Take the cynic route to a better version of us in 2019
Bamboozling politicians notwithstanding, perhaps it's noble to hold onto some basic intentions as the year begins
I like making New Year’s resolutions because, like a good map, they show me exactly where I am in my journey through life. If I have resolutions, for example, I know that it’s the first week of January. If I don’t have them any more, I know that it’s the second week of January.
I gather that many people still have intact resolutions, which must be very exciting for them: lasting all the way into February before you unclench must feel a bit like a tantric orgasm of self-sabotage.
For some, 2019 is the year in which they will try to detach from the fibre-optic teat of social media. For others, it means making a space in which they are protected from the hyperbole and superficiality of the 24-hour news cycle and its spawn, the 1,440-minute hot-take cycle.
Some, of course, will fail. Tweeting “We all need to get off Twitter” is not advice. It is a cry for help.
Likewise, I would like to send thoughts and prayers to the few journalists I’ve seen declaring that 2019 is the year they step back and live in the now. I hope this new perspective feels wonderful until it disappears roundabout January 15 in a puff of breaking news and political intrigue.
Still, perhaps it is noble to try to hold onto some basic, solid intentions as 2019 begins; and to this end, I would like to propose some new resolutions, to replace the ones that I broke yesterday.
Firstly, I will try, in 2019, to grope towards some kind of logical solution to the truly surreal prospect of possibly supporting the ANC in the national election while keeping it and its fantastically sticky fingers as far away from local government as possible. Do we willingly vote for the most corrupt political party since the Nats to give Cyril Ramaphosa a mandate, or vote idealistically and risk coalition chaos? Or, given how pally Julius Malema suddenly is with Jacob Zuma, was this the plan all along? Did Malema and Zuma form the EFF to be a bad cop to the ANC’s good cop, herding an alarmed electorate towards the safer option of the ruling party?
Next, I will not succumb to wild speculation and conspiracy theory. Well, from now. To this end, when I read the news I will try to remember that most of the fact-free sermonising we call “debate” is based on a hastily written interpretation by a junior content producer of a misquoted précis of a misunderstood study taken out of context by a politician’s scriptwriter’s intern.
Next, I will try to remember not to take personally the divisive, cynical bullshit of politicians. Columnists are already warning us that the suits will try to divide us as the elections draw closer, but it’s more important to remember why they’re going to do this: money. Except for a dwindling number of idealists, they’re all in the bamboozling business, and business is booming.
So when DD Mabuza tells us he has to go to Moscow to see his, er, GP, or Malema does his angry-but-forgiving daddy act, or the DA blames the media for Mmusi Maimane’s gradual evaporation, I won’t assume they’re taking me for a fool. It’s not personal. It’s just business. Drug dealers must deal, and politicians must politick. How else are they going to retire with tens of millions in the bank? Get a real job? Please.
Next, I want to apologise for recently repeating the falsehood that matrics only need 30% to pass, and promise that I won’t repeat it in 2019. For the record, matrics need 40% in three subjects, one of which must be their own language, and 30% in three other subjects. If they manage that, it doesn’t matter if they fail a seventh subject. In other words, there is no need to resort to hyperbolic falsehoods when describing the state of SA education. The facts speak for themselves.
Finally, I also want to apologise for mentioning the matric results a full five days after they were announced, thereby contravening our national agreement to celebrate secondary and tertiary education for the 24 hours after the announcement, to worry about the “real” pass rate for the next 24, and then to forget all about them for another 363 days. Mea culpa.
I know that most of these resolutions sound cynical. That’s probably because they are: I genuinely believe that politics are overwhelmingly governed by self-interest, and that in this county, self-interest has convinced many powerful people that theft isn’t a crime.
But there’s one self-improving decision we can’t backslide on in 2019, because the Constitution won’t allow it: the result of the election in May.
Will it change anything? I don’t know. But somehow an election always feels like a chance to pause and look up at the horizon; to imagine, as we do when me make New Year’s resolutions, a better version of us.
So, before the year begins to grind and the shine begins to come off, let me wish you better: a better year, a better you, and a better us.
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