NEWS & ANALYSIS

Time for the Western Cape to EFF-off?

Andrew Donaldson says the Redshirts may have inadvertently rallied to the cause of an independent Spesbona [for members]

HAVE the redshirts inadvertently rallied to the cause of an independent Spesbona? On Tuesday, the EFF released a statement to mark the 369th anniversary of the arrival of the Dutch at “what was known as the Cape of Good Hope”. True to dreary form, it accuses all the usual culprits of all the usual crimes. 

However, the fighters’ paean to Onze Jan and company does suggest that matters in the rest of South Africa, the bits floundering under the Gucci’d jackboot of ANC villainy, would be greatly improved once it had shrugged off the onerous burden that is the Western Cape.

___STEADY_PAYWALL___

The document also harbours a marked resentment of plain English. This may well be an act of decolonisation on the part of author Vuyani Pambo, who is both EFF spokesman and the party’s social media poster boy. Last week, the Grouse drew attention to an over-spewing of invective in statements. Thrilled perhaps at the attention, Pambo is now doubling down in efforts to annoy unhappy readers with jargon and Goebbelsdegook. To wit, and very (sic):

“As a country, we still belong to a Common Wealth of nations that observes loyalty to the United Kingdom, the very purpose that the so-called former liberation movement known as the South African Natives National Congress was established for.

“We continue to export valuable raw materials to the West, perpetuating our own under­development and dependency through unequal trade relations whose purpose is wealth extraction in Africa.

“The most offensive concession made by a government that suffers from a severe inferiority complex is the celebration of the very murderers who stole our land through statues, street names and symbols all over this country. Racist men and women, who committed atrocities against our people are made to represent heritage, and look over African people, reaffirming that black life means nothing.

“Not even in Germany are the victims of the fascist Adolf Hitler subjected to statues and songs that commemorate the Nazi's, yet in South Africa we glorify those who committed an institutional cultural and physical genocide against African people.

“Our national anthem contains the hymn of conquest known as Die Stem, which the children of Jan Van Riebeek sang while they tortured black people who dared to demand dignity and that the wealth of South Africa be controlled by the majority Black people.”

Ah, the tortured soul of a poet, as the regulars put it at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”). Only, as an old opera joke goes, that’s not how we spell p***. 

But we digress, and to return to our theme, it’s obvious that an independent Western Cape is in everyone’s best interests. For years now, its voters have routinely rejected a political order that aims to treat them as second-class citizens. They’re obviously too recidivist to change now, so why bother? Let ‘em go. Think of the relief from all that stress of having to worry about them. Besides, having a functional non-racial, liberal democracy as a neighbour may just give everyone else ideas.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a kif Jan van Riebeeck T-shirt to annoy the nearest VBS Mutual Bank looter, check out valhallatees.co.za. Their gear also honours criminal cultural symbols and figures like folk song Sarie Marais, seer Niklaas “Siener” van Rensburg, Herry the strandloper, legendary Bok captain Paul Roos, poet CJ Langenhoven, mythic pipe smoker Van Hunks and Jock, Percy Fitzpatrick’s valiant Staffie, among numerous others. 

Elsewhere, Western Cape premier Alan Winde and provincial opposition leader Cameron Dugmore will be debating whether greater powers should be devolved to the provinces on Tuesday, April 13. It’s a Cape Town Press Club luncheon at the Kelvin Grove (non-members welcome), and further details can be found here. A recording of the event will also be made available a couple of days later.

What’s wrong with ‘woke’?

For a while now, Facebook has been bothered by advance warnings of DA federal council chair Helen Zille’s forthcoming book, #Stay Woke Go Broke: Why South Africa won’t survive America’s Culture Wars (and what you can do about it) (Obsidian Worlds). Much of this news has, of course, been shared by the former Western Cape premier herself.

It’s a strategy that seems to have paid dividends as there is considerable interest in the book. Zille posted a screen grab from Amazon.com which appeared to indicate her work was rocketing up the charts. “Well,” she wrote, “this is fantastic news. Would never have expected this. Obviously the right topic at the right time…” In another post, she added, “Just to let you know, my book hit that Amazon spot although it is only on pre-order.  It is going to be released online and in book stores on 26th April. Thanks to all who put in pre-orders already.”

That Amazon spot, incidentally, was not “number one on Amazon’s best-seller list”, as TimesLIVE reported this morning. When I checked, at the time of writing, it was however the top “hot new release” in the social theory sub-section of the sociology sub-section of the social sciences sub-section in the politics and social sciences category of new e-book titles. The on-line retailer’s number one hot new release is a Pokémon game. 

None of this is to detract in any way from Zille’s book. I’m sure it’s going to be a cracking read and provide much to dwell upon in the struggle against the dim and doctrinaire. I do however have a problem with the term “woke”, and I feel its use in the title is lazy and a mistake, and this somehow lets the side down, appealing chiefly to those who are dim and doctrinaire themselves.

First, a disclosure of sorts. I am on most days a slightly left-of-centre sort of liberal, a middle extremist. A “woke in progress”, you could argue. 

That may sound vague and wishy-washy, but not as far as my hard-core detractors are concerned. They harbour no doubts that I’m either some kind of Maoist fanatic and Spartist screamer [1] or a snowflake whose brain has been deep-fried by George Soros and, oddly enough, the mainstream media. They often remind me of this in unflattering terms, but so what? I’ve been called far worse things at family Christmas gatherings once the brandy comes out.

“Woke” is not new, according to Tony Thorne, a linguist who specialises in African-American vernacular English. He told Britain’s Independent newspaper that the term first appeared in black American street culture in the 1940s to “literally mean becoming woken up or sensitised to issues of justice”. It first appeared in print in 1971, in a line in a Berry Beckham play on the Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey: “I been sleeping all my life. And now that Mr Garvey done woke me up, I’m gon’ stay woke. And I’m gon’ help him wake up other black folk.”

It was only after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014 and the rise of Black Lives Matter that the term became politicised. “‘Woke’ was largely unknown in the UK until the BLM movement,” Thorne said, “but in the 2000s it was a popular word used by young people in America, especially in black communities.”

The word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2017, and defined as “being ‘aware’ or ‘well-informed’ in a political or cultural sense”. With this scholarly imprimatur, it rapidly evolved into a convenient term to describe all leftist political ideology. Once established as shorthand for the left, it was only a matter of time before right-wingers weaponised “woke” as a pejorative and a term to denigrate those who don’t share their beliefs and dismiss their opinions as irrelevant.

This is a common enough tactic with the intolerant. Consider how labels like “liberal”, “social justice warrior” and “politically correct” are now anathema, thanks to the orcs’ poisoning culture. The upshot of this toxicity is that those who are woke cannot use the term anymore. 

And perhaps they shouldn’t. 

Way back in the early 1960s, folksingers in Greenwich Village, eager to cash in on Bob Dylan’s success, would copy every aspect of the young upstart’s raggedy act, including his apparent fondness for Greek fisherman’s caps. The style mavens soon took issue with this fashion crime, pointing out that the wearing of such hats is only permissible subject to two conditions: one, a person is Greek, and two, a fisherman. It’s the same with “woke”. Give it a break unless you’re a character in a Chester Himes crime novel.

Besides, even conservative commentators are tired of the term. Writing in the Spectator recently, Sam Leith agrees there is nothing inherently wrong with being woke:

“In its original sense, as minted in black activism in the States, to be ‘woke’ was to be aware. It was to show just that curiosity about the world that its use as a sneer declines to bother with. One of the basic contentions of the non-loony left is this: a social set-up that systematically gives some people a raw deal doesn’t always make it obvious that it’s doing so. We get used to it. This is a contention to which anybody arguing that it’s stupid to ‘cancel’ historical figures for holding views that were widespread in their own age should surely find it easy to subscribe. To take a well-worn analogy, we swim in a world-view like a fish swims in water: the fish doesn’t have a concept of ‘water’ because it’s all the poor thing has ever known. To be woke is to go, aha: this is water.”

The culture wars, whether American or not, are now waged “almost entirely through sneering”, Leith writes. As long as that’s the case, they remain unwinnable. Dismissing leftists as “woke”, he maintains, is a retreat into a comfort zone. As a term of derogation, it may gee up and elicit sniggers from those who share your opinions, but it also reveals a “dismal incuriosity” about what you’re dead against — whatever it is.

Linguists like Thorne claim there is at present no suitable replacement for “woke”, and that we perhaps need to find a term that is more academic or scientific. As he puts it, “we do ned a vocabulary that progressives can use, they deserve to have that”.

My own feeling is that “clever” will do nicely. It’s a term sneeringly used by the likes of Jacob Zuma and others to disparage learned folk and those curious about the Western canon and the law and what-what. Once we have appropriated it back from the mob, it will be just perfect. 

Mess action

Another day, another dull drama in the box of turds that is the ruling party. The fight for what City Press amusingly refers to as “the soul of the ANC” could get even uglier, the newspaper reports, as supporters of former president Jacob Zuma and secretary-general Ace Magashule vow to shut down the country this week. 

Readers could be forgiven for briefly wondering whether there’s another South Africa out there, an idyll in some parallel universe, as the South Africa we’re all familiar with has been shut down for a while, thanks to years of maladministration, corruption, neglect and stupidity.

Be that as it may, the Accused Numbers One and Two faction, if we may, have sifted through the debris of previously operational key assets (railways, post office, Eskom, airline, health services, etc) to identify a few surviving shutdown-able targets — namely, the roads.

These “key points” are due a frightful reckoning should certain demands not be met. The ANC must recall Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the country along with his entire cabinet. Squirrel has also been called on to disclose funding details of his 2017 party leadership campaign within 30 days. 

Pamphlets distributed among the RET rabble provide some idea of the #CRMMustFall shutdown: “We must block national roads, metro roads, all access roads to and from business hubs, and those access points coming to and from their rich suburbs.” 

Those urged to join the fun include “progressive political parties, NGOs, civil organisations, faith-based organisations, the MK veterans, ANC RET forces and supporters of progressive policies”. Further details and “logistics” of this month-long campaign will be released at a later stage, we have been promised.

Pending the arrival of said details, it would seem much of this activity will be taking place in the Free State, Magashule’s home province. Which makes sense. There’s not much there that works apart from roads. Well, the parts that aren’t filled with dongas and potholes, that is.

The pause that refreshes

Donald Trump has also called on the masses to take it to the roads, as it were. In his Easter message, he urged supporters to boycott those companies who have criticised new regulations in Georgia that many fear will restrict the rights of black voters. Among the “woke” companies called out by the most stupendous losing president ever was Coca-Cola, one of the state’s largest employers and perhaps the most American of all American institutions. 

That was on Saturday. Three days later Trump was back on Twitter. Sort of. Over-excited senior adviser Stephen Miller had posted a photograph of his orange boss at his desk at Mar-a-Lago — with a bottle of Diet Coke, his favourite tipple, next to the telephone. Principles are all very well, but hypocrisy adds life.

Footnote:

[1] Spartism, from Dave Spart, Private Eye’s resident polemicist since December 1971. He first featured in the magazine following his recruitment as spokesperson for the National Amalgamated Union of Sixth Form Operatives and Allied Trades, one of the many pressure groups to which he belongs. He declined to be interviewed for Adam Macqueen’s Private Eye: The First 50 Years (2011) on the grounds that “the celebration of anniversaries is an inherently militaristic act and as such totally unacceptable while Britain retains its illegal, repressive and imperialist presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Falkland Islands”.