I mean, why do you keep on banging away at the keyboard, knowing that nothing will come of it?
Why don’t you get a life?
Aroint thee, varmints. The Creator is not writing for you readers, the Creator is writing for the Creator. Therefore this will continue, at least while life and intermittent access to the Web lasts.
There are several valid sources of despondency which lead to the abandonment of such jolly web-logs as Bionic Octopus. The obvious one is the state of the world and the nation. For a longish while, South Africa was going in a distinctly different direction to the rest of the world. Mbeki was quite clearly not a Bush man, nor a Blair man. (Of course, various people said that he was both, but one understood well that people who said that did so not because they respected the truth, but because their audience was gullible and hated both Bush and Blair.) South Africa was not a social democracy, but it was moving tentatively and hesitantly in the direction of social democracy, which was better than going full-steam-ahead towards neoliberalism. The problem was putting pressure on the government to take more healthy action, and while this was an intractable problem it wasn’t insoluble.
Now, however, the nation appears much more in synch with the world. The world has grown completely inured to corruption, to the notion that rich and powerful countries need not attend to the international laws and codes of human rights which they impose inconsistently on those weaker states whom they wish to plunder or punish, and above all, to the notion that no competence can ever be expected from the elected leaders of the Free Western World. Look at Obama and Cameron and Sarkozy — and cringe and shudder. But this is not so much worse than looking at Bush and Blair and Chirac. It is a little worse, but not much so. What feels worse is that Zuma fits in so very well with such figures; a weakling without ideas or agenda who serves whatever vested interest happens to be close to his ear at any given moment. “Where is our Obama?” asked wealthy brainless whites indignantly after the 2008 American elections. Our Obama is in the Union Buildings, may he rot and perish along with the original Obama.
This was approximately what the Creator predicted after Polokwane, but this does not make the Creator feel brave and happy. It is not a sign of genius to look at a motionless dog with staring eyes and all four legs sticking up in the air and conclude that it is dead. It would be nice to discover that it was only temporarily paralysed and that it might be a dog again. Of course, when it begins to stink and the flesh starts dropping off in horrid worm-infested gobbets, then it is in the condition of the ANC circa August 2010.
It is to be expected in democratic societies that bad people will take charge from time to time, usually as a result of pressure from bad rich people. When such people are lazy and careless, as Zuma and his appendages (with the conspicuous exception of his genitals) are, it should be possible to transform everything else except the bad people without them noticing until too late. But this requires the will to do so. The Creator is troubled by the increasing impracticability of this. This is not the collapse of political idealism, which was always a frail flower — Thabo Mbeki was never the poster boy for dreamy innocence — but the collapse of the discourse around political idealism. Maybe the Creator’s concern for discourse is too profound — the world is a Book which we must Read in order to find the Truth, mumble mumble — but Orwell was right; if political idealism becomes literally unmentionable because the words and concepts required to mention such things are no longer circulating, then the bad guys have won. This does seem to be what either has happened, or is in process of happening.
This is not so difficult to correct as it might seem. In political thinking, quite often, people have chosen to nestle in tiny reassuring intellectual boxes. Soundproofed and thoughtproofed, they hear no contradictory voice and are absolutely convinced that they are wise, broad-minded and so extraordinarily honest that they deserve medals just for showing up to work most of the time and signing their names to their own paychecks. These people who control our political discourse, via their control of the press, the magazines, the electronic media and the web-logs, with the possible exception of this one (although you, Dear Reader Leader, do not know that, do you?).
In some cases, these people are deceiving us, and secretly hold opinions — usually ones which would cause Heinrich Himmler to wince and put his fingers in his ears. But in many cases these people are, or have become through the decadence of inanition, as flabby as they seem. As a result, it is possible to cut through their censorship because censorship takes more work than they are prepared to perform. It is possible to write letters to publications and to submit comments to weblogs despite the fact that these convey a message which inverts the official line, with the possibility of publication or non-deletion. Very often, the people in control of these publications preen themselves to a tremendous degree for this, as if allowing freedom of the press were something deserving special praise.
Of course, these organs are intended to further a narrow, uncritical vision of politico-economics. However, the white right wing which runs these organs experienced the alarming possibility of losing power in 1994; it did not happen, but it might have. Legitimating genuinely oppressive behaviour would put a steel club in the hands of Zuma’s friends, some of whom might work up the energy to wield it. Meanwhile, in order to undermine existing authority, the white right wing valorised a commitment to freedom. What they are talking about is freedom for them, and not for others — but then, it is difficult to be sufficiently selective, because if you explicitly identify the voices who are to be silenced, you do not look like an apostle of liberation. Besides, the people most committed to controlling our ideas and values genuinely believe that their ideas and values are the best, and will prevail. (Thus, the most ideologically passionate are also the most stupid in practice.) Therefore they allow other ideas and values to be expressed. They can assume that these will be denounced by their readers.
Of course, freedom of speech doesn’t exist. These organs have nebulously-defined but coherent parameters of toleration, outside which, the person involved will be silenced. But that doesn’t happen often, because the illusion of debate is good for business. The more people assaulting each other in the pages of a journal or the pixels of a web-log, the more attentive the audience. High feelings attract attention, and also discourage rationality, which conveniently furthers the goals of cheapening and corrupting real intellectual debate. As a result, unless a person is too plainly identified with an unacceptable political faction (as seems to have happened to the luckless Ronald Suresh Roberts) they can expect to have their voice heard, albeit represented as — well, as a shrieking (wo)man.
Within this framework everything seems possible because you control the direction of words. However, words are not bullets. They do not fly once and then fall to the ground. They bounce like soap-bubbles filled with mind-altering gas which leaks very slowly into the brains of those experiencing them. To those trying to control the system this is a poisonous gas (unless it is the words they themselves are using). Words assemble in the mind and change it, take it over, turn it into something different from what the owner of the mind expected. One fine day the owner of the mind discovers herself to be a different person, and then it’s too late to restore ignorance and unthinking bliss.
This, let us remember, is the point of Fenton’s ballad; the state where the shrieking man is joined by two fellows in the square before the smart cafe to shriek and dance and slap their knees:
And there a hundred codgers sat;
A hundred Adam’s apples rose
And rubbed against their collar-studs
Until the music came in thuds
And all the men were on their toes.
The ending, of course, is the coming of the “horseman with the bugger-grips” to set things right by exterminating the codgers; the object of all our action is to hope the horseman doesn’t come.
So the point about the Creator’s goal is not to change politics. Nor, really, to change minds. Just to make it possible to change minds by providing an alternative. It is really a pathetically liberal viewpoint. Of course, it is liberalism which has been adopted by the mind-controllers as the tool through such control is exercised, and it is handy to remember that liberalism actually means freedom, which is the opposite of control. Two can play at the poison-gas-bubble game, and it’s important not to let the enemy win by default.
Opening debate does not mean that the debate is healthy. The Creator was listening to people reading SMS messages on the afternoon SAFM propaganda show; the discussion was in part on the Iraq war, where President Obama has just declared victory and pretended to pull out of the corpse America has been raping for seven years (but a large chunk of his shrivelled dick is still there). The official line is that Obama is great (peace be unto him and to the giant golden dome of the Ground Zero mosque) and that this bullshit should be believed. But nobody believed the bullshit and nobody in South Africa can possibly sell that bullshit as if it were chocolate cake, which has essentially already happened in the United States.
However, the callers were mostly either bland or ignorant. One suggested that the best way to solve the problems of Iraq would be to put the Ba’ath Party back in charge. Now, this is impossible. Even if that were a good idea (it probably shouldn’t be altogether ruled out as a concept) it cannot be done because the leaders of the Party have been slaughtered, the membership driven into hiding, and Iraq itself so shattered that it will take a decade to reconstitute, if at all. The reason why this caller wanted this, then, is almost certainly because the spectacle of a moustachioed figure with a beret taking charge in Baghdad in the name of Sunni secular nationalism and putting up statues of the martyred Leader on every street corner would so piss off the Yanks that Pennsylvania Avenue gutters would run with the effusions of burst blood vessels. Yes, but the way to rule the world is not to piss off the Yanks. The way to rule the world (and most particularly our own quarter of the world) is to do things which are right for us and our friends. That will anyway have the happy by-product of inevitably pissing off the Yanks.
If only we could clarify our understanding, and then know what we were doing! It greatly annoys the Creator to hear and see newspaper and radio journalists talking about how terrible it would be to be deprived of access to the information which these journalists never use except for the political gain of their masters, and which they are in any case incapable of analysing. If we knew, then we could act on our knowledge. Then the problem would be how to work up the courage to act.
How nice it would be to have that problem again!