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27 June 2017 22:50 (South Africa)
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The 12-step post-modern meltdown - a guide

  • Richard Poplak
    HEADSHOT_Rich-Poplak_orange.jpg
    Richard Poplak

    Richard Poplak was born and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He trained as a filmmaker and fine artist at Montreal’s Concordia University and has produced and directed numerous short films, music videos and commercials. Now a full-time writer, Richard is a senior contributor at South Africa’s leading news site, Daily Maverick, and a frequent contributor to publications all over the world. He is a member of Deca Stories, the international long-form non-fiction collective.

    His first book was the highly acclaimed Ja, No, Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa (Penguin, 2007); his follow-up was entitled The Sheikh’s Batmobile: In Pursuit of American Pop-Culture in the Muslim World (Soft Skull, 2010). Poplak has also written the experimental journalistic graphic novel Kenk: A Graphic Portrait (Pop Sandbox, 2010). His election coverage from South Africa’s 2014 election, written under the nom de plume Hannibal Elector, was collected as Until Julius Comes: Adventures in the Political Jungle (Tafelberg, 2014).  Ja, No, Man was longlisted for the Alan Paton Non-Fiction prize, shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Literary Award and voted one of the Top-10 books of 2007 by Now Magazine. Richard has won South Africa’s Media-24 Best Feature Writing Award and a National Magazine Award in Canada.

    Since 2010, Poplak has been travelling across Africa, seeking out the catalysts and characters behind the continent’s 21stcentury metamorphosis. The coming book, co-authored with Kevin Bloom, is called The Shift

  • Media
meltdown

Things have been going well. You’re at the peak of your career, you drive a flash car, you live in a house with 9 bathrooms. Sure, you have your problems, but who doesn’t? Perhaps it’s time to shake it all up. Given the recent raft of high-profile meltdowns among celebrities and politicians, The Daily Maverick considers it opportune to provide a comprehensive guide to flaming out with panache. By RICHARD POPLAK.

Step 1: Announce How Wonderful Everything Is

The only tool you need to kick the process off is a sycophantic mouthpiece. It doesn’t have to be Piers Morgan or Oprah—a community newspaper or company newsletter will do. Tell the wider world how awesome your (third) marriage is, how you’ve found yoga and that your macrobiotic all-lettuce diet has put you in an incredible mental and physical space. If at all able, please use the phrase, “Finally, I am at peace.”

Step 2: Cryptic Tweet

Currently, scholars are unsure if the post-modern meltdown is merely facilitated by social media, or actually caused by it. In the context of Step 2, it hardly matters. But we cannot oversell the importance of Facebook and Twitter in the trajectory of your programme. Without them, you’re merely a street person. Please comprise a Tweet that references either kabbalah, your yogic training, a passage from “The Secret” or something a Reform Rabbi would say at a vegan convention. Hit “Send” and the crack pipe.

Step 3: Announce That You Are Stepping Down From Something

It doesn’t matter what, just step down from it. Your squash round robin, your fantasy football league, running Interpol—all are worthy enough to bail on. This suggests that you are exhausted, and can’t handle the pace. It hints at your prolific work ethic, while foreshadowing what’s to come. If possible, use the line, “I just want to concentrate on my family, and on my Bangladeshi Kids with Cleft Lips charity.”

Step 4: The DUI

This is it, folks—your moment to shine! Driving your Mercedes 500SLK at 120km through a school zone (or, as some have done, into children), four bottles of Jack Daniels coursing through your veins, start practicing your rant. Contrition? Please. When the cops ask you to walk the line, scroll through a mental list of all the things that have of late been bothering you—which should be, for the most part, Jews—and make it clear to the authorities that they are the cause of your troubles, as well as the war in Afghanistan, Justin Bieber and thick-rimmed hipster glasses. Go for broke here. The more offensive you are, the less people will think that you’re actually offensive. They’ll assume that you’re troubled and that your demons are catching up with you. This is where we want ‘em!

Step 5: Apologise

Use your sycophantic mouthpiece to tell the ethnic group(s) you’ve offended how sorry you are (it’s important at this stage to get members of that/those group[s] to vouch for what an incredible person you are), and that you’re troubled and your demons are catching up with you. Vow to change your ways, swear off the booze, and step down from the Bangladeshi Kids with Cleft Lips charity.

Step 6: Get Caught With Prostitute

To ensure maximum coverage, it helps if the pro is either incredibly expensive (The Spitzer), a tranny (The Murphy), revolting (The Grant), or that the sex act you performed did not make it into the Kama Sutra on account of its physical improbability. Your initial statement must feign shock at the fact that your companion has been labelled a prostitute, and it helps to insist that she/he is a family member or the daughter of a close friend. (The latter is not to be used by heads of state.)

Step 7: Apologise

You’re getting the hang of this.

Step 8: Advanced Social Media Campaign

In some circles, this is called Going Over The Deep End, but we prefer the more prosaic Concerted Cryptic Tweeting (CCT). The CCT is essentially an extended version of the Cryptic Tweet, but now you’re Tweeting at all hours, in all states of consciousness. (Trouble Tweeting when you’re asleep? Better get over that.) A good 20% of your microblogs should contain veiled references to the ethnic group you slandered in Step 4. Nothing too overt, mind—just a soupcon so it becomes a little harder to defend you.

Step 9: Get Caught on Digital Video

Seems like everyone is a videographer these days. And thank heaven for that. Perhaps stage a repeat performance of Step 4, this time in the confines of a crowded bar. Or, maybe, kvetch about your ex-wife while rolling around among your teenage daughters soft toys bombed out of your gourd. Never fear, there’ll be someone to catch it on their mobile phone camera, and that same someone will dutifully upload it to YouTube, where it will receive more views than Citizen Cane, Battleship Potempkin and the complete works of Werner Herzog combined, but not nearly as many as a kitten barfing up twine, but that's okay.

Step 10: Talk Show Circuit

Acting crazy on TV makes for good TV, and this is what your fans expect from you at this point. Slobber, drool, pick at the scabs on your baldpate—but under no circumstances make any sense. This needs to be your command performance, because you’ll refer to this “embarrassing experience” as a Turning Point in Step 12. Careful not to insult the ethnic group previously insulted in Steps 4 through 9. They need to be back onside shortly, because you’re about to cash in.

Step 11: Rehab

We know, we know—what a cliché. But it’s got to be done. Don’t for a second think we expect you to temper your consumption. We just want you to beef up on the mysticisms you espoused so expertly in Step 1, while spicing it all up with “survivor” speak. This vernacular, which you must learn if you hope to be successful, underscores the fact that you are the principle victim—rather than the perpetrator—of the abuse you’ve doled out over the course of your Meltdown. See if there’s a way to tie your childhood into all this. And blame your parents, if you haven’t done so already.

Step 12: Contrition

Ahh, back in the bosom of society! Cosseted by pity, loved by all, treated with kid gloves by everyone from the authorities to the folks you’ve insulted over the course of the programme. Bask in the glow of a successful campaign, drink only single malt Scotch or premium beer (alcoholics drink the cheap stuff) and carry a mien of otherworldly benevolence. In our society, you now count for an Elder, a man/woman of great wisdom and experience. Forgiven? C’mon, we never really hated on in the first place. Welcome back. You’ll get to do it over soon enough. DM


Photo by Cyberuly.

  • Richard Poplak
    HEADSHOT_Rich-Poplak_orange.jpg
    Richard Poplak

    Richard Poplak was born and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He trained as a filmmaker and fine artist at Montreal’s Concordia University and has produced and directed numerous short films, music videos and commercials. Now a full-time writer, Richard is a senior contributor at South Africa’s leading news site, Daily Maverick, and a frequent contributor to publications all over the world. He is a member of Deca Stories, the international long-form non-fiction collective.

    His first book was the highly acclaimed Ja, No, Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa (Penguin, 2007); his follow-up was entitled The Sheikh’s Batmobile: In Pursuit of American Pop-Culture in the Muslim World (Soft Skull, 2010). Poplak has also written the experimental journalistic graphic novel Kenk: A Graphic Portrait (Pop Sandbox, 2010). His election coverage from South Africa’s 2014 election, written under the nom de plume Hannibal Elector, was collected as Until Julius Comes: Adventures in the Political Jungle (Tafelberg, 2014).  Ja, No, Man was longlisted for the Alan Paton Non-Fiction prize, shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Literary Award and voted one of the Top-10 books of 2007 by Now Magazine. Richard has won South Africa’s Media-24 Best Feature Writing Award and a National Magazine Award in Canada.

    Since 2010, Poplak has been travelling across Africa, seeking out the catalysts and characters behind the continent’s 21stcentury metamorphosis. The coming book, co-authored with Kevin Bloom, is called The Shift

  • Media

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