Why do we think the A-Team can fix us? We’re deluded
There is only one authority that will get us out of our fix: ourselves
“If you have a problem; if no-one else can help; and if you can find them; maybe you can hire … the A-Team!”
If you were a child in the 1980s, you know what happens next: a burst of gunfire, the first iconic notes of that iconic theme – da da-da daaaaa! – and then an opening montage of Jeeps flying off roads in Guatemala-slash-California and all the other nonsense that made The A-Team such B-grade fun.
If you weren’t a child in the 1980s, let me catch you up.
The show’s formula was simple. Helpless innocents are being harassed by heavies: as per the opening monologue, they have a problem and no-one else can help. They appeal to the A-Team for help, and then follows a sort of Mad Max version of The Twelve Days of Christmas: five exploding cars, four fist-fights, three disguises, two gun battles, and a drugged BA Baracus flown to safety.
In the end, however, it always just boiled down to lots and lots of shooting: in the 1980s there was no problem that couldn’t be solved by expending huge amounts of ammo.
For a show that was often laughable bad and that ran for only four years, The A-Team left a remarkably large cultural fingerprint (or bullet-hole). One reason might have been the generally unsophisticated level of television at the time. But I suspect the main reason it made such a deep impression was that basic – and base – formula.
For many children (and a certain kind of adult) there is something deeply satisfying in calling down the wrath of avenging angels. If you feel powerless, gun-toting knights with Mohawk haircuts are a particularly delicious fantasy.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched an A-Team mentality sweep across South African politics.
First there was AfriForum appealing to the US to intervene in SA. The appeal might have been tacit, but the subtext was clear: “Natives revolting. Stop. Send gunboat. Stop.”
If you think this is an exaggeration, consider Dan Roodt’s overjoyed response to Donald Trump’s tweet about land expropriation. “Thank you, Mr President! The current, quasi-communist South Africa came about through Cuban, Soviet & Swedish intervention. The US can set it right!”
Ah yes, those monstrous Swedes and their satanic penchant for liberal democracy and human rights! Thank God the US is nothing like Sweden and can act as His laser-guided right hand!Just as that story was dying down, another A-Team moment popped up. City Press reported that Tselane Tambo, daughter of Oliver and Adelaide, felt she was being unfairly treated by the ANC and had allegedly “threatened” to go to the EFF unless the party did right by her.
This was more than strategic political blackmail. This was a subtle appeal to vengeance; an invocation of the trigger-happy enforcer who keeps the ANC toeing the line.
And then, finally, our old friend Fake News appeared to complete the set. According to a badly-manufactured “news” report on Facebook, Theresa May will impose stringent sanctions if expropriation goes ahead. And you know she means it because she was shouting. "THAT'S A CRIME AND WE WILL DEFINITELY REACT IN A VERY BAD WAY IF RAMAPHOSA GOES AHEAD WITH HIS PLANS,” read one of the more absurd quotes in the piece.
It’s some of the weakest disinformation I’ve seen, a bizarre bit of Anglophile fantasy in which the Old Country will sail in to save Her Majesty’s subjects, and yet I’ve seen it re-posted dozens of times in the last few days.So why is this happening? The A-Team monologue gives us a clue. Many people in this country believe they have a problem and that nobody else can help.
Well, except for the A-Team. Or as we imagine it here, Father.
SA is a profoundly patriarchal society, and in a patriarchy, nobody except Father knows how to solve a problem. That’s because everyone except Father is a child: obedient, naïve and, at least in worldly terms, more or less helpless.
It’s how this country ran for centuries. But at some point in the last 20 years Father said he was going out for cigarettes and never came back. With no Father to tell us what to do or think, we’ve become an anxious, fractious mess, waving to any Big Man we see and begging him to come and be our new Father. Some of us appeal to Donald Trump. Others entreat Julius Malema.
We have a problem. Hell, we’ve got lots. But if we think no one except an A-Team or Father can help, then we will remain deluded.
There is only one authority that will get us out of our fix: ourselves, with our collective determination to make this country work.