The laws of ignorance

The laws of ignorance

IGNORANCE is bliss, so they say. But there are three cardinal rules you must follow if you are ignorant. The first is that you must never wallow in ignorance like a pig does in its own dung, for there is no benefit in doing that.

The second is that you must never seek to spread your ignorance as if it’s some gospel. The third is that you should never parade it like some wares at a market.

If you are one of those forgetful souls you can summarise the three rules as: keep your ignorance to yourself and make an effort to hide it. The ignorant should learn to keep their mouths zipped.

Nothing betrays an empty head like a chattering mouth. The sad thing though is that the ignorant are always ignorant of the rules of ignorance.

Take for instance the people at Pitsong Institute of Implementation Research (PIIR), a fringe organisation of no particular purpose in this country. Two weeks ago the people at PIIR decided to take their battle for relevance to lofty levels.

But in so doing they broke the rules of ignorance. That is precisely because they refused to keep their mouths shut on things they don’t understand. They were not content with keeping their ignorance to themselves. So how did all happen?

Most will remember a Ministry of Finance memo saying departments should stop advertising in three newspapers: Lesotho Times, Public Eye and Informative. Muckraker didn’t think that was a smart move. The condemnation was strong even though some of it bordered on naked desperation and sheer hypocrisy. Still there was sense in what people were saying about the decision.

 

Then PIIR entered the fray with a long meandering article in the Public Eye on the same issue. Somewhere towards the end of the rumbling piece the writers lost their way.

Gate-crashers have a way of exposing themselves. You know the kind of people who suddenly ask you whose wedding it is when their tummies are loaded to the brim with free food and they are looking for a stick to pick their teeth.

Boom, what started off as a decent article became a spectacular show of ignorance.

“But it would be remiss of PIIR not to berate the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa), for not fulfilling its mandate of calling to order media houses that deliberately violate the media code of conduct, reporting falsely to satisfy their twisted political interest,” PIIR said.

We will never know what they were smoking when they wrote those words. Misa has no such mandate. There is no reason to berate an organisation that has never claimed to have such a mandate.  Misa is neither a watchdog nor a headmaster of the media. It is a voluntary advocacy group that has no business in calling the media to order.

If the bit about Misa being berated for a factious mandate was their parting shot their forgiveness would have been within reach. But the writers were just getting started. They wanted to immerse everyone in their ignorance.

“The question that comes to mind is, shouldn’t Misa throw its hat in the ring, start cracking the whip, call to order media houses that report in a way that pushes government to take harsh action against them?”

The naivety of the writers is breath-taking because Misa has never pretended to have such powers or responsibilities. It has neither the authority nor the means to crack the whip on media houses.

Misa should be shocked that some little-known organisation is heaping on it such responsibilities. Muckraker feels for people at Misa because they always have to deal with dunderheads like those at PIIR.

 

This is a true story. The year is 1994 the place is Muckraker’s Form D class in Mafube. Teacher Motseoneng announces that he will be teaching Mathematics for the year. Everyone in the class cringes at the thought of spending a year with this notoriously cruel teacher.

We were still recovering from the shock of our misfortune when Motseoneng went into action.

He scribbles a tough algebra equation on the board and turns his face to his bewildered class.

“I want that problem solved when I come back in 30 minutes,” he said as he dragged his heavy self out of the class.

And sure enough the evil one walks back in after half an hour, with a bunch of long sticks pruned from the peach tree in the orchard.

He divides the class into five groups: those who have done the assignment, those who wanted to do it but did not, those who thought it was too hard to solve, those who thought it was useless to try it and those who just did not feel like doing it. What follows was surreal.

The groups formed, Motseoneng rolled up his sleeves. For an hour he spanks everyone, including those who had taken the trouble of attempting the assignment.

By the time the torture ends Motseoneng is sweating profusely. He has finished the sticks on our tender behinds.

It was sad watching even the most obedient students scratching their behinds.

“That, my children, is how I deal with lazy rascals,” he said as he slumped on to the chair, thoroughly pleased with the weird brand of justice he had delivered onto us.

He was just about to walk out when Muckraker, bum still burning, said: “Mxm, CJ!”  Those words were not meant for his ears but he heard them anyway. Hell broke loose.

Motseoneng’s eyes turned red as he sprinted to Muckraker’s desk in the corner.

Another student was immediately ordered to collect more sticks from the peach tree.

“Today you will tell me what CJ means,” he said as he unleashed the sticks on Muckraker.

Eventually it became too painful to bear so Muckraker confessed.

“It means Confused Judge,” she said. With those words she had entered into Motseoneng’s bad books. But the teacher had earned himself a nickname. CJ is what he was called by students and even fellow teachers until he was transferred to another school.

 

Confused Judges come in different shapes. The story of Motseoneng came to Muckraker’s mind because of Justice Kananelo Mosito’s third defeat in the courts.

Indeed the Court of Appeal President now qualifies to be branded a perennial loser. So far he has lost once in the Court of Appeal and twice in the Constitutional Court.  It is not his judgements but his actions that are confused.

When you keep losing battles you are sure of winning you become confused. Surely after losing for the third time the judge’s head must be spinning.

His arguments are also confused even to a layman like Muckraker who has never seen the door to a law school.  At the centre of law is rationality and common sense, not the Latin jargon lawyers like to foist on us as if it changes the import of their arguments.

You don’t need to have anything substantial between your ears to see that the judge’s latest argument was on three crippled legs. It was a confused argument that even a Grade 4 student would have dismissed with contempt.

His latest lawsuit was premised on the argument that he cannot be removed for crimes or misconduct he committed before he was appointed a judge. It is an argument that falls into a ditch before you even try to follow it.

You see, the judge is saying crimes that happened before he was appointed should be forgotten just like that. In other words the judge wants only the clean part of his history to be considered.

That is untenable. It is his reputation that got him where he is. It is the one that must take him down if it is found it is not as clean as he purported it to be.

Let’s suppose a company hires an accountant who does not reveal that he once pinched money from another company. Months later the company finds out that they have employed a thief of money and fire him.

Will he argue that he cannot be fired because the company never asked him about his previous crimes?  The judge, it has to be recalled, was employed on the basis of a perceived reputation.

So if there is now a new perception that the judge is not as clean as he was once thought to be, those who appointed him should ask questions.

 

What Muckraker cannot understand is why such an esteemed advocate could allow his name to be dragged through the mud, all for a position. Surely the judge should know that the issue is not about the alleged crimes but his removal.

Even if the tax charges were not there Size Two would still have found something else to justify pushing him out. This is not law but politics. No amount of legal challenge will stop Size Two in his tracks. The machetes have been sharpened against the poor judge.

Fighting this battle will only bring more grief. It doesn’t matter even if the judge is right.

Sometimes victory lies in knowing when to surrender. He must cut his losses before there is more damage.

Muckraker says this with sisterly love because she cares deeply about the judge.

The judge should understand that he has no reason to vindicate himself against political machinations. The people already understand this to be a political game.

They have seen it being played before. They will therefore not accuse the judge of being a dirty character. Rather, they will commiserate with him as a victim of a patently unfair game. And it’s not as if the judge will starve if he leaves that position.

 

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