A couple of weeks ago one of my Honours students remarked how impressive it was that I read books; he then gasped when I said that I often read the same book more than once. His comment was only topped when another Honours darling told me that she hated reading. My honest reaction was, then why are you doing a postgraduate degree if you don’t want to read? But unfortunately, it seems as if less and less students think reading is important and most seem to try avoid it as much as possible. Instead, they seem to prefer taking the easy route when it comes to research and are content at having a quick skim on Wikipedia. The more concise the better. Unfortunately, I’m no cartoonist, but if I were, I’d so draw what I’m about to write next to prove how dangerous such behaviour is.
The world is on the brink of destruction; the nuclear blast that the Americans fired at North Korea killed most and left many more a walking abomination of death and glowing radiation. A few survived, but in this world I’m convinced it’ll only be those of us who know how to live without technology that’ll be able to rescue the human race, kill the zombies and start a new Eden (I’m banking on being supreme ruler and will name the new world Lepus Sylvaticus).
Anyway, picture this: The zombies are attacking, there is no power and the internet has crashed permanently. The only way to defend yourself and acquire the information on how to survive is located in a quaint and archaic building previously known as a library. In order to survive, you are required to search through volumes of text and read the fine detail because not every zombie is the same. Knowing the difference between the bucketheads and coneheads is vital because only one can be defeated by butter, while the other is only susceptible to chainsaws. But here’s the problem, nobody has the ability to find anything in any of the books because they’re too used to having Google find information for them. And worse, after two sentences of reading they are bored, because nobody is used to reading anything in detail, and so they give up, succumbing to a bloody zombie mauling.
In another scenario, you may have survived on pure idiotic luck, but the zombies are fast approaching and not only do you not know how to kill them, because you won’t read more than two sentences, but you also have no clue how many you are going to have to kill because along with no internet, you have no calculators to add up how many are after you. It’s that story sum that you thought was of no use during Math class: You are surrounded by 68 zombies. Tommy has 28 chainsaws while Susie has 11. How many chainsaws do you need to pick up to get out alive? Too slow! And you actually needed butter because they were bucketheads. Your tiny brain is now being devoured. Bye bye!
Now, after this amazingly brilliant insight, I hope you see how important it is not to rely so heavily on technology? You don’t want to survive a nuclear holocaust just to be devoured by zombies, do you? Come on! Read a book! Learn to add, and most importantly, stop asking Google for everything!
Over the past few weeks I’ve been watching a number of different free speech issues play out in the media. First there was Brett Murray’s “The Spear”, then came Nandos’ Diversity advert, and now the YouTube video, Jesus the Shangaan, by Mdu Comics. Each one has been lambasted in the press for being offensive, with politicians and critics citing that each piece is insulting and detrimental to South African society. One writer went so far as to imply that if you were not offended by the Jesus video, you were void of conscious. My only reasonable reply is, what an absolute load of BOLLOCKS! If that’s the case, and one wishes to make a simplistic argument (that article cannot be deemed anything but simplistic), then let’s make it really simple.
Firstly, by equating humour (which is entirely subjective) to morality, the writer has deduced, quite brilliantly, that if you weren’t offended you are on the same level, morally, as murderers, rapists, and sociopathic megalomaniacs . Secondly, he says that suicide is a global health problem. Um… No, it’s not. It’s the result of depression and psychiatric problems, which are global health problems. But I digress. This is not meant to lambast a self-important writer using pseudo-academic qualifications to justify his bigoted and condescending viewpoints.
What I actually wanted to point out is that South Africans seem to have an increasing inability to laugh at themselves. I’m not sure if it’s over-sensitivity, an unbearable self-righteousness, or a ridiculous fear of appearing politically incorrect. Overall, I think it’s an amalgamation of all three, resulting in a chronic case of white liberalism. You know, those white people who boasted at their lavish parties that they were helping their black domestic workers during apartheid because they gave them their children’s old clothes, chipped china sets, or cracked asbestos heaters. “Obviously, they would be grateful for such luxuries”, they would say,”they have such difficult lives and this will help make it a little easier”. No it won’t, you stupid fool! It’s condescending and patronising. Go out and make a difference. Do something useful, take a stand and risk your own freedom for theirs. That’ll make life better. But they didn’t do that, did they? They stayed in their ivory towers, put their children away in private schools after apartheid ended, and now talk about how the country has gone to pot. Wait, I’ve digressed again. The point is that the majority of people believe that by creating a facade of political correctness that it’s makes them a better person. Um…. no….. It’s makes you a git.
The better person is the one who can appreciate the joke because they are able to recognise the social problems that have helped create the punchline, and then are able to engage with and criticise the social problem, not the joke. For the majority of South Africans it seems as if they believe that the buck stops with the artist, and very often fail to go any further. Yes, Brett Murray painted Zuma with his penis hanging out, but why? You don’t just create an image without some sort of reason (and I really don’t think it was because he thought we all wanted to see it). He could have been trying to insult his dignity, but again why? What has Zuma done that has warranted it? What has he done that has offended Murray so much? That’s what the country should be engaging with and questioning, not whether Murray was right or wrong in his approach.
John Jensen said a little while ago that the way an artist draws an individual is dependent on their like or dislike of the subject. If a politician has ugly politics then he’ll draw them ugly. The idea is to make the rest of society see it. The problem is that very few seem to want to see the ugliness and attempt to use political correctness as a way to hide what they don’t want to deal with. Maybe I’m wrong, but you all know what happens when you laugh off a bully, they eventually get over it and find somebody else who will react to their taunts. So maybe, if people learnt to roll with the punchlines, artists would get over it and move onto someone/something else that is really funny, like Nyan Cat.