Values, Hypocrisy, Genocidal Presidents and Disgraced Scientists

Last weekend,Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir was briefly prevented from leaving South Africa when a judge bravely issued a court order restricting his movements at the request of a human rights organisation.

Sudanese Refugee camp in Chad

Sudanese Refugee camp in Chad

The International Criminal Court (ICC) wants the arrest of the Sudanese president for crimes against humanity.

On Monday 15 June, he flew out of the country. There was no apparent attempt to stop him leaving or to detain him as requested by the ICC.

With my experience of living in Africa for most of my life, I am not surprised at the South African government’s actions or lack of respect for both Human Rights and the rule of law. The ANC came to power through brutal intimidation and a campaign to make the country ungovernable.

I am more surprised that a judge was actually permitted to issue a court order in an attempt to prevent a wanted criminal from leaving.

The “new” South Africa has a long history of ignoring the crimes of other brutal African leaders and supporting corrupt regimes like that of Mugabe in Zimbabwe. That it reaps what it sows by suffering serious unrest and waves of crime because of the huge numbers of illegal immigrants flooding into the country from its corrupt neighbours would be poetic justice if not for the huge cost in human lives and misery.

What does not surprise me either is the almost complete lack of criticism in the West of the South African government for ignoring a request by the ICC – to which it is a party – and allowing a wanted criminal to escape.

There is criticism from Justice Malala in an article in The Guardian but nothing yet from world leaders, the UN, human rights organisations, churches or the assorted groups of self-appointed do-gooders who were so ready to condemn the “Old” South Africa for the slightest hint of “oppressive” action.

It’s yet another example of the erosion of values in the West. Liberals succeeded in overturning the successful governments in the two most developed countries in Africa and then turned their backs on the horrors the new governments unleashed on their unfortunate citizens. Millions condemned to far more serious adversity than under the former governments. The hypocrisy would be unbelievable if it were not so tragic.

I don’t spend much time on social media, but from my limited reading, it seems that the insensitive, but not criminal comments, by Tim Hunt, a Nobel prize-winning scientist about the distracting effects of women in science laboratories has generated more outrage than the release of al-Bashir who is accused of organising the genocide of 400 000 people and the displacement of 2.5 million more. The scientist has seen his career ruined. The murderous president helped to evade justice.

There is something wrong with this, the lack of tolerance is so well-developed that no one can risk making a comment or voicing an opinion unless that opinion is “acceptable” to the social media vigilantes.

What happened to the art of debate? The exchange of ideas that led our societies to their greatness?

It’s time for that pendulum to start swinging back towards common sense before political correctness and lack of tolerance doom us to extinction.

What do you think/ Leave a comment.

Photo courtesy of Mark Knobic / Wikipedia Creative Commons

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  7 comments for “Values, Hypocrisy, Genocidal Presidents and Disgraced Scientists

  1. June 16, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Where are the almighty US racially correct ‘leaders’ on this issue?
    They are supposed to be defending the rights of persons with color or lack of.
    The media has really played this story up in a big way…NOT

  2. Roberta
    June 16, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    These days I feel like I am in an insane asylum! I have not understood the USA for several years now. Today it is worse and has metastasized to the entire world.

    I hope the worm turns soon.

  3. June 18, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    First, I’ll admit that I don’t follow African politics closely enough to comment intelligently, but it seems a missed opportunity similar to the one where they tried to arrest Cheney in Paris, years ago, to try him for war crimes. I don’t even pretend to be able to connect the dots and figure out who protects who and why.

    Second, we all have a limited ability to focus on issues, and trying to focus on all of them would be overwhelming and crazy-making. That’s not a criticism, it’s a reality. But to try to equate the outrage over genocide and the ire over a scientist making disparaging remarks about his female colleagues — and being censured for it, professionally – is not playing fair. People’s concern starts close to home and broadens as it’s able to encompass the rest of the world. As a female professional in the Western world, if I were working in the field of science, my focus might be more intensely turned to that, as well. Not that I’d consider it more important – in the grand scheme of things – but because it is more personally relevant AND under my influence or control. None of us have the adrenaline to be outraged all the time over everything – even if the world around us is outrageous and atrocious on many levels. We’d go mad if we tried. Don’t mistake a real confusion about “what can I possibly do here that would make a difference?” with actual apathy or even a lack of seething outrage.

    • Peter
      June 19, 2015 at 7:41 am

      Thanks for visiting Holly and as always, your well thought out points are much appreciated.

      You are absolutely correct on our limited ability to focus on issues.

      In the interests of brevity, I did not expand on the science professors insensitive comments. However your comment here has given me an idea for another blog post for which I am grateful.

      Watch this space – and please come back and further the debate.

      • June 19, 2015 at 8:05 am

        I don’t want to steal your thunder (or preempt your post), but I may forget if I don’t mention it now – I followed and read the link you put in here, and found it persuasive as a human being. Hunt displayed stupidity and/or awkwardness in his “humor” – he should have said what he said he stands by, after his apology: “that love affairs in the lab are disruptive to science.” That may be true. Phrased that way, it’s not sexist. I wondered which the women were more offended by, originally – the assumption that women would fall in love with their male colleagues, or the assumption that women scientists might CRY over criticism. Either one could be taken as fighting words, especially in the context in which he said them. He showed bad judgment, but I’d hold a 70-something-year-old Nobel laureate to a completely different standard on that than I would a legislator, a presidential candidate, a news anchor – someone out there whose JOB is forming public opinion or setting law and policy that affects women. For Hunt, my standard would be the opinion of his female colleagues and his working relationship with the women in his own lab, and they have defended him. A police officer gets a review board! Hunt should have, too. If the women who were students, employees, and peers of Hunt’s urged leniency and stood up for his track record, THEY should be listened to. A rebuke and his apology should suffice – the end of his career as a scientist IS too much.

        Politicians can generally be much more easily replaced. Or redeem themselves through their work. Look at Ted Kennedy…

        Leyser’s comment, at the end, should haunt us ALL: ““We’re all of us terrified,” she said. “In this media age, when sound bites spread so quickly, an off-the-cuff remark after a lunch in some conference can suddenly result in the fatal destruction of your career.”” That’s true of everyone but the retired and those who could afford forced retirement. We should have some flexibility to be human, fallible, and stupid in public now and then, because most of us will not choose our words carefully enough, at some point, and fear has a chilling effect on vigorous exchange of ideas. That exchange is more valuable, I think, than fear-induced political correctness, which I would prefer to see replaced by more genuine politeness and civility all around. You can teach the latter without forcing it; you can think what you like about rude people without calling for their severed heads atop a laptop PC.

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