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Mon Jul 28 20:30:58 SAST 2014

Can we please have intelligent discourse before Armageddon

Mondli Makhanya | 31 December, 2011 00:19
Mondli Makhanya
Image by: Sunday Times

The new year - which might be our last - looks very likely to get off to a disappointing start with an ANC centenary speech devoid of ideas or inspiration

SO this is it. Today is officially the beginning of the final year of humanity's existence. In 354 days, Planet Earth will cease to be. We will all be history.

But, then again, there cannot be history if there is no-one around to tell it.

Anyway, that is what the doomsdayers say will happen on December 21 this year.

But, before we get there, there is some unfinished business we need to take care of - just in case the planet does not go up in smoke and we are still around in 2013 and beyond.

A wish, a futile wish, I admit, is for some thinking to return to our national discourse. In the post-Polokwane era, our discourse has plumbed the depths, largely because the country's governing party has been scornful of intellectualism.

In the past, we were guilty of outsourcing much of our thinking to the short man who was head of the republic and the governing party. He sparked the national debates about our country's direction and our standing in the world.

Whether it was in speeches or in his sometimes whacky online column, he had something to say. And we had something to say back to him. Admittedly, much of what he had to say was divisive, paranoid and intellectually disingenuous. Some of it, such as his intervention in the Aids debate, was downright destructive.

But the bottom line is that there were ideas we could engage with.

When he spoke on international platforms, the world's leaders - short and tall - pricked up their ears and listened.

South Africa misses that.

In looking at this post-Polokwane intellectual drought, I dipped back into former Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev's memoirs, arguably one the most incisive records of the Cold War era.

In the bookKhruschev Remembers, the Soviet leader ably captures the nature of Indonesia's fun-loving post-independence leader, Surkano. He recalls a visit to Indonesia during which he was struck by Sukarno's clownish ways and his addiction to pomp and ceremony.

He wrote that he was amazed by Sukarno's love of dancing and his appetite for women.

"Sukarno never danced with just one woman. He danced with literally every woman in sight. Even if a girl refused to, he'd press her to the dance floor - although he did so very politely and tactfully. I couldn't help feeling that Sukarno had a weakness for dancing.

"On the one hand, he was just being a good host. On the other hand, he seemed to me a bit too passionate about this kind of entertainment.

"And it was not just dancing with women that he had a weakness for. He loved women. He couldn't have enough of them. His reputation was scandalous. He simply couldn't control his passion for them.

"I had read about his weakness in the special reports that TASS [the official USSR news agency] had compiled for the party and government leadership. Some people explained to me that Sukarno's behaviour with women was typical of Muslims. Others said it was his particular idiosyncrasy. Whatever the truth, his enemies mocked him for it."

Khruschev continued: "We had difficulty understanding how a man with such habits could be allowed to hold a lofty and responsible post. His affairs with women certainly discredited him in international circles, and I think they were used against him in his own country..."

He describes an incident that occurred as the two leaders took a leisurely walk. Sukarno noticed a woman bathing herself and her baby in a pond. He walked over and held the baby in his arms while chatting to the naked woman.

When Khruschev asked him why he had gone over to talk to a naked woman, Sukarno replied that he had merely wanted to hold the baby.

"He was just saying that. I knew perfectly well that he wanted to have a close-up look at the woman without any clothes on.

"He also tried to persuade me that Indonesian women didn't mind men seeing them undressed, but I think the whole incident revealed more about Sukarno's personal traits than it did about Indonesian social customs," Krushchev wrote.

I know I have cheated quite substantially by letting Khruschev write this column, but one cannot but draw parallels with a certain individual: the excessive love of dancing, a hungry eye for the female form and the resort to cultural protection to cover one's proclivities.

Next Sunday, this particular individual will deliver one of the most important speeches of his life when the ANC celebrates 100 years of the party's existence.

It is really sad that the speech on this occasion - an occasion that every South African should be proud of and celebrate - will be dour and lacking in inspiration and ideas.

All because the individual's mind will be on the dance floor. And elsewhere...

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Mon Jul 28 20:30:58 SAST 2014 ::