White man with eraser at your ser­vice

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

TO BE hon­est, I was go­ing to spend Thurs­day in bed; the pos­si­bil­ity that a pub­lic ser­vice would, with­out in­vi­ta­tion, be vis­ited upon my per­son filled me with dread, and I had night­mare vi­sions of school­child­ren re­peat­edly help­ing me back and forth across the vil­lage pedes­trian cross­ing as I tried to make my way to the Ma­hogany Ridge.

I al­most made it to lunchtime, but I was dragged off to Muizen­berg to watch a surfer friend flail about in waves the colour of rat fur. Did this count, I won­dered? Could this be my 67 min­utes?

It was rain­ing, so I found a cof­fee shop where a waitress promptly told me about the day’s spe­cial. “It’s a Madibac­cino. If you or­der one, we’ll give R10 to Nel­son Man­dela’s kids.” I knew she meant the chil­dren’s fund. So I or­dered one. I think the fund got the bet­ter deal, but at least the cof­fee was warmish.

That’s when it struck me: a few weeks ago we were in deep gloom, won­der­ing if the for­mer pres­i­dent would reach his 95th birth­day. But on Thurs­day, what with re­ports that Man­dela’s health had ral­lied, the national mood was up­beat and we threw our­selves into good­will over­drive. Or­phan­ages were spruced up, trees were planted, streets were swept clean, schools were painted, food parcels and blan­kets were handed over to the poor.

Every­where there seemed to be ev­i­dence of what Arch­bishop Emer­i­tus Des­mond Tutu was on about when he told The Guardian that “we have the ca­pac­ity to be a fan­tas­tic na­tion”.

But just not with me, and it be­came glar­ingly ob­vi­ous that I would have to do some­thing more than slurp away at a cup of foul joe if I was to come to the party. But what ex­actly? This was a dif­fi­cult busi­ness, choos­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate pub­lic ser­vice. Part of my dilemma is that I have dif­fi­culty with the no­tion of “in­dis­crim­i­nate” char­ity and, like the phi­lan­thropist and in­dus­tri­al­ist An­drew Carnegie, be­lieve it to be one of the “se­ri­ous ob­sta­cles” to the im­prove­ment of hu­man­ity.

An­other dif­fi­culty I had was that, in or­der for a ser­vice to be re­garded as hav­ing tan­gi­ble value, then those who ben­e­fit from my good­will should pay for it. The more, the bet­ter.

My plan, then, was to hire my ser­vices as a copy edi­tor to the SACP for 67 min­utes a day, five days a week.

It wouldn’t cost the com­rades the earth – we’re not, af­ter all, build­ing football sta­di­ums here – but it would be worth my while knock­ing their lengthy, jar­gon- choked tirades against the world at large into man­age­able shape. Some­thing that peo­ple can ac­tu­ally read.

I be­lieve such a ser­vice is over­due. Take the young lion that is Khaye Nk­wanyana of the KwaZulu- Na­tal SACP ex­ec­u­tive.

He penned a mas­sive ar­ti­cle on the need to purge “lib­eral ac­tors” from a re­vived ANC Youth League which, much to his bit­ter re­gret, was uni­ver­sally ig­nored by ev­ery­one.

Now, it may or may not be the case that the press is con­trolled by cap­i­tal­ists who wish to sup­press voices like Nk­wanyana’s, but a more con­vinc­ing ar­gu­ment is that it made no sense. Here’s an ex­am­ple:

“It is trite that the cadres of the ANC at all times, their steel­ing and po­lit­i­cal tem­per­ing, have been the prod­uct of the hith­erto ter­rain within which the move­ment find it­self and the most ur­gent strate­gic ques­tions of the time.

“The move­ment has al­ways pro­duced cadres who got nur­tured into cor­re­spon­dence into the lofty tasks thrown up by the ter­rain and there­fore ca­pac­ity to un­leash the tra­jec­tory with all the elas­tic­ity that this brings whether tac­ti­cally or strate­gi­cally.”

Surely some sort of redac­tion would have been in or­der? That way, at least, the other com­rades would know what the hell you’re on about.

Try it. Po­lit­i­cal state­ments in plain English. It was worth a shot, I thought, al­though I fear my ser­vices will be deemed un­nec­es­sary; we live in a fright­ful age when any­thing a white male with an eraser can bring to the ta­ble will be re­garded with sus­pi­cion, if not dis­missed out­right as neo-colo­nial­ist and racist.

In the mean­time, though, I won­der what Julius Malema would pay me to teach his Eco­nomic Freedom Fight­ers the cor­rect way to wear a beret?

There are three dis­tinct “looks” that come with this, the most un­flap­pable of lids.

One is mil­i­tary, and sug­gests elan and esprit de corps – think of para­troop­ers, for ex­am­ple. The sec­ond is in­tel­lec­tual, a Left Bank bo­hemian chic. The third is just plain daft, which is un­for­tu­nately what we have with Juju and chums.

Help is needed. I’m stand­ing by.

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