From Cape Town to London – in conclusion
So in an airport lounge again, waiting for a flight. I had been booked Cape Town – Gatwick. I changed it to Heathrow.
Irony Irony! As a (light green) member of the Green Party; as a resident of Chiswick, right under the flight path from Heathrow; as an insomniac – I have dutifully hated their evil expansion plans ever since ever. But there is this strike, see…Southern Rail ASLEF drivers have come all-out in a strike to protest against driver-only trains. In order to prepare myself, to acclimatise to my return, I tuned in to the Today program on Radio 4 this morning. And there was the John Humphreys vs Union paradigm, and this time it was personal! This time I would have to hitchhike, with all my baggage, from the depths of Surrey to sunny Chiswick, when Heathrow is a mere 20 minutes from home…
What a hypocrite.
Is consistency a virus? Are principles as changeable as socks, especially when they start to stink?
A theme of my visit to South Africa, for sure. This visit has caused me to suspect everybody. Trust no bloody body. Accept that in the end me, you, Mr McGree, their son Mary, their three dogs Cassius Brutus and Julius are entirely untrustworthy and should all be given painless release by that nice vet Dr Crippling.
Allow me to unpack that.
Right, so I have been telling you in great detail about the awful corruption here – or rather, I have given you a great hyperlink to a brilliant summary as well as a few choice details. And we have to sadly admit that the ANC, which I idolised and idealised and adored when I was a starry eyed youth putting up anti-government posters in the middle of the night calling for the end of Apartheid blah blah – the ANC has been shown to a good place for bad people to hang out. There are good people in there still, I insist. Ramaphosa is one, but he seems so ineffectual next to the big guns of the big bums, like Zuma, And so like Trump, he has gathered a nest of vipers around him, sharp toothed monsters who sup and slurp and …from the trough like hyperannuated obese piglets with rabies. They will say they’ve been starving for years. Hence the hunger, the overeating, the abandonment of ethics and the principles of the ANC. I say shame.
The desk attendant with a simpering grin promised me “a whole row! Lots of legroom” when I asked for a window seat.
So why did he do that.
Ok so he sees in front of him an old blokie carrying not one but two walking sticks. I dunno. I see a walking stick, I buy it. If t’s not as if I collect them – that would be utterly nerdy. No. I collect Japanese swords, guns, stamps, insults, marbles, but not walking sticks. Very little of the aforegoing is true. See if you can work out what.
And this blokie doesn’t just want to change flights, he wants – gasp – a window seat. The cheek. And tries to ingratiate himself by saying, ” I want to watch Cape Town receding into my past and weep.”
“I know,” thinks desk jockey, “I can say anything I like to this old fool, make him happy and I’ll never see him again in my life! It’s make someone happy day!”
So he squishes me onto an aisle right in the middle of cattle class with each and every adjoining seat full of women.
I have nothing against women, of course, but on a 12 hour flight any gender whatsoever near my space is a space invader. Now I know I am destined to spend twelve hours of my life eyes jammed open with toothpicks watching lots of tiny shitty versions of a screenplay in which a gun wins. Not spread over four seats full of Zopiclone and sweet dreams.
Back to hypocrisy: South Africa is fantastically overmanned. And womanned. Everywhere there are helpful charming people, usually black, whose entire job seems to consist of smiling and saying nice things. This is rather lovely, to be honest. Some of them even seem to mean it. Others are absolutely bored to death and buried by the endless demands of fools who actually ask them questions, or disrupt in any way their deep cogitations on the futility of it all.
In the gents toilet at the airport there is a very smiley man. Very very smiley. He greets each pisser with apparent huge love and respect. Points to the wash basin post micturation and says, charmingly, “now wash your hands.” Then, once that task has been performed by the now pissed-out or pissed-off customer, he says “enjoy your flight.”
Sitting in one of the cubicles musing on this, I began to count the times he said it and assess the differences in tone. Was he just slightly adapting the delivery of his lines for each person? Was this possibly an apprentice actor, putting a subtle emotional emphasis on each delivery (not a pun. That would disturb the flow) to convey, say, distaste at the man’s choice of tie, or amusement at the way the client’s belly protruded out of his shirt, or just lust?
Actually, no. Each time he said it, it was almost if not exactly like the time before.
I felt the need to reward him, and examined my wallet. I just wanted somehow to change his world just a little bit, to make a tiny impression on his soul. I stared at a twenty rand note and thought no, that’s just a tip. Not a statement. He needed to be faced with the full realisation of his hypocrisy, and be aware that somebody appreciated his humanity. So, after dutifully flushing, battling with the lock (would he rescue me? No, he continued his recitation) then washing my hands as ordered, I said “Imagine if you had one rand for every time you said that.”
His shock at being addressed was palpable. He had no idea how to react. “Yes sir” he said. Then, as if in self-defence, “have a good flight”
“Therefore,” I said, “here’s for a hundred times you’ve said it.” And paid him accordingly. He examined his head for appropriate words and gave up after having made one or two futile attempts.
I left feeling foolish. I had just rewarded someone for their hypocrisy. But that was how he earned his living!
So how many more people earn their livings by being entirely insincere?
I need to watch a movie and think about that. I need to watch Florence Foster Jenkins. That should prop up all my prejudices…
Did that. So apart from the fact that a movie is all deception, a concatenation of pixels swirling about on a tiny computer screen to tell a story which is either all lies or mostly lies, well this particular one had a story all about hypocrisy. You probably know it: fabulously wealthy New York socialite in the war years thinks she can sing opera and really she can’t. She has a voice like a demented Aaargh-aaargh bird (I have just invented this ornithological marvel. It is two thirds ostrich size, has brilliant red and blue striped plumage and two beaks.) we are instructed to feel sorry for her as she has Syphilus, the AIDS of the day. And however horrible the singing everyone has to pretend she’s absolutely marvellous because of that and more important, because of the money she gives to everybody in her vicinity. Apparently based on fact. “Based on” means they took the facts and lied about them.
It’s a luvvie fest. Hugh Grant as chief male luvvie who loves Florence, played by Meryl Streep who is luvvie in charge. They are both brilliant by the way. Grant manages to make hypocrisy noble, while Streep does the dying fat diva with her whole heart and soul.
We are surrounded by insincerity. The main purpose of which appears to be to make money, or gain adulation, or feed someone else’s need for adulation in exchange for money.
So in conclusion: I believe South Africa is a nation of beautiful people trying so hard just to be good, to fulfill the spirit of the best Constitution ever written, after the American one. Or just to survive. The problem is that they are ruled by a party which believes it has a moral right to stay in power, and is not ready to tackle the immorality and hypocrisy at the very top.
Unless the government starts to spend real money on education, on funding small business startups much more, poverty will continue to increase and the gap between rich and poor will widen further. Some sincerity is needed now.
Zuma must go. And you must go to South Africa, and love it as I do.
And I must go back to London, to my cosy cold dusty flat in Brexit-bound Britain. Hello. Next – Letters from London.
Love you all.