It’s election year in South Africa. This fact was suddenly brought home to me on Sunday when, turning out of our street, we were confronted with election posters on every lamppost on the way to church. Only one party’s, by the way – looks like they decided to get an early start.
Election posters are only that big, so parties usually come up with a slogan that’s short enough to fit in while big enough that motorists can read them without squinting so desperately at the poster that they actually run into the lamppost supporting it. In an ideal world, that slogan will also tell people what your party stands for.
This party must have one hell of a copywriter, or they don’t stand for much, as they managed to keep their slogan to only two words:
When one mentions George Orwell, most people immediately think of Nineteen Eighty-Four. But a few years earlier Orwell had written another little book, a novella titled Animal Farm. Nineteen Eighty-Fouris undoubtedly Orwell’s master work, with it’s terrifying depiction of a society where every citizen is watched so closely that even talking in your sleep can get you arrested and where the rulers are so confident in their power that they entertain themselves by allowing individuals the illusion of freedom and rebellion, only so that breaking them later is that much more devastating. It is a warning of where we can end up if we sit back and let those in power have too much.
But more significant in my eyes is Orwell’s little fairy tale, as he called it, for Animal Farm shows us just how easily society can reach that state. Animal Farm, for those of you who’ve never read it, is a fable about a bunch of farm animals who rebel against their human master, run him off the farm, and start working the land for themselves.
As mentioned, today we had elections in South Africa. Election day is always a public holiday so as to allow everyone an opportunity to vote. Naturally all the shops are also open so people can make the most of the public holiday and go shopping. Some stores even had election day specials. It’s good to know democracy and civic responsibility is so important to the businesses in South Africa (but seeing that more than half of them belong to Walmart by now…)
Anyway, the wife and I slept in (I returned from the coast with a bit of a cold, so I had to drag my carcass from bed in any case) before heading to the polls. Our voting station thankfully had a short queue so my blocked sinuses didn’t have to spend hours standing in the late autumn sun. Ten minutes after arriving we had both made our mark and had our thumbs marked in turn.
It is apparently illegal to take a photo of one’s ballot paper (or to take a selfie in the voting booth), but if you click here you’ll see a photo of the national ballot for today’s election with all twenty-nine parties that took part (and yes, we have a political party who calls themselves KISS. They’ve actually been around since 1994.) I have to confess I have never heard of more than half of them (I’ve known about KISS; have no idea what they stand for, though), and that in spite of doing quite a bit of reading over the past couple of months trying to figure out for whom to vote.
In the end, I voted for a party whose leader I trust. They’re definitely not going to win the election, not on national or provincial level, but hopefully I have helped them to get at least one seat in parliament.
Now the wait for the results starts. We all know who’s going to win, the only question is how far (and whether our president will manage to hang on until the end of his second term, but let’s not go into that…)
…and initially that was all I was going to say about that. I don’t want to sully this blog with local politics, which can really take anything good and utterly corrupt it (but I suppose that’s true of local politics everywhere, isn’t it?)
But last week there was a new development that piqued my interest. Someone said something that got me thinking about the meaning of words, and George Orwell, and the abuse of language to manipulate people. And my hammer started vibrating (and if you know anything about hammer-lore you’ll know that means it’s time to whack something).
Let’s be honest: at one time or another we all buy into the myth that the grass is greener on the other side. If that wasn’t so people wouldn’t keep on changing jobs, homes, towns, partners, countries. We’re always looking out for something better. But once in a while something happens that reminds us that what we have maybe isn’t all that bad. I’ve been feeling that way this week as I watched developments abroad.
Warning: this post will be taking a tongue-in-cheek look at the US government shutdown from an outsider’s perspective. If that is a sore topic, you’re a flaming patriot, or if anything that seems to disagree with your views causes your brain to shut down, I suggest you stop reading. My regular commenters are a decent lot, but if you’re new here you might want to check out the about page and comment policy first. Continue reading “On greener grass and all that…”→