When Will They Ever Learn?

Perhaps I am revealing my age when the latest incidents of “foot-in-mouth” disease went viral. In what can only be described as serendipity, I recalled these words in the first verse of an old classic by Peter, Paul and Mary entitled “Where have all the Flowers Gone?”

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?

Where have all the flowers gone?

Young girls have picked them everyone.

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Oh, when will they ever learn?

The latest sufferer from this malady was young Matthew Theunissen who posted on Facebook: “So no more sporting events for South Africa… I’ve never been more proud than to say our government are a bunch of K*****S…yes, I said it so go and f**k yourselves you black f**king c**ts.” NOTE: Theunissen’s rant did not have stars

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This post sparked an immediate outcry on Twitter. Unfortunately for Theunissen, somebody took a screen grab of these offensive words & the tweet went viral. When he was initially confronted with the question about this Facebook post, he vehemently denied even having an account.

In no time Theunissen’s LinkedIn profile was uncovered, which showed that, originally from Durban, he had settled in Cape Town and had attained a Master’s in environmental management from Stellenbosch University.

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On his LinkedIn profile’s summary, the 26-year-old describes his strengths, stating: “Good leadership, analytical and logical thinking, as well as an ability to work under pressure and deal with a diversity of people.”

He had also completed a Master’s degree at Utrecht University in the Netherlands through a partnership between European and South African universities. According to his profile, he works in water resource management.

Apart from being deemed offensive by most South Africans, this begs the question of whether he even considered his chances of employment in South Africa. With a qualification in Water Management what would be his chance of obtaining employment in a government department which would probably be his ultimate employer. Not to put too fine a point on it, they are zero, zilch, nothing.

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The chiding and acrimony heaped upon himself will be a very humbling experience.

Even if somebody still thinks in such racist terms in this day and age, my imploring advice is to completely banish the word from one’s vocabulary. It not it is still present even in the far nether regions of one’s brain, where it could, in a fit of rage, he involuntarily expressed. As many people have found, many employers will not tolerate such outbursts even in a non-work environment.

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Matthew’s initial retort in defending his action proved to be no exception from that of any other mampara: the lame excuse. In this case according to the interview for radio, it was his inability to obtain a job after attempting to do so for one year. As Matthew is learning, ill-fortunate does not entitle one to air one’s bigoted views.

Finally Matthew has a passing acquaintance with a moron. On a scale of 1 to stupid, he was crassly stupid. As if to add insult to incredulity, such morons sincerely proclaim that they are not racist. In Theunissen’s defence he never took the final plunge into moronhood by declaring that “I even have many black friends.”

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This outburst will not stand him in good steady in his future career advancement.

Then there is the next type of mampara, the type who instinctively goes to this delinquent’s defence either directly by excusing their behaviour or by deflecting it in a comparison of sometimes unrelated but equally appalling.

In this case it was a listener to 702 Talk Radio. With gay abandon he equated Matthew Theunissen’s rant to the mean-spirited comment by Ntokozo Qwabe written on a waiter’s receipt, “WE WILL GIVE TIP WE YOU RETURN THE LAND.”

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As if delivering the coup de grace, the Caller smugly queried why the action of this “Rhodes Must Fall” activist was also not declared unacceptable and offensive in refusing a white waitress a tip. This condescension came to a juddering halt when the Talk Show Host – Xolani Gwala – referred him to the condemnation by Yonela Diko of the ANC Western Cape in which he described Qwabe’s behaviour as “borderline criminal behaviour as it is helplessly foolish.”

Apart from this, the DA spokesperson and Patricia de Lille had also condemned it in no uncertain terms.

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The Callers triumphant charge had come to an ignominious end. Fortunately this mampara had the generosity of spirit to concede defeat instead of blustering ever onward digging a deeper hole.

As a ringing confirmation that it is not just the “little people” such as Penny Sparrow or Matthew Theunissen who engage their mouth, or in this case their fingers, before their brains, let us take the case of the CEO of Cell C. In a talk he raised the absurd notion that females possess a “bitch switch.” As if to ensure that he compounded the problem, Mr Jose Dos Santos then alluded to the manner in which women fight and how beautiful women enhanced the vibe in the office. Apparently in the rush to reveal his smagasbord of sexist views, he was the only person in the auditorium not to hear the pin drop.

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As a placatory gesture, Dos Santos appeared on 702 Talk Radio to present his formal mea culpas. Unlike many apologies, it was not given conditionally. The tenor of the apology did actually indicate remorse.

The question in Dos Santos’ case is how could the CEO of a large company not contemplate the consequences of espousing such sexist views? Like the racist rants above, this misogynist view struck a raw nerve.

Both are entrenched taboos. One can argue that it is merely genuflecting to rampant political correctness but that displays wilful ignorance of the disgust and outrage evoked by such outbursts.

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I have no doubt that another such obnoxious comment will be forthcoming in the near future.

I know not when, but I predict that it will be soon.

[Sing along!]

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Oh, when will they ever learn?


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