simple duty: To utilise tax revenues in the ideal way in order to make a country operate as optimally as possible. This is very similar to how a large company would operate – a board of directors utilising shareholder investments in the company as optimally as possible in order to create returns and ultimately profits for those shareholders.

The only major difference is that in the case of companies, only shareholders may vote for who the directors of that company are. In terms of electing governments though, every citizen over a certain age get the right to vote for who they deem best to lead the country. But the example of a large corporate makes me question this standard practice. If the country is using our tax revenues, we’re effectively ‘shareholders’ of the country, and the government is our ‘board of directors’. As a tax payer, surely I have a keen vested interest in what is being done with the money the government takes from me each month?

Why not then create a voting system where only tax payers are eligible to cast a vote? In South Africa, only 13% of the population pays taxes. The number of non-tax paying citizens eligible to vote outnumbers the tax paying voters.

Consider for a minute a large corporate, where random non-shareholder members of the public have more say in who the board of directors a company has than the actual shareholders themselves. For example, a random sample group of people has 60% say in who runs Vodacom, while actual Vodacom shareholders only have 40% say. It sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? Yet, this is what is happening in many nations all the time. Why do we not reserve the right to vote for who manages the nations’ funds exclusively to the people who are giving the nation those funds? This also sends a message of ambition to people. i.e. If you’d like to have a say in how your nation is being managed, then start contributing economically and you can have a say – then you can have a vote.

You can go one step further too. To reduce the power of one person controlling a nation (or capturing it), and to make sure you’re not going to end up with a dictator, you don’t vote for a single leader. You vote for a ‘Board’. So each party submits a ‘Board of Directors’ onto the ballot, and that board is essentially who you vote for. In essence, the ‘Board of Directors’ of the winning party then go through the process of hiring their Cabinet Ministers (managers) of each function as well as a Prime Minister (CEO). So at the time of voting, some parties, or boards, may decide to publish who they’ll install as Prime Minister. Some might not – it’s their prerogative. Essentially you’re voting for the boards’ general philosophies, their members and their direction. The Prime Minister (CEO) should just be an extension of that.

The board, which should number something like five people perhaps, have the power to hire and fire cabinet ministers or the prime minister at will, provided they have a majority vote. Poor performance from a cabinet minister could lead to dismissal, while very good performance over time could well lead to a cabinet minister eventually becoming a member of the board. So essentially the cabinet ministers answer to the prime minister, which is normal. But this takes it one step further and one step closer to a company’s operations, because the prime minister needs to answer and report to the board of directors. Much like senior managers reporting to a CEO who in turn reports to the board.

Perhaps interim elections could even allow members of the public to vote on the performance of directors, so that sub-performance leads to removal at the ballot?

All over the world, accountability at cabinet level is ridiculously low, sometimes non-existent. We need to start demanding systems where under-performance is rectified quickly, and good performance is rewarded. If we’re living our lives in a country and paying taxes, then everything about us has a vested interest in that nation. Should we not be taking a leaf out of the book of large corporates by putting accountability and performance of our leaders at the forefront of the system?

4 Reasons Why Trump Won

I’ve tried to avoid any I told you so’s in the wake of the Trump win, but one of the leading sentiments I’m seeing on social media today is something along the lines of “Oh my God, how could this happen!”, and similar words of sheer disbelief. My words of advice to people in this regard are generally to stop watching news and to get on Twitter. But if you’re in the camp that is shocked by a Trump win, let me explain with four simple reasons:

  1. Hillary Clinton

I’m seeing a lot of the usual finger pointing, saying that Trump voters are all ‘racists and sexists!’ No, 58 million people are not racist and sexist. Also, ask yourself why Trump got much higher black voting numbers than previous republican nominees. There is no doubt that small portions of the U.S. are racist, but this is generally not why people were voting Trump. If the Democrats are looking for someone to blame, they only need to look at themselves. They’ve gone all in on the worst Democrat candidate in living memory. I could probably write 10 000 words on everything that is wrong with Clinton, but the fact is that corruption, ineptitude and scandal just seem to follow her around. Two investigations from the FBI within one year is probably not the best PR for your candidate either. Add to this the fact that she has zero charisma and spent most of her campaign bashing Trump and preaching on ‘checking your privilege’ instead of talking real issues.

This is a cause and effect phenomenon. When you keep talking down to the middle and working class, when you keep ignoring their real issues and real concerns, when you move further and further out of touch from their reality due to your incestuous relationships with big banks and special interests, eventually the working class bites you back. Eventually they find someone who actually does speak for them, who isn’t bought by every bank, foreign nation and special interest. Someone who fights back. That guy came along.

Then there was the issue of authenticity. While Clinton was just one big false pretense and robot-like, Trump was saying what he thought. While Hillary was using clichéd political talk – Trump was talking to crowds off-the-cuff for sometimes over an hour with no teleprompter. You knew Trump was managing his own Twitter, while Hillary’s tweets reportedly went through 12 people before they went live. Because of this people felt disconnected from Clinton, while Trump has owned the media space from the very beginning – since 2015. It was a PR masterclass, but that is something for a different post.

  1. Political Correctness

There’s this wave of extreme political correctness sweeping across the world right now, but it seemed to have started in the U.S. The political Left seem to be perpetuating the regression of American expressionism and free speech. It’s reached a point where American students need this ridiculous thing called ‘safe spaces’ on campus where they know nothing will be said or done that might offend them. Some universities are having to warn students in advance about potential subject matter in lectures which might offend or ‘trigger’ them. Censorship levels are through the roof and people are being policed on what they can and can’t say. Controversial conservatives are being banned from Twitter while others call for killings and go unnoticed. It’s gone a bit bonkers.

The 1st Amendment to the American constitution is freedom of speech. Normal Americans actually value that, and probably look at all this with huge disdain. Trump is a massive middle finger in the face of this excessive political correctness. Cause and effect at play again. People have seen freedom of expression and freedom of speech shrinking before their eyes, and have decided to act on it. Identity politics has gone too far. I think the traditional American middle class also got tired of being blamed for the everyone’s. It’s become very fashionable to blame the ‘Patriarchy’ for the troubles of all others. They’ve been pushed too far and have struck back. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

  1. Open Borders and Globalism

While some see open borders and globalism as some sort of humanitarian Utopia, anyone with half a brain sees what effect this has economically on a first world nation – particularly the middle and working class. Hillary’s plan was to open up the borders to hundreds of thousands of immigrants from poorer nations. Now, while the humanitarian intentions are good, what the ordinary voter in the U.S. may know is that this eventually lowers the median wage dramatically. The immigrants, due to their economic situation, work for lower wages.  Business executives over time naturally tap into this cheaper labour, and eventually your middle class is disintegrated, and large parts of your working class as well. I think voters are largely aware that this would happen, and voted with this in mind. Is this racist? I don’t think so. Is it xenophobic? Again, I don’t think so. The issue is much more of an economic one. Protectionism is probably the most apt word here. The average educated person is also highly suspicious of globalism. If you think globalism is going to create one big United States or one big Switzerland, it’s not. Globalism is more likely to result in one big Soviet Union.

Trump is also possibly the first president since Reagan who has genuinely loved the U.S. and what it stands for. Instead of wasting trillions overseas, he’s calling for putting Americans first. No matter what you, the non-American thinks of this, for an American this must sound quite refreshing. Finally, someone who’s thinking of us first. So while Hillary and Obama have continually talked down American values and western culture, Trump has expressed a love for it. People are calling this the politics of hate. I honestly think it’s the opposite – most people voting Trump are doing so because they love America and American values. Again, to suggest that the majority of Americans voted this way because they’re racist and hate minorities is just accusatory sensationalism.

It’s quite telling that despite everything they threw at him, from the Democrats, to the establishment Republicans to Wall Street to Hollywood, he just got stronger. He spent a fraction of of what Clinton did on traditional media ads, and still he still won. This is possibly the greatest ever case of the Silent Working Class vs The Loud Smirking Class. The silent Working Class just had their say, in a big way.

  1. Mainstream Media and Celebrities

I was calling a Trump win months ago (Ok there’s my I told you moment), but when I said this to people they laughed and disregarded this completely. The reason probably being that they were getting all of their news and ideas from mainstream media. If this election has shown anything, it’s that mainstream media is dead. They’re all either out of touch or in bed with the establishment. The likes of CNN, ABC, CNBC, Sky, BBC and Time were bashing Trump from all angles for months. I commented at one point on Twitter that it was the most biased, one sided mainstream media reporting I have ever seen in my life from a first world country. And then Trump started calling them out on it, and began expertly using it to leverage himself, and still it went on. What they didn’t realise is that there was a major psychological principal happening here – all this was doing was energising Trump supporters and making them more passionate, while also making independent voters seriously question what was going on. And as we know, passion and enthusiasm are contagious. I reckon hundreds of thousands of voters were influenced by this. So while the mainstream media was focusing solely on slagging off Trump, the real reporting was being done on Twitter by the likes of Mike Cernovich, Ann Coulter, Ben Shapiro, Paul Joseph Watson and of course, Milo Yiannopoulos.

The other element was an endless string of Hollywood actors and musicians coming onto social media to tell ordinary hard working American middle and working class people what to do. Well guess what – people don’t like being spoken down to. For the most part these are educated adults who were being spoken to like they were 10 year olds. But there was an element of smugness about it as well, particularly from your talk show hosts like Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert. I honestly think the ordinary person was a bit repulsed by all of this.

So the question is, will Trump be a good president, a bad president or a horrific one? I know this is a foreign concept for some, but it is possible to have a balanced opinion on Trump. He’s a hardcore businessman. And one common trait of hardcore business men is this – they get shit done. They also reward performance and take action against non-performance – something sorely missing in politics. My gut feel is that Trump could do a lot of good in cleaning up shop a bit. Give The Donald a chance. He could be ok.


Where SA’s tertiary education should be heading

Sometimes even I need to break from my free market, private enterprise beliefs to an extent. The #feesmustfall movement has gained high exposure and news interest in the last year. But looking beyond the politics of the situation, I am a firm believer that access to universities should be free for deserving students. Key word is deserving.  I’m a big believer in equal opportunity. I’m not a believer in equality. If that sounds pretty harsh and heartless, let me explain. As a society we’re having the wrong conversations about this. Equality aims to allow everybody in society to have the same wealth levels. Equal opportunity aims to allow everybody in society to have the same opportunity levels. There is an infinite difference between the two. Equality disregards abilities, contribution to society and effort, while Equal Opportunity rewards these things, while allowing all to commence careers in the same starting blocks.

Even a steadfast capitalist like me sees the tragedy of a truly talented learner with a major aptitude in a particular field whose parents can’t afford the exorbitant fees that universities ask for. If the learner fails in bursary / NSFAS applications, the only alternative is to then be saddled with excessive student debt for the first years of their career. Or of course just not study at all.

 I’m in no way an expert on these things but it seems pretty clear to me that free universities are a real possibility with more frugal, sensible government spending. For a start, not doing things like spending R4 billion on a private jet, over R200 million on a president’s private residence and forcing civil servants and ministers to travel in economy class would be a major start. Then government simply has to get out of what it has no business being involved in anyway. Start with the SABC, The Post Office and SAA. There’s no need for a government controlled broadcaster, airline or mail carrier. The private, free market will provide this better and cheaper. That R4 billion alone could pay for between 80 000 and 120 000 tertiary students for a year.

However, can universities retain their levels of quality? Free access would need to create a philosophy of accepting the best performers from schools due to limited space. With the high demand and free access, universities would need to keep their entry requirements stringent and levels of quality high. But would this happen? The market would need to be clear that the concept of free universities does not result in the granting of automatic access. I also think there needs to be a comprehensive scientific ‘suitability test’ system to ensure university students aren’t enrolling in something that they have little natural propensity for. This would help reduce the high dropout rates. Universities need the muscle to be able to enforce this and insist on suitable career fields for the new students.

Quality issues aside, there are major relevance issues with universities. Universities are becoming increasingly bloated, bureaucratic, archaic institutions out of touch with the modern, real world. It’s costing in excess of R100 000 for 3 years to get the holy grail of the degree. And yet the content of the programme or degree is often so far removed from what is happening in the real world. In many cases, like in my own profession, marketing, the degree’s content is of a nature that teach yourself online for free if you know where to look. Graduates are leaving universities with very little idea of how to function optimally in the workplace and minimal sense of critical thought. Speaking for myself, 95% of what I know about marketing and branding has come from learning-by-doing, while being lucky enough to observe and work with two or three real experts during my first few years of being employed. These are people I’m still enormously grateful for. What I learned at university has been largely irrelevant and added little value to my contributions in the workplace.

So I say let these institutions adapt, skim down or disappear entirely. We don’t need to be sentimental about them. Perhaps one day the sacred university degree will lose its shine and charm as employers and the market alike realise just how obsolete it is.

The reason I say this is because the real opportunity for tertiary education lies in industry-specific initiatives and collaborations. If corporations and industries are getting graduates who are not work-ready and out of tune with real work operations, why not take education into their own hands? This could save millions in unnecessary training and time, and allow the new employees to start adding value immediately. Some industries have done similar, but major opportunities lie in this idea.

Let’s take something like banking. Every year the big banks are some of the big corporates who take their pick of graduates from the top universities. These graduates, for the most part, are picked from generic BComs in fields such as marketing or general management. They have not received any specialised, focused training on how banking works. So despite them being strong academic performers, they still need a whole year in something usually called a Graduate Development Programme, where they learn how to operate in a particular industry and company.

Now imagine a scenario where all the big banks combine to set up a collaborated ‘Banking University’ which teaches students actual real-word knowledge and skills related specifically to banking in South Africa. This Banking University can set up physical delivery ‘campuses’ in main centres, and would easily be able to pull disgruntled academic professionals from universities to partner with banking professionals. The banks set this up in partnership and run the syllabi and activities according to their own terms, based on what they know they want from graduates. So students within this Banking University learn about the banking sector, the economic environment, how banks work, customer service in banking, the money flow within a bank, etc etc. They also get to practise these skills in a fully simulated banking environment. So after 3 years they walk out knowing the absolute ins and outs of banking in South Africa, and could walk into any bank immediately begin adding value. Would your big banks not find this group of graduates a whole lot more appealing? This could create a scenario such as the American Football NFL ‘draft’ system, where the teams contest in taking their pick of the best players leaving college football. In this case each year the big banks would engage in a ‘talent war’ of sorts to snap up their picks.

This same thinking can apply to almost any industry, from banking to retail to financial services to food manufacturing to travel. Let’s call them ‘Industry Universities’. We can still align the curriculum within these to adhere to a reformed unit standard and NQF level, so that graduates still have the assurance of walking away with a Bcom or the like. Or maybe not. If your particular ‘Industry University’ gains enough traction with the market through quality and relevance, the Industry University could disregard government accreditation standards completely and operate on their own set of standards.

So the end result is a range of tertiary institutions created by industry, serving industry, whose graduates can walk straight into employment and commence immediately without in-company training.

A Retail University

A Banking University

A Marketing University

A Public Service University

A Financial Services University

A Tourism University

And so on and so forth.

Eventually what you might start seeing is that learners in schools start identifying industries to work in rather than careers. For example, the learner might decide that he/she really likes retail, and they’re happy to pursue a career in retail only, knowing that this will involve various positions across a spectrum of careers. They know that through a Retail University they’ll graduate and stand a good chance of getting a foot in the door at a big retailer, and they’re happy to start as a packer and work their way up. They’re also comfortable that in retail there will always be employment and growth opportunities, and so they should be.

The only downside to these Industry Universities is that they wouldn’t be free. They couldn’t possibly be. But ultimately you’d create the environment where the school leaver has a choice: A generic theoretical degree for free which probably won’t give direct access to or preference in the job market. Or a practical, focused qualification in a specific industry which involves student fees, but which guarantees better access to jobs and entry level opportunities. It’s worth considering that government could, and perhaps should be getting involved in facilitating these conversations with industry leaders who will in all likelihood be competitors.

The above is of course wishful thinking to an extent. Whether or not these ideas materialise, the ideal scenario for South African education is for a healthy combination of government involvement and freedom of private enterprise to assist as much as possible in tertiary education. Government’s role should be equal opportunity while private education and enterprise’s role should be job creation.  Let universities be free. BUT, give the private free market the freedom to provide a viable, relevant alternative.