Analysis on steroids
30 March 2017 04:39 (South Africa)
Opinionista Justin McCarthy

Abyss Gazing: Is there life on Mars?

  • Justin McCarthy
    Justin-McCarthy.jpg
    Justin McCarthy

    Recovering Mad Man, occasional writer, wine enthusiast, coffee addict and unpredictable wildling, Justin is a lifelong student of behavioural economics, politics and the irrational human psyche. Commercially he focuses on the intersecting stacks of media, marketing and technology, particularly in the telecoms, consumer technology, retailing and media sectors. His opinions represent no organisations or interest groups and he receives no recompense save for namedropping. He also likes nuts. Follower discretion @justininza is advised. 

The late creative virtuoso, David Bowie, penned a song with this title in 1971. It remains to this day one of his defining works in a career voyeuring multiple personalities and extensive reinvention. It’s been earworming me for weeks, like much of Bowie’s best work, steadfastly refusing to obey a coda. There’s a certain resonance in the haunting lyrics about a mousy haired girl – here we are, a nation smite by anomie, hypnotised by the political silver screen streaming scandal after vexatious scandal to our disaffected collective conscious.

Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man!
Look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show
Take a look at the Lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?

Bowie’s melodic chorus dramatises the annexation of reality by over commercialised entertainment, a metaphorical masterpiece of irony that characterises his genius. Ours is the annexation of reality by clowns and lawmen, politicians and moguls, satiating at the Saxonwold shebeen.

A great conspiracy of silence shrouds the ANC, protecting them from self-mutilation, at least in public. The consequences are multitudinous and recklessly damaging. Leadership vacuums gust downdrafts onto the embers of the lunatic fringe, breathing life into rogues and charlatans waiting to pounce on the naïvely disaffected, and the ANC has been absent from office for years.

Julius Malema and his band of angry tub thumpers have been gifted the young, economically incarcerated voter, earning them 25 querulous seats in Parliament. He’s also curried favour with chunks of the middle and upper classes with his popularly aggressive attacks on Zuma, the Guptas and anything else ANC crony-like in nature. He’s taken elocution lessons, completed a university degree, sharpened his dress code and adopted a weight loss routine – all of which cuts a deviously urbane image of sophistry.

His lieutenants, Floyd and Mbuyiseni, are class political acts who bring different dimensions to the once thundering-and-lightning, very-very-frightening red bereted street gang. I’ve overheard Hyde Park housewives gush covetously in whispered tones about their Ndlozi-stirred nip-tuck loins over skinny vanilla chai lattés. What a time to be alive.

As appealing a dilution of ANC hegemony this may represent, it does not bode well. Malema, the supremely gifted orator, the wily street-fighting politician, is equally the demagogue who will sell his irascible incarcerated youth and vapid latté sipping admirers down the great greasy Limpopo for a marimba-infused version of Umshini wami. As Gareth van Onselen put it so neatly, “He is always two things, Malema: the naughty miscreant and the revolutionary zealot. He plays the media and the public for fools in this way, and more often than not, they foolishly oblige.”

The Zumafia created this beast, the one usurping puppet they couldn’t control and booted out into the cold. Malema’s fire glowered to ash-laden embers awhile, but it wasn’t long before Zuma gifted him with life-saving downdrafts. And in the drought-stricken barren wasteland of SA’s body politic, the ensuing bush fire raged. He is the eternal media darling: when Malema speaks, enraptured broadcasters pull abundant audiences. Parliamentary question time transforms into prime time viewing. As the song goes, he’s starring in the best selling show, and boy does he know how to raise an encore. Yet in this eerily deja vu infested time, too few voices are calling out his demagoguery, just like few did the man of the people from Nkandla in 2007.

The ANC predictably closed ranks again in the 5th parliamentary motion of no confidence. They and their alliance partners chose party politics over constitutional duty. When a group of people make something sacred, the members of the cult lose the ability to think clearly about it. Morality binds and blinds. This is the state of the ANC. The people will not forget, nor will they will forgive. Julius will serve up impeccably timed reminders, and the sheep will bleat excitedly all the way to the great, greasy Limpopo where they will be abandoned to the crocodiles.

Most of us live in hope of a revolution or a renewal, a scenario where either the ANC aborts its rot infested septuagenarian foetus and self-corrects or alternately one where the DA and EFF cobble a marriage of necessity. Neither is realistic. Whatever trust was generated in the rainbow era has burned off into plumes of toxic vapour. The battle lines are drawn, the prize greedily coveted. We the people are mere fodder for the array of entitled causes.

Comrades fighting in the hallowed house
Oh man!
Look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show
Take a look at the herdsman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?
DM

(With apologies to David Bowie.)

  • Justin McCarthy
    Justin-McCarthy.jpg
    Justin McCarthy

    Recovering Mad Man, occasional writer, wine enthusiast, coffee addict and unpredictable wildling, Justin is a lifelong student of behavioural economics, politics and the irrational human psyche. Commercially he focuses on the intersecting stacks of media, marketing and technology, particularly in the telecoms, consumer technology, retailing and media sectors. His opinions represent no organisations or interest groups and he receives no recompense save for namedropping. He also likes nuts. Follower discretion @justininza is advised. 

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