White man with eraser at your service
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.