Some of us have it all, some have nothing

Cape Town - 170109 - Alex Tabisher has been a long time Cape Argus subscriber and used to use the paper as learning material when he was a teacher. Picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town - 170109 - Alex Tabisher has been a long time Cape Argus subscriber and used to use the paper as learning material when he was a teacher. Picture: David Ritchie

Published Jan 20, 2024


The most basic definition of the concept of “irony” is: The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. It is marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning, employing such contrast for humorous or rhetorical effect.

Finally, it can be illustrated by the incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs, for example, being knocked down on the street by an ambulance.

This introduction serves to underline my refusal to accept the evidence of near-total societal disintegration in our country. There is much that can still be saved.

The tools required for this mammoth undertaking are a sense of humour, the protection of human integrity and the indisputable truth that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Tom Robbins ironically notes that the road to the rainbow’s end is littered with torn-up lotto tickets and frivolous lawsuits (Villa Incognito.) Yeats bravely points out the reality of a second coming, stating with conviction that “…everywhere/the ceremony of innocence is drowned;/the best lack all conviction, while the worst/are full of passionate intensity.”

Our beleaguered President has finally moved in the right direction with his relief of a R10 increase in pensions for the 60 to 74-year-olds of our beloved country. You may cry now, Alan Paton. This is not enough to buy a loaf of bread. If, miraculously, you own a vehicle, this won’t even buy you half a litre of petrol.

Also, in case you don’t spend your money there, the giant shopping moguls are bringing the super-markets to your front-door with a rash of smoke-belching under-powered motorbikes delivering online purchases.

And, horror of horrors, we are engaged in an internationally-broadcast battle to win a metal container that signifies our skills at doing things with an oddly-shaped ball while children of the poor don’t even have a mug from which to drink the soup which they wont be getting during the present school holidays.

I am often asked to comment on the international tendency to condemn our country to the tail-end of the literacy stakes. High-powered academics make dense the air around my frosty pow with declamatory rhetoric about poverty, the previous regime and a failed educational system.

These mouthings rail with self-justifying dignity that questions the outcomes of these international assessments which claim to promote and protect human rights and expectations.

Yet, I often wonder how these results can be taken seriously. Don’t tell us that our literacy rate is low. Teach us to read. Don’t blame previous dispensations for present-day woes.

Shakespeare says cogently: Present mirth hath present laughter. Rightly so. But the scalpel wit of Alexander Pope warns that: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast:/ Man never is, but always to be blest.”

So, we have a precedent set by the President. Throw more money at the problem. But is that a suitable solution, considering that we can never arrive at the end that proclaims “Enough, thanks.”

We need to do our thing on the ground, at grass-roots level. Our constitution is the worst example of horse-trading, gerrymandering and duplicitous outwitting of innocents by some very clever diplomats who honed their skill at deception over many centuries of plunder, divide-andrule, smoke-and-mirrors. And if that doesn’t work, the ultimate insult of dehumanisation through racial, gender or religious categorisation.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of other things: Of shoes – and ships – and sealing- wax -/Of cabbages – and kings -/And why the sea is boiling hot -/ And whether pigs have wings.”

Lewis Carroll’s timeless verse confronts encroachment and entitlement. As such, the lesson is timeless as well as cogent to our present times.

Wake up, South Africa. Some of us have it all, some have nothing. Do not try to defend why it is so. This merely refines your skills at reification. The truth is dented and disfigured. We now have to deal with my truth, your truth and the real truth. Start the conversation that will lead to fair equity and peace. Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all we need to know.

* Alex Tabisher.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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