This is a bad drama with sex dolls and overblown politicians

Ideas

This is a bad drama with sex dolls and overblown politicians

Zambia's absurd debacle is just another bad turn by ham actors in the amdram horror we call 'current affairs'

Columnist

Zambia is cracking down on sex dolls, and its minister for National Guidance and Religious Affairs approves. Also, satire is dead because politicians are now just taking the piss and we’re all too tired or confused or pious or bovine to tell them to sit down and leave the absurd jokes to the professionals.
But back to the crackdown.
Zambia, it was revealed this week, has had it with silicone succubae corrupting the morals of its youth and flouting the Bible, specifically Chapter 2 of the Gospel of St Prude the Issued in which an angel wrestles a rubber sex mannequin imported from Asia.
Okay, I made up that last part but the rest is true. Zambia has a minister for National Guidance and Religious Affairs, and she is taking it to the sex dolls in no uncertain terms.
“Being a Christian nation, obviously we are anchored in Christian principles and one of the values is morality and ethics,” Godfridah Sumaili told AFP, before launching into a fairly long explanation of why sex dolls are terrible.
(Aside: if you’re going to claim, as Sumaili did, that “God created man and woman for sexual satisfaction”, I would urge you to be clear that God created man and woman for the sexual satisfaction of each other. Otherwise you’re suggesting something that is not only cosmically icky but also somewhat supports the existence of sex dolls.)So far, so conventional. But then things took a fantastic turn straight past satire into pure absurdity. Because that was when Minister Sumaili implored Zambians with the following exhortation: “Let's not import foreign beliefs and experiences. Let’s just believe in what we are.”
Do you see now? Do you begin to understand the pain of satirists and comedians, as politicians drop these punchlines day after day without even understanding that they’re doing comedy?
Because there it was, as pious, straight-faced and manipulative as modern politics: Zambians, living in a Christian nation and anchored in Christian principles, and therefore having shaped their spiritual and national identity around the teachings of a Jewish Palestinian executed by Italians, whose story was exported to Europe by a Turk and then exported to Africa by Brits and Germans, shouldn’t import foreign beliefs.
I was thinking about Minister Sumaili as I read our local news this week and – wait, no, that’s not true. I wasn’t reading the news. I was reading reviews. Because that’s what news has become, hasn’t it? A stream of reviews dutifully recording the mediocre highs and plunging lows of the neverending amateur theatrical production we so grandiosely call “current affairs”, featuring a cast of actors skilled at playing obvious melodrama but hopelessly out of their depth with anything more nuanced.There they all were, chewing up the scenery like the hams they are; and there were the same old responses from the audience: Yay! Boo! Look behind you! Don’t go in there! Nooo! Yay! Boo! And yet, for all the mediocrity of the performance and formulaic dullness of the script, the audience stays seated.
Why do we stay? Why do keep reading “the news” as if it’s worth our already overstretched attention?
Why is it that we will walk out of a mediocre play or switch off a bad TV show but when the bad drama is performed by politicians we feel compelled to “debate” and “engage” with it?
What is this deep urge to gaslight ourselves into believing that, when it comes to people in parliament, drivel is substance, that lines in a script are promises that will be kept, and that carefully constructed masks are real people with our best interests at heart?
We stopped believing in fairy tales and bogeymen when we were children, so why do we suddenly believe in them again when it’s a politician reading the story?Unless we snap out of this self-inflicted trance, and stop taking every soliloquy at face value, election season is going to feel fantastically long and unpleasant.
Which is why we owe it to our collective equilibrium to access our inner heckler over the next few months.
When a politician says: “We hold these imported ideas very dear which is why we must reject imported ideas”, let’s point and laugh and throw rotten vegetables from the cheap seats.When Julius Malema says he wants to unhitch South Africa from capitalism without a plan to replace it, let’s ignore his words and see his only his ambitions, whether they are to get even richer by growing the EFF from a tiny party into a very small one, or to get even richer by forcing the ANC to accept him back on his terms.
When the Democratic Alliance sends out a Rooi Gevaar tweet, and then claims it wasn’t official, and then claims it was, and then says the retraction wasn’t a retraction because it’s only a retraction if you knew what was going on in the first place, let’s stop “debating” the contents of the tweet and simply yell “Get off!” at the incompetent hams prancing around on the stage.
And when the ANC tells us that it’s changing, let’s simply point at our watches. Tick tock, Mr Ramaphosa. You’ve got some people to fire. Or was all that New Dawn stuff just a new line in an old script?

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