Opposition politics and doodles
South African political parties are a not so funny joke that is imposed on millions of South Africans. The high levels of social ignorance in part of our supposed brains trust is both worrying and shameful. The think tanks which so many regular working class South Africans invest their hopes have become synthesized hubs where unoriginality, fear and loathing have found their stronghold. The indications are worrying. Yesterday the DASO wing of the Democratic Alliance uploaded its 2012 membership campaign poster. The image is a morbid cheap thrill that flirts with being almost soft pornographic in nature, It is appropriate only for mind numbing and spirit crushing viewing. In it a black young lady has her arms around the neck of a white man of a similar age.
This for obvious reasons was met with much repugnance and uproar from many astute South Africans who realise that this is not the kind of aesthetic that we are supposed to be witnessing in contemporary political culture. In less than 24 hours the post has attracted hundreds of comments on the leader board and the numbers are still rising. Upon summing up my view of the image as the ‘continued erosion of common sense’ , a friend was quick to negate my outlook citing that “Personally, I think all of u are getting emo (emotional) about nothing, lol. Whether it was black guy and a white chick or not, it would have still sent the same message. I think this campaign is success in the sense that it has people talking. I think the idea is about crossing racial boundaries….and my guess is the ones finding it very hard to accept this campaign for what it is are individuals who are still not comfortable with inter-racial relationships. “
Perhaps she is correct, perhaps we are just too racially sensitive right? Perhaps all we do need is to lighten up and stop taking the ideas being represented by our political parties so seriously. We should stop giving ourselves these headaches, vote without dissecting the nerve center of the political system. We will feel so much better when we do, right? Wrong!
The veracity is that the South African post racial dream has beendeferred. The persistence of our national discomfort is as potent as ever. And campaigns like the recent DASO advert do nothing of value but compound the sense of disillusionment with the post racial dream that is fast becoming part and parcel of our post racial DNA.
The political aesthetic of this image adds nothing of value to the credibility of the DASO or the DA. In fact it takes away from it. We are a country that has such a low disregard for young black women. Often on our TV screens, in branded campaigns we are subjected images of promiscuity, the ever present idea of black women as loose and lacking in morals. We (much to our own fault) put up with it because it is for commercial purposes, but we cannot afford to let this kind of seepage invade our political sphere.
Its porosity is too invasive and if unmonitored will result in crack in the ceiling of the little political credibility we have left. We are a country that has such high rape rate of women and the HIV/AIDS statistics amongst young people remain unbearably high. The DA in putting up an image that could be so easily misinterpreted as encouraging risky behavior has acted recklessly and in the pursuit of sparking debate has in turn rendered itself as the target for direct accusations of not taking racial unity amongst its ranks seriously.
The DA and other South African political parties are not Nandos, when we look to them we expect a certain level of responsibility, the sooner they realize that the sooner they can get to working and doing things that add value to the lives of South African citizens.
Unfortunately DASO and its mother body are not unique in churning out this aesthetic. In fact they are part of a larger political order that blows bubbles of ignorance into the hyper-marketing machine. They are simply conforming to an already established default and taking it to the next level. The primary point of departure of this default is to not articulate policy. If you look at that poster you can’t tell what DASO stands or what they are against or even why you should take membership. The image is designed to be confrontational and consumed by unassuming minds that have fallen numb to any real political engagement.
In South Africa these days political imagery trumps social policy and the parties have taken this to heart. It seems the DA has adopted a mode of thinking that says cheap products have a lot of buyers and by cheapening itself and eroding the stigma that it is a party for whites they can in turn attract a wider base of support. They seem to be very interested in positioning themselves as the “post-racial” party of choice whilst the ANC has stuck to its guns as the liberation movement.
The truth is South African voters strive on readily identifiable enemies and clean log lines. In fact I know a lot of South Africans that vote for the ANC simply because they were the liberation movement. If the DA is indeed trying to position itself in post-racial paradigms ahead of the next general elections, and if this is a small teaser of their future campaigns then I can categorically say they are going about it the wrong way. This kind of thinking will not fly. Every time I look at this poster (and I am sure this is a feeling shared by many South Africans) I just want to say, this is the official opposition party? Give me a break.