In the video below, filmed at the University of Cape Town, members of the science faculty meet with student protestors who wish to “decolonise” the university and not pay their bills. During the meeting, one of the staff, one of the “science people,” points out that, contrary to claims being made by a student protestor, witchcraft doesn’t in fact allow Africans to throw lightning at their enemies. He is promptly scolded for “disrespecting the sacredness of the space,” which is a “progressive space,” and is told either to apologise or leave. The offended speaker, the one claiming that Africans can in fact throw lightning at each other - and who disdains “Western knowledge” as “very pathetic” - then uses the apparently scandalous reference to reality as the sole explanation for why she is “not in the science faculty.”
There being no other, more obvious reason.
I sometimes wonder if the Clown Quarter of academia might actually be a massive and rather perverse behavioural experiment, the point of which is to see just how credulous and mentally deformable human beings are.
Lifted from yesterday’s comments. Via AnotherFred.
Given the air of farce, it’s hard to tell exactly how sincere or disingenuous those filmed above are being. Perhaps the ostensibly respectful audience is held in place, in part, by a morbid curiosity. However, what is obvious is the protestors’ delight in passive-aggressive leverage and games of social dominance. The appeal to witchcraft and “sacredness,” the pretence of victimhood and injured feelings, all of it seems a pretext to cow the faculty, the “science people,” and to indulge in scolding. Some people really enjoy that kind of thing, of course, and will become cartoonish and absurd in order to indulge in it.
As Nikw211 notes in the comments, the students don’t seem overly troubled by the largely white, Western origins of the claptrap they regurgitate. But the claptrap is flattering, and is intended to flatter, and thereby seduce. It offers excuses. Not least for mediocrity. And so we have students, supposed intellectuals, demanding they be taken seriously while claiming, based on nothing, that the scientific method and tribal superstition are just rival epistemologies and therefore – yes, therefore - somehow equal in their accuracy and usefulness. And despite the inevitable rumblings of racial oppression, I can’t help wondering whether the students would be similarly indulged and deferred to if they had paler skin.
In the comments, Theophrastus steers us to a piece in the Times, which offers a taste of the studious climate at the University of Cape Town and elsewhere:
Science lecturers contacted by The Times said that violence at the country’s universities had made work almost impossible. Many are afraid to speak out against the students. Lecturers warned of an exodus of academics to overseas universities or privately owned institutions… While none of the academics would comment on the “Sciencemustfall” movement, one referred to a period in the early 2000s when Thabo Mbeki, the president at the time, refused to allow an antiretroviral treatment campaign for people with Aids. Mr Mbeki’s health minister promoted a traditional African method for fighting disease: a concoction of garlic, beetroot and onion.
As a result of such identitarian pieties, which include burning historic artwork and smearing statues with human faeces, I’m sure the protestors will soon be surging to the forefront of intellectual endeavour.