We propagandists get tipsy about our city
IN THE perfect world, anyone spinning you propaganda would ring a little bell in advance, a Propaganda Alert.
The world we have is not that far away. When someone says that they “act for X”, or are “communications consultant for Y”, or “public relations manager for Z”, they’re ringing that bell. They’re telling you that on their agenda, truth is secondary to what’s best for someone’s ego, reputation, or share price.
Of course, in the long run honesty is best – doubly, now. If your slippage isn’t caught in your lifetime it’ll be caught later, and shame your kids. But when you confront the choice between a smart option offering a windfall and an honest option that jeopardises your job, the long run seems far away.
Not that propagandists tell more lies than normal. Good ones tell none, they’re selective about what evidence they admit. If you and I are in combat, my guys are blind to some facets and yours are blind to others.
Journos are different, at least in theory, trying to see it from every angle. That means aiming higher than “nothing but the truth”. You want “the whole truth”. Which means less pay – Truth has a thinner chequebook than Shareprice – and possibly also less pain upon beholding the mirror. Overlaps take place, though, like exotic all-expense trips that make it easy to applaud the gorgeous view and hard to remember the stench from the dump.
Anyway, here’s my day. I ring my Propaganda bell. I want to sell a case, on behalf of my city. I want to sell it to a segment of my fellow Joburgers, from my side of town. I want to challenge the fashion that has decided it’s unthinkable to venture south of Empire Road.
Another day we’ll kvetch and assess. Today we just plug. We want our city to like itself, be proud of what’s good. Not half of it closing into little shells and drearily complaining of their boring lives.
We have a breed of Johyorkers, whose feet tread the pavements of Sandton, Fourways and other particles of the dot called Johannesburg, while their heads flee to Manhattan.
It’s time they switched on to what’s happening.
The Stoep talked the other day of Gandhi Square becoming a little urban gem. Even Johyorkers have now heard of Maboneng, where the rough scruffy inner east has grown an oasis of galleries and gathering places and pleasantness.
Fewer have yet heard of the west side’s answer, One Fox Street. Amble your visitors to where Mandela and Tambo practised law; sample Urbanologi’s ambitious kitchen.
Further north, for decades Newtown was shortly, just-now, now-now, right now, about to get sorted out into a great city node. It is now a great city node.
We all have our own favourite corners, the Design Quarters and Fashion Quarters and Art Miles.
Only one part, though, stands to become a real global name, a magnet. That is the part on which we all have a claim, the old city, downtown.
On Friday night from a pavement café in Braamfontein, I watched a young white couple bring parents to meet the new Jozi.
I couldn’t hear them, only see their loud, clear, body language travel from “Eek, ugh, this is weird, this is wrong, we don’t belong” to “Wow, this is great, this is nice, we’re among friends, it’s fun”.
Right on, white-haired gent with the silver-topped stick and your wife needing your arm to walk on.
I picture you telling your friends how your comfort zone widened. Great, propagandise them. Their ears may be rusty but it’s their city too.