The American writer, satirist and humorist PJ O’Rourke wrote a book entitled Parliament of Whores (1991) — apparently a caricature of the government of the United States. I must confess that I have never read the book although I fully intend to in the near future.
Since about two weeks ago, the phrase “parliament of whores” has been ringing in my ears. That’s when our news started being dominated by speculation around the current silly season — floor-crossing.
Let me start off by saying that I fully support the principle of allowing politicians who have had a change of ideology to go the party that best represents their newly found ideology. In principle. As a matter of fact, I respect any individual who has the courage essentially to say, “Hey, I was wrong. Based on the new information I have at my disposal, what I believed before was mumbo jumbo. It seems that black people are not such idiots after all.” In my book, holding on to ideologies that ceased to be relevant 20 years ago makes one an impregnable fortress of stupidity.
In fact, that’s why I have never been a member of a political party or subscribed to any political ideology. That’s because, to be a communist, I have to accept both the great aspects of socialism and the half-baked, nonsensical aspects of it. Ditto with capitalism. Or liberalism. Or pan-Africanism.
They all have their great arguments. In fact most of them have one great argument going for them — plus dozens of crappy superstitions too. Of course people such as me have labels. Fence-sitters. Flip-floppers. Wishy-washy. Spineless. Yeah, I guess. If the shoe fits and all that.
But the notion that one theory that was whipped out someone’s colon could fit in exactly with my own view of the world is preposterous. Even if that someone is a genius in the mould of Karl Marx or Adam Smith.
But I digress.
I find the floor-crossing period fascinating in its ridiculousness. And not for the reasons that most ardent opponents of floor-crossing enumerate. I don’t care whether councillors or parliamentarians take their seats with them when they move. Or that floor-crossing disenfranchises the hapless voter. Nor do I care about the incompatibility of floor-crossing with the proportional representation system.
I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about all that. That’s just detail. It’s not as if life deteriorates or improves because my carefully selected representative has stopped dancing to Zille’s bullshit tune and moves to De Lille’s hallucinations instead. Who gives a flying crap? Potato/tomato.
I’m more fascinated by the hypocritical statements one hears in the media during the window of whoring. Yes, I called it whoring. To whoever thinks that there is some lofty ideological principle involved in some double-chinned oke who just moved from the ID to the ANC, don’t hog the good ganja, dude. But I swear I’m going to puke the next time I hear another party bigwig feed me this crap:
“We are proud to welcome seven new councillors from the [insert whores of choice] who have joined us. Their consciences guided them to us because of our impeccable principles. This is unlike the five councillors who have defected from us to join the [insert whores of choice] because they were promised money and positions.”
Oh, get off your phantom high horse already!
Trying to keep up with who is on whose side and what they stand for with this bickering lot is hard. It’s like trying to keep up with the plot of a soap opera. I stopped a long time ago trying to keep track of who started out in support of the floor-crossing legislation, then went against it when they lost more than they gained, then was all for it when the balance of power was in their favour, and nowadays is completely against this “immoral” legislation.
Call me apathetic all you want. Tell me how people like me are the reason our democracy does not work if it pleases you. I really do not care. But I do not have the energy to get my brain all twisted in a huge cramp trying to make sense of it all. In the end, as I normally do in these situations, I go to the Cynic’s Creed (Ockham’s Razor, if it pleases you) for guidance.
In this case, what drives politicians is only what is good for politicians. While this does not apply to every politician, I believe it certainly applies to the overwhelming majority. And this is everywhere in the world — ourselves not exempt.
I watched incredulously on Monday night as one perpetually angry minister went on national television to lambast certain individuals who he reckons seek positions for the sole purpose of enriching themselves.
I drink lots of beer, which means that my brain is not what it used to be. But I seem to remember the same minister being caught with his pants down for not declaring business interests amounting to millions of rands. And because he doesn’t have any entrepreneurial track record to speak of, I’m guessing he accumulated this wealth on the strength of his lofty positions in the government. This seems to me to be a classical case of the pot calling the kettle black. But I could be wrong.
I personally love an oke who calls it like is. Like Smuts “I Didn’t Struggle to Be Poor” Ngonyama. Now that’s my kinda cat. At least you know exactly what you’re getting.
This dude gets my vote.
Ndumiso Ngcobo is the author of the recently released book Some of My Best Friends Are White. (Two Dogs, ISBN 978-1-92013-718-2)