Monday, April 12, 2004

Da Da Da Dumb!

All of my life, I have considered myself pretty much average. Intelligent, but not brilliant, amusing but not truly funny, and neither stunningly beautiful nor ugly enough to frighten little children. Just average.

There is some evidence that, in the abstract, I am incorrect in that consideration… embarrassingly high scores on IQ tests and a creepy ability to spell virtually any English (or French) word I have ever actually seen (and many I have not, actually), for example. But I have never considered those kinds of things to make me above average because they were overbalanced by a humiliating lack of facility with maths (I was an adult before I had the entire multiplication table memorized), a rather awkward relationship with things mechanical (machines…especially fax machines and copy machines…virulently hate me), and the humiliation of failing physics…not once, but twice…in high school and in university. Actually, I didn’t truly fail physics…I was asked by the instructors to transfer out of the class rather than take the inevitable failure and ruin my grade point average (which may mean nothing to South Africans, but is the Holy Grail of students in the US). For every attribute my family or friends or therapist could cite to “prove” how above-average I was, I had at least one (and often two or three or even more) humbling inabilities as counterpoint: I had perfect pitch, but I couldn’t read music or play an instrument; I had a great singing voice, but I sang in the tenor range (rather embarrassing for a short little blonde girl!); I could draw well but anything I tried to paint came out looking like I had used mud for my palette. For every attribute my champions could name, I could name a host of things that my most ardent efforts wrought no more than mediocre results. I was good at some things, but not enough to make me think I was anything more than average…I knew lots of people who were good at many more things than I was and I envied and admired them. And I never had the hubris to consider myself to be one of their exalted comrades (which was a good thing, because they would have laughed bookish little me right out their exalted presence!).

And so I grew up thinking myself as average and, as a result, thinking that my own tastes, attitudes and opinions were roughly representative of most working class Americans. I was an Average American, after all…why wouldn’t I be representative of the whole lot of us? The passage time and the rasp of hard-won experience smoothed out some of those sharp opinions from my callow youth, but I find myself still clinging to the notion that, intellectually, I am little different from the norm. I tend to think that if I understand it, everybody understands it. If it is obvious to me, it must be equally obvious to everyone else except, maybe, those who are truly intellectually challenged (surely a minority in all cultures) and those who wilfully and stubbornly refuse to accept the glaringly obvious.

Of course I am wrong and, intellectually, I recognize and admit and accept that this notion of mine is incorrect. But, despite my best efforts, I continue to not-so-secretly harbour this suspicion that if average little ol’ me can see and figure something out, then everybody else must be able to do the same…so what is their excuse for their idiocy?

A case in point: I do not pretend to know very much about South Africa’s political system yet, but I do have some knowledge of her history. So, driving down the road, I keep seeing signs put up by the DA (in English and Afrikaans…my lessons are working so I am beginning to be able to puzzle out the signs more accurately) promising 150,000 more police. I have pondered this promise several times and finally, yesterday, I discussed it with my husband. Now, you must take into account that my perception of race issues in this country are necessarily coloured by the country’s past and those news reports that made it to America (not a lot, by the way, because of your previous government’s policies on news), and that I am just learning about the various political parties and their positions. It seemed to me, based on what (admittedly little) I know about black people in this country, that a promise of more police would not exactly be something they would see as a promise they would like to see kept, the police having a less-than-sterling history in relation to black people here. And given that the vast majority of people in this country are black, it seemed like one of those duh! kind of obvious things…any idiot can tell you that if your campaign platform is based on something that offends or upsets the majority of the voters, you ain’t gonna win!

So my husband explained that the DA’s vision is one that appeals to the white middle class and that the DA expects to capture a swing of Indian and coloured voters because they, too, are very concerned with crime…the blacks are too busy trying to hold body and soul together for crime to be very visible on their collective radar yet. Now, I am the very first to admit to having rather poor math skills, but even I know that in order to win the upcoming election, the DA needs a significant black vote to put them over the top. Even my shaky math can calculate that if approximately 75% of the population is black, and even if the DA got every single white, Indian and coloured vote in the country, it wouldn’t be enough to give them the election. What kind of dimwit crafted a campaign promise that is guaranteed to alarm or offend more than half the electorate? Was he truly that stupid or self-absorbed that he couldn’t see the outstandingly obvious fact that he was shooting his party in the foot by alienating something like 75% of the voters with this kind of thing? I mean, for heaven’s sake, I’ve been here for less than two months and even I figured it out…and quickly, too! Mebbe he was a mole planted by the ANC…can you think of any more likely possibility (aside from being stupid as a stone)?

I’m finding it rather difficult to believe that the election is just a couple of days away. While there are plenty ridiculous posters, like the one noted above, they are all so small! Goodness, no wall-sized billboards extolling the virtues of one party and smearing another? And where are all the smarmy, innuendo-loaded, even flat-out lying television adverts? Where are the cloven-hoofed spin doctors and their legion of dark media elves, spinning out the yarns of deception, turning the voters heads with insinuation and allusions to wickednesses never actually committed? I mean, if John McCain can be cost the Republican Party nomination in the US with the allegation that he sired a child out of wedlock on a Vietnamese woman (while locked up and being tortured as a prisoner of war, by the way) when the truth was that he and his wife had adopted a Bangladeshi girl…if the supposedly sophisticated American voter can be swayed with this kind of mindless twaddle, why aren’t the spin doctors hard at work here, slinging their mud and trying to turn the electorate like a herd of mindless sheep? Mercy, guys, you better get on the ball…the election is only days away and if you don’t hurry, you’re likely to start giving democracy a good name!


  1. Hi S.V. I know this is an old post but only catching up now. Excellent! I'm not eager to share oppinions when it comes to politics so I will leave it at that - my favourite quote - which can be applied to any subject matter to almost anyone who doesn't really know what's going on... Rather remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt! :-) M

  2. greetings from alien planet s.v.,
    i rather enjoyed your story!i found that i could relate whole-hartedly to some of your thoughts and certian oppinions.this is the first time i've visited your site and hope to visit again!please create a new post, i'm very egar to read more!!!
    your favorite alien,


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