Tintin among the Redshirts

Andrew Donaldson suggests the Fighters' look beyond Marx, Lenin and Fanon for their book club selections


ARE readers are aware that today, June 1st, is World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day? It is a day in which we are urged to educate ourselves about psychological and emotional bullying, and question why there aren’t more laws prohibiting the browbeating, gaslighting, public shaming and name-calling that results in such lasting harm and soul-destroying damage.

Today is also World Reef Awareness Day, the Global Day of Parents and, for good measure, World Milk Day. But that is neither here nor there, and these important celebrations must fall by the by in the interests of what may appear to be a thematic thread.

Wednesday, May 25, just a week ago, was another day of diverse international commemorations. It was, for example, World Towel Day, International Plastic-Free Day, Greek Pride Day, World Thyroid Day and Tap Dance Day. More to the point—and I must thank EFF leader Julius Malema and those who protested outside the French embassy in Pretoria last week for bringing this to my attention—it was also Africa Day. (Don’t tell me—you forgot already?)

Next Wednesday, June 8th, is Pet Memorial Day, World Oceans Day, Best Friends Day, Upsy Daisy Day and World Brain Tumour Day. 

It is also the day by which the government of France must respond to demands by the EFF that it cease immediately its “colonial” activities in Africa. Failing which, the redshirts will be outlining a “clear and practical programme on how we will undermine and counter French's continued colonisation of the African continent”. (sic)

One such demand is the “removal” of French as an “official language” anywhere in Africa. This, apparently, is “in favour of a continental reconstruction of African identity, away from the imposition of white civilisations standards and norms as a measure of humanity”. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

These demands were handed over to ambassador Aurelien Lechevellier by Juju himself, who told supporters: “French colonialism in the African continent continues to be the most brutal, cruel and devilish form of colonialism in the African continent. We, as a generation of Freedom Fighters reject, and condemn the fact that decades after the declaration of so-called independence of former colonised territories, colonisers continue to maintain a colonial and neo-colonial relationship with African countries which are supposed to be free from colonial control.” (sic)

English colonialism in the African continent, being of course also the most brutal, cruel and devilish form of colonialism in the African continent, is likewise used decades after the declaration of so-called independence of former colonised territories to maintain a colonial and neo-colonial relationship with African countries which are supposed to be free from colonial control. So let’s not smirk when the commander gets unduly colonic and clumsy in his outbursts. We can’t all be Shakespeare.

Rather, let’s just say that a number of last week’s protesters, fellow travellers from up north, brandished anti-French posters with slogans that were, unfortunately, written in French. Les colonialistes doivent quitter l'Afrique maintenant, and what-what tout suite.

Consider, for a moment: there are almost 250 different languages spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nearly half its 33 million citizens, though, speak, read and write in French. Good luck with getting them to ditch the country’s official language in favour of any of the other tongues.

Meanwhile, and still on the Effnik front, it was pleasing to learn that the party has launched a “book club". As the political commentator Paul Maritz has explained, the model for this ennobling project was simple enough: various EFF nobs like Floyd Shivambu and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi would appear online and read texts and excerpts from works the redshirts leadership deemed of significance, after which the relevance of the particular text would be discussed in seminars. A bit like being back at school. 

However, and here’s one of the problems I have with this venture. The first three episodes of the club were devoted to Marx, Lenin and Franz Fanon, and none of their works can be considered “easy” for those fighters with young, unformed minds.

As authors they’re simply not in the same league as, let’s just say, Wilbur Smith or even Jilly Cooper, writers who over the years have gone to great lengths to sex up their dreary yarns with quivering descriptions of groin churning behaviour. It may seem gratuitous, but Das Kapital could do with a bit of sopping rumpy and a car chase or two. If you’re going to impress the impressionable, do it with something impressive. Draw them in with a bit of fun, you know? 

Another problem: do any book club members actually read these books? Or do they just pretend to listen to recitations by the party’s leading intellectuals? That’s not very helpful, is it? Frankly, if I had to listen to Fraud Shivambu reading anything, I would be asleep by the time he got to the bottom of the first page. 

My own suggestion is that the EFF should rather encourage their members to get stuck into The Adventures of Tintin. Tackle these important works at home, in their own time, and at their leisure. The pictures are a great plus, too. For they do help drive the narrative.

It is true that the creator of this wonderful series, the late Hergé (real name Georges Prosper Remi) was a Belgian and, as such, probably a merciless colonial type, but his stories are unmatched when it comes to inspiring young, unformed minds to get outdoors in their plus fours and help the unfortunate everywhere.  

Thoughts, prayers

On Friday, The Onion, a satirical “newspaper” that boasts (with justification) it is “America’s Finest News Source”, reprinted for the 21st time a story it first published in 2014:

“In the hours following a violent rampage in Texas in which a lone attacker killed at least 21 individuals and injured several others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Tuesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. 

“‘This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,’ said Idaho resident Kathy Miller, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. ‘It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this individual from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what they really wanted.’

“At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as ‘helpless’.”

The only differences with each new publication of the story are the number of casualties and the dateline, which, on this occasion, was Uvalde, Texas. When the story was published in 2015, a year in which there were 372 so-called “mass shootings” [1] in the US, one journalist commented: “The Onion completely nails it. [The article] resonates because they totally got it. [Their coverage is popular because] we look for the people who tell us the truth … who see through the stuff, and don’t just print the same old stuff, or do the same old stuff, or do the safe stuff – the people who call us on our shit.”

The “same old stuff” includes, of course, yet more ponderous unpacking of the US constitution’s second amendment and the right of Americans to bear arms. There was, from the get-go, concern that having won their independence from the British, a young, vulnerable nation could be ruled by tyranny once more, perhaps even by its own government. This despite reassurances that the checks and balances in the constitution—the separation of powers, for example, between the executive, legislative and judicial bodies—ensured that such a fate was unlikely. 

But, in the event, etc, a tyrant who seized power could be effectively deposed by state governments who would lead militias of armed citizens in the cause of a free republic. It is fit and proper, therefore, that the people be armed to the teeth.

As a result, it could be claimed that no dictator has yet attempted to impose his or her will on the American people. Perhaps they are scared. After all, a society in which  more than 45 200 people died from gun-related injuries in 2020, more than in any other year on record, and one in which firearms are now said to be the leading cause of death among teenagers and children, is a society that must be feared.

The irony here is that a form of tyranny does flourish in the US, and holds sway over its people: the virulent gun culture fostered by the National Rifle Association. 

Formed in 1871, the NRA was for decades a fairly modest organisation, with no significant role in US politics. In the 1970s, though, it began lobbying pro-gun politicians, donating millions of dollars to their campaigns. 

In 1980, Ronald Reagan became the organisation’s first presidential endorsement. This gesture was more than repaid in May 1983 when, two years after he was shot in an assassination attempt, Reagan addressed the NRA’s annual convention, saying he would never disarm any citizen who seeks to protect his or her family from “fear and harm”; the right to bear arms was “every American’s birthright”. 

Donald Trump said more or less the same thing when he addressed this year’s NRA convention, just three days after the Uvalde massacre. “Defending our Second Amendment is about defending law, order and life,” he said. “We know that as law-and-order conservatives, we have no higher goal than to reduce violent crime by the greatest degree possible.”

The way to do this, Trump continued, was not with restrictions on gun ownership, but with more guns—because “the existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens … the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” 

We may well ask how many more guns do Americans need? It’s said there are about 400 million firearms in civilian hands, the highest such figure in the world. Even so, this is probably not enough. After all, as this year’s convention delegates conceded, widespread outrage over the Uvalde shootings—which was really a mental health crisis, and not a gun issue, as many put it—is threatening to roll back second amendment rights. Many gun nuts now regard themselves as victims and fear they could be targets in the public backlash against the killings. The solution, naturally, is more firepower.

Where there are “victims”, there are conspiracy theories. According to reports, some delegates have questioned the timing of the Uvalde shootings and claimed it was “too convenient”. Some even suggested the tragedy had been deliberately orchestrated to overshadow the NRA convention with a public outcry. One attendee told Politico: “Why did it happen three days ago? I’m not sure that there are not forces someplace that somehow find troubled people and nurture and develop them and push them for their own agendas.” Another added: “This is all propaganda. They’ll use anything to make us look bad.”

It is noteworthy that delegates attending Donald Trump’s address to the convention were not allowed to be armed. In addition to firearms, audience members were prohibited from carrying knives, pepper sprays and any other form of weapon. As one gun control activist explained: “Guns won’t be allowed in spaces where Donald Trump and NRA executives are speaking, because someone might try to kill them.”

This, at least to the regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies), would be unthinkable.