A Preview from Searching for Madness in the Method
Corrupt Utopianism is a major disorder manifesting in the Turbulent Twenties of the Twenty-First century (Azania) that Buiteboer identifies in:
Searching for Madness in the Method: this is not a Survival Guide to Autopilot’s Disease and the Turbulent Twenties of the Twenty-First Century
An Extract from Chapter 22
South Africa Scene 1 – Corrupt Utopianism
New problems merge into view all the time. The concepts – Person, World and Research come to the fore when confronting the rather multi-hued cow of corruption in post-Apartheid South Africa.
The impotent rage stirred by revelations of corruption, presupposes and exposes utopian wet dreams wherein it is believed that rational actors (politicians and public officials) run the State Apparatus in the interest of society, or, those two very tired words, The People. The greatest abuses in the history of humanity happened in the name of the mythic ‘People’. Pol Pot in Cambodia comes to mind.
The Abstract Machine of Rigid Segmentarity established by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, and associated mythology of liberation- and democracy, feeds off a much deeper modernism- and latent utopian assumptions regarding the nature of Persons, and the State.
In a perverse way the shock and impotent (out)rage stirred in public debate regarding corruption in the democratic South Africa exposes latent utopianism. This concerns the assumption that the liberated state will deliver on the mirage of ‘a better life for all’. It rests on the modernist puritanical view of the state as enterprise that extracts tax, and subjects Persons to its law, in exchange for delivery of peace in the realm- and public goods like services and roads and water and sanitised crime free cities.
The utopian assumption that the South African State Apparatus will act in a disinterested way, in the interest of the public, evaporates like mist before the sun with every headline of high-life, and the bling bought by graft, nepotism, and incestuous patrimonial political fuzzy logic.
Corruption occurs like measles in Ministerial VVIP lounges, and in boardrooms where tender evaluation committees cook scores to lean a deal in favour of a ‘pre‘ preferred bidder. Corruption foments hate in communities where food parcels meant for families suffering from COVID-19 lock-up induced household economic collapse, are destined for ‘connected comrades only,’ to stuff their faces with.
Unlike the in-your-face-ness of the ‘Whites Only’ sign in the times of Apartheid, the ‘connected comrades only’ mindset of the current ruling classes in South Africa is an ever-present ‘invisible sign,’ a force of segmentarity that keeps seats of power occupied by people politically qualified, but dismally under, and unprepared for the job of administering a state function to the benefit of the polity- and not the Person and/or his/her political pals’ pockets & Blingstagram feed.
Expose after expose of corruption clearly show that it is most definitely not the case that the State Apparatus in South Africa is a neutral conveyer that delivers public goods, in a disinterested way, in the public interest. The latter is not only not the case, but, evidently a better life is destined only for the ‘connected’ few.
The crash of the national airline – South African Airways, the derailed train systems supplied to the public by a fundamentally broken PRASA, and the blackouts brought to you by the energy behemoth, ESKOM, provide ample evidence of the extent to which well intended institutional, regulatory, governance and legal arrangements have been rendered utterly meaningless. Ministers, Boards, and Executives have been found in their own unique ways acting like syndicates, or individual micro State Capturers.
Empty words, policies, counter-corruption campaigns, and “governance codes” abound. It is well justified if some might want to exclaim: To hell with the lofty and oft-praised King Code of Corporate Governance. Add to the ESKOM, PRASA, and SAA sagas that of Steinhoff and KPMG, and it becomes clear that it is better to label it as: King Code of Corporate Cover-ups. All of the above clearly show that in a democratic South African State Apparatus, like in its evil Apartheid predecessor, the rot starts at the top.
Board members are appointed with much aplomb to guide and provide ‘oversight’ over the machinations of their appointing entity. Yet, those very Porsche Cayenned and be-Gucci’d members are often the clandestine sharp end of the corruption stick. A stick used to pry the public purse open, to puncture the pipelines in which public moneys flow to syphon it to destinations other than the intended ‘public goods’ it was supposed to buy.
Those lofty and self-important serial boardists, appointed to ‘govern and monitor,’ to ‘protect and maintain,’ the interests of a public or private entity, are more often than not, in South Africa’s corruption soapie, those who are first found wanting- and guilty of gang-land style highway robbery tactics perpetrated in fancy suits. The rot sets in from the head, and from there it is a quick few steps down to find organs in the institution’s body to infect and ‘corrupt’.
If the modernist utopian assumption of the State Apparatus as a benign set of structures and systems, ready to be leveraged in the ‘public interest,’ is not flayed and slain on the doorstep of the National Assembly in Cape Town, the South African polity may yet be the revolution that will not only eat its own children, but will further enable the plague of locusts to chomp any new growth coming from this parched drought prone land.
If the ‘democratic’ State Apparatus in South Africa is to survive, it, as well as its populace, will have to shed their gullible starry eyed utopian faith in the neutrality, and modernist purity of the state as conveyer- and purveyor of the public interest. The State Apparatus is, in and of itself, the original battlefield of the societal nexus. Imagine Viking hordes swinging axes and hacking flesh as they plunder a way through pre-modern Europe.
In a democracy the theory is that the public votes a party into office, who then, proceeds to implement its policies and programs of action through the structures and institutions of the State Apparatus. In a way the regular cycle of elections, and theoretical changes of government, is an institutionalised form of ongoing capture of the State Apparatus. The administration and the body of inert institutions of the state thus precede any party or president at the helm of government. A president and ruling party’s goal within the first one hundred days is to lay claim to- and impose ‘control’ over the State Apparatus. For example, in the USA, if a new President and ruling party is elected, the president elect, even before inauguration, sends out what is called ‘landing parties’ to critical organs of state. The latter pave the way for new political appointments to roll into corner- and top of the pyramid offices. Benign as it may be, and explained as part of the normal political process, the ‘agenda’ of the ruling person or party, can only be executed if the organs and all the machines of the state are re-coded, controlled, and captured in order to implement the incoming Ruluiners’ (Rule + Ruin = Ruluine – e.g. a person who rules is a Ruluiner) plans of political/policy action.
Whether for corrupt, or ethical governance purposes, the fact is that the State Apparatus is only useful when it can be captured. But, while the party or president may effect change to the State Apparatus, they are mere tinkerers re-wiring some of the engines embedded in the bigger state machine. State capture is therefore not a singular incident as in the case of the Zupta assemblage, but, is something Persons, as citizens, have to be awake to at all times in the life-cycle of a democracy, and at all conceivable levels of the ‘System’.