We pro­pa­gan­dists get tipsy about our city

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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.

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