The Parable of the Oriental Rug

David Bullard tells the fake story of Andrew, Nicole-Carol and their dog Jacob


What the main-stream media like to do when they can’t come up with a credible news story is to make one up. There’s a fair amount of that going on these days as you may have noticed. Entire desks in newsrooms are devoted to woke interns hunting down the day’s racist incident and when one simply doesn’t turn up or Helen Zille has an uncharacteristically quiet day on social media then, deadlines being what they are, it’s necessary to invent one.

The whole point of a leading story used to be to sell newspapers but since very few people buy newspapers these days (other than to stuff into wet hiking boots) the emphasis has shifted to online news and to what is known as click-bait. Very simply that means that if a story is sensational enough a lot of people will click on it and the media organization can then attempt to justify what it is charging its advertisers.

The modus operandi of the fake story is always the same. You come up with a name like ‘Alfred’* and then explain at the end of the article under the * that it is “not his real name”. That gives you carte blanche to write all sorts of baloney which, to the uncritical eye, looks very much like a news story but which is often pure fiction.

The more sensational the story the better and should anyone ever challenge its veracity (unlikely in these frightened PC times) then you can tell them with a straight face that you have promised to protect ‘Alfred’ and his family from public abuse.

The only risk is that a real ‘Alfred’ may be mistaken for the fictional ‘Alfred’ in the fake news story and be subjected to misplaced abuse for something that never happened to him. But that’s another news story.

Back in 1994 Andrew (not his real name) decided that he needed to show a bit of class to his upwardly mobile friends and went off to Sandton City to buy himself an oriental rug. He knew absolutely nothing about oriental rugs other than the fact that they were probably woven by some poor peasant sitting in a desert somewhere. But he knew they were an investment and that it was important to make the right choice about the sort of rug you bought.

Fortunately he was well advised by a couple of people who knew a bit about rugs so he chose something that looked pretty impressive even though it was in a shade that would clash horribly with his current colour scheme at home. What he paid for it would have carpeted two of his bedrooms wall to wall but he knew deep down that he was doing the right thing and would soon be regarded by his peers as a man of unquestionable taste.

The rug was delivered the following Tuesday and his wife Nicole-Carol (not her real name) wasn’t impressed, particularly when he told her what it had cost. He eventually calmed her down and promised to get the interior decorators in the next week to advise on a colour scheme that would go with the rug.

A couple of months passed and both Andrew and Nicole-Carol agreed that the rug looked damn fine in their newly colour co-ordinated home. What’s more, it spoke to visitors and said, ‘here live people of substance’. When the new puppy arrived a few months later it was agreed that the main living area should be out of bounds until it was house trained.

The puppy soon became a small dog and very soon Jacob (not its real name) was lying on the sofa watching television and shedding hairs on the oriental rug which the domestic worker Beauty (not her real name) would vacuum up the following morning. Then disaster struck.

Jacob caught a rat, ate half of it and threw up all over the oriental rug. Beauty scrubbed the rug next day and may have used rather more bleach than was advisable leaving an unsightly mark on one corner. Some furniture was moved to cover the stain and all was well until, some months later, Andrew invited a few friends around for a poker evening while his wife was out at her yoga class.

A bottle of red wine was opened after the game and one of the guests managed to knock his glass off the table as he was expansively explaining what was wrong with Roger Federer’s back-hand. Some of Ken Forrester’s (his real name) finest went all over the rug and no amount of salt and dabbing with kitchen paper could remove the stain.

From that point on both Andrew and Nicole-Carol lost interest in the rug and didn’t even bother to send it away for it’s annual spring clean. Years passed and the accumulated ground-in dirt, wear and tear and general neglect meant that what had once been seen as an investment was now just a tatty old shadow of its former self. Eventually it began to smell rather awful and Andrew decided that it would be better to dump it and get a brand new rug.

Now, think of the rug as a metaphor for the South African economy and you have the story in a nutshell. What started off back in 1994 looked very promising and continued to do so for the first decade, but, as with expensive oriental rugs, economies need constant care and attention.

I will be the first to admit that I was highly skeptical when the ANC came to power. I predicted that they would borrow huge amounts of money and get themselves into hopeless debt. That didn’t happen and the SA Treasury under Trevor Manuel was run well enough to serve as a major catalyst for foreign investment.

And then the wheels came off, the dog puked all over the economy and much wine was spilt. Which is why the ANC are now talking about ‘resetting’ the economy.

Nobody actually knows what they mean by this but, given their Marxist philosophy, it presumably means destroy what is left of the existing economy and build a brand new socialist Utopia from scratch. The problem is, as the finance minister pointed out last week and as the governor of the Reserve Bank has also pointed out, we are broke. Despite all the big talk of a billion to be spent here and a couple of trillion to be spent there we are up shit creek without a paddle.

Far from travelling around the world attracting new investment to kick-start our fourth industrial revolution as was promised in the last SONA speech we are just another basket case holding out the begging bowl to other countries hoping they’ll give us enough to tide us over for the next few months.

Unfortunately most of our trading partners have economic problems of their own and are not in a giving mood at the moment.

Our economy is on its knees and tourism, the one pre-Covid-19 bright hope, is dead in the water. It’s unlikely that international flights will be anywhere near normal before the end of 2020 and my guess is that the days of budget international flights are gone forever. If you can only fill an aircraft to one third capacity then fares must surely rise not fall. The other question though is whether airlines (assuming some survive) will still want two landing slots a day in Cape Town or Johannesburg.

Where are we going to find foreign tourists who don’t mind not being allowed to buy cigarettes and being told that they can’t order wine with their meal in restaurants and can’t buy alcohol at all from Thursday to Monday?

Admittedly, these daft laws may have changed by the end of the year but given the general malice of our leaders and the desire to sabotage the entire economy I wouldn’t bank on it.

The probability is that we will have to rely on the International Monetary Fund to tide us over. Only when we’ve defaulted on those loans (and we will) and are really in the gutter will our good friends China step in and effectively take ownership of South Africa and all its assets.

Remember, you read it here first.