Starvation dictates that I do some television work now and then. TV programmes pay for FHM subscriptions and other such essentials. To this end, I have taken part in two 13-episode seasons of a television debate/talk show called Drawing the Line. The show is hosted by Lebo Mashile, the poet, and the 2nd season airs on SABC 2 every Sunday, 12h30, starting March 15.
The format of the show is simple. You have two teams debating an issue and the studio audience voting on which side made the more compelling argument. SAfm’s Michelle Constant and yours truly are the team leaders and we each get assigned guest panellists to debate with us every episode. We’re also then arbitrarily assigned a side to debate. The issues are always in the form of a question such as, “Are polygamists Homo erecti?”. Believe it or not, we actually debated that topic. And the reason I hone in on this episode is because The Sumo, who is a personal friend, was one of the panellists arguing that polygamists are misunderstood sons of the soil. Thought Leader enthusiasts will get to set eyes on The Sumo in all his glory and fatness for the first time. A coming out parade of lard.
One of the challenges of creating such a programme is finding an appropriate audience. Let’s all agree that it would be near impossible to convince a studio audience that is made up mostly of a bunch of bunny-hugging vegans that sipping on chicken noodle soup is good for you. Or debating whether citizens have the right to blow the brains of criminals when the studio audience is packed with “Gun Free South Africa” members. Or debating that voting is a retarded idea when half the studio audience is in ACDP T-shirts. Yet this is precisely what happened with those three particular episodes. Production problems, audience member no-shows and stuff like that.
Now, your average person would walk into a studio, discover that he has to convince a bunch of vegans that it’s okay to bludgeon a pig to death with the back of a tomahawk until it haemorrhages to death for bacon and ham purposes and panic. Not me. I always take such situations as a personal challenge. Can you imagine convincing a bunch of ACDP members that the Rev Kenneth Meshoe’s perm is a vile, satanic vestige? That would make one a living legend, wouldn’t it? And I personally live for such accolades.
Needless to say, but no such luck was forthcoming. For some obscure reason, all vegans voted against swine mass murder and all studio audience members in ACDP T-shirts thought the Rev Meshoe’s perm was a product of divine intervention etc or something like that. What fascinated me about this was the number of times production team members came to Michelle and me after each show and went “Well argued. You almost won that one”. [Yeah, I was really close to convincing Gun Free SA members that Susan ‘Shoot to Kill’ Shabangu has a point.]
I did, however, derive some satisfaction from watching my favourite psychological phenomenon at work. Regular readers are aware of my obsession with cognitive dissonance. And in the episodes I cited, the studio was dripping with the stuff. To the uninitiated, cognitive dissonance is that condition that renders the human brain incapable of assimilating information that is at loggerheads (dissonance) with already internalised beliefs. For instance, you could never convince a Jehovah’s Witness that Jesus didn’t actually catch a wave on the Sea of Galilee in only his flip-flops.
My Drawing the Line experiences reminded me of a piece titled “Not everybody should be allowed to vote” in which I argued that members of political parties should not be allowed to vote. Even though I didn’t mean it literally, I don’t actually see the point of allowing card-carrying ANC members to vote. Really. Helen Zille’s DA could reduce levels of crime, unemployment, homelessness, Tik use and poor people nuisances to negligible levels on the streets of Cape Town and card-carrying members of the ANC will still put their ticks next to Nomaindia. Card-carrying DA members would never vote ANC even if the ANC electrified houses, gave access to running water, built more houses and built more roads than all governments since 1652 collectively. Party members are, by definition, impregnable fortresses of party loyalty. Electioneering (and by proxy, elections) is wasted on them.
My stance on the efficacy of democracy is well-established ie I don’t believe it’s the best form of governance. Democracy relies on the “wisdom” of too many malfunctioning brains, mine included. for instance, I only have a hazy, vague idea of what the Freedom Front stands for. I think their manifesto has something to do with declaring the Great Trek to be at the same level as the biblical desert wanderings of the Israelites and canonizing Steve Hofmeyr. I have never made any attempt to understand what the hell Pieter Mulder is always going on about. Each time I see him on TV I get a glaze over my eyes and I only hear, “Woo, woo, woo, woo, woo!”. But I can tell you, with 100% accuracy is what the probability of me putting that tick next to the VF box at the ballot is. Correctomundo. Nil. That’s craziness.
I love predicting how my dear readers will react to my ramblings. I bet you someone will accuse me of canvassing for the Freedom Front. Or the PAC. Or the ANC. Perhaps. But the point I’m actually trying to make is that democracy heavily depends on elections. Elections depend on the electorate figuring out who is the best of the mediocre bunch we have to choose from. Who will benefit the country most? Which party will take us forward and rise above narrow interests?
The reason I honed in on card-carrying members of political parties is because they are easy targets. It was just for dramatic effect. Well, that and the fact that I do actually believe that signing up for party membership is the last phase of successful brainwashing. I can’t understand how any one party’s stance could possibly mirror mine on the entire range of issues close to my heart. But if you’re not a member of a political party and you’re sitting there judging them, please put da bong down. You’re not really any better because voting patterns in the six elections (yes, only six!) we’ve had in this nation’s history have showed that we’ve mostly been sticking to our chosen ones. That means our minds are generally closed entities. I think democracy requires that we listen and employ our imaginations. Is your mind open enough to imagine a future with Thami ka Plaatjie in the driving seat? To this end, I hereby declare that I will spend the next week opening my mind to the Freedom Front.
I will return with my findings.