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Jeremy Cronin Joins the (Visa) Denialists

Jeremy Cronin

Even the Dead, Poems Parables and a JeremiadInside and OutMore than a Casual ContactAlert! South Africa is a nation ruled by denialists. First, we had AIDS denialists, then we had Arms Deal denialists, and now we have visa denialists.

The sets of denialists don’t completely overlap – you can get visa denialists who are not AIDS denialists, for instance, and Arms Deal denialists who are not visa denialists – but they all, curiously enough, seem to have one thing in common: that righteously broad church, the ANC.

The ruling party disseminates its denialisms rather like schoolboys disseminate their spit balls. The warm bodies that people its most august committees comprise the ammunition, and the media the spit. (We, dear readers, are of course the target.)

For instance, just last week we had Trevor Manuel defending the government’s decision to deny the Dalai Lama an entry visaptooey! – and now poet and ANC/SACP bigwig Jeremy Cronin has been loaded up and shot – ptooey! – into the war.

Granted, Cronin is not so much defending the government as working over the Dalai Lama’s character, linking the man metaphorically to the great crises of capitalism that the world has seen in the past few decades, and giving us a history lesson rich with exploitative Tibetan landlords and “convenient” flights to India. There’s also brilliant set-the-record-straight analysis: “Tenzin Gyatso (aka the Dalai Lama) might be a fellow laureate, but he is no Albert Luthuli or Nelson Mandela”. Sjoe. Now we know. Peace Laureates, if your prizes don’t carry quite the same shine as Mandela’s, don’t come calling here. (Wangari Maathai, you’ve been warned.)

Viva, denialism, viva!

WE’VE had the dotcom bubble burst and the sub-prime loan bubble burst. The rumpus around the government’s refusal of a visa to the Dalai Lama should serve to burst another bubble.

I’m not particularly referring to a prevailing view that the visa refusal has punctured South Africa’s international reputation, which might well be the case in certain quarters. I’m referring to something more general, more insidious: the grand illusion of the 1990s of an ideologically free, transcendent set of universal values laid down by the International Monetary Fund, Amnesty International and the Nobel Prize committee.

Let me first concede that the government’s handling of the Dalai Lama invitation has been clumsy. We were told the visa was declined because we didn’t want the Dalai Lama’s presence in South Africa to distract world attention from 2010 soccer World Cup preparations. The refusal has achieved exactly the opposite.

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    March 30th, 2009 @15:10 #
     
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    This is a pity. I've previously had respect for a man who could be up to his neck in political filth and yet retain his poetic soul.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 30th, 2009 @15:16 #
     
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    Jeremy Jeremy Jeremy. Such hair-splitting finessing...so disappointing.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    March 30th, 2009 @15:26 #
     
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    It's all about deployment. Cronin was deployed, Manuel was deployed, (Nkosazan) Zuma was deployed, (Jacob) Zuma deployed himself. Once you're deployed, it's out of your hands. What are you supposed to do when you've been deployed?

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    March 30th, 2009 @15:32 #
     
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    Oh, I see. We only grant entry visas to leaders with impeccable human rights records, about whose moral fibre there can be no whisper of dispute.

    Like Vladimir Putin and Robert Mugabe.

    Thanks for clearing that up, Jeremy.

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  • <a href="http://liesljobson.bookslive.co.za" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    Liesl
    March 31st, 2009 @08:35 #
     
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    This makes me sadder than I can say.

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  • Maire
    Maire
    March 31st, 2009 @09:07 #
     
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    Ditto ditto and echo echo the sentiments of all who have commented here thus far. Also wish I could find words Liesl.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    March 31st, 2009 @10:58 #
     
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    OK, so I am not an ANC party hack, but I do think the Dalai Lama is very good at PR/Marketing himself and his cause.

    Our government would have been better served if they had ignored the whole thing. So would the Chinese.

    I'm thinking Brer Fox, I'm thinking trickster energy is a good way to get done what you need done. Motlante played into the DL's hands and so did China.

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    March 31st, 2009 @11:05 #
     
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    You are undoubtedly right, Colleen. But a government should not refuse entry to a visiting dignitary who has been invited to take part in a peace conference on any grounds whatsoever, except perhaps the most egregious human rights violations.

    The DL may not be a saint (in fact, I'm quite sure he is not), but we don't only let saints into our country. Several of us would have to leave if that were so.

    Not me, of course, but several others.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 1st, 2009 @11:56 #
     
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    The SA Friends of Tibet respond to Cronin:

    http://www.thetimes.co.za/News/Article.aspx?id=971522

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