Feed the Treeby Brandon Edmonds / 04.10.2011
If there was a metaphor tree, you know, a tree where metaphors grow, South Africa would be it’s tap root system, water table and sunlight. You can’t glance at News24 without being bonked on the head, Newton’d, by a metaphor. Khanyi Mbau’s nude twitter candids? Metaphor = the erosion of traditional beliefs and culture-printed restraint amongst happening black women on the go. A Mandela family reality-TV show? Metaphor = the morphing of the Struggle into spectacle, the branding of noble suffering, the relentless superficiality of public life. The Dalai Lama denied a Visa yet again? Metaphor = the decade-long Chinese re-colonization of Africa. Mark Esterhuysen’s eff-laden rant? The frustration of Generation Y’s web-revved resentment of old media, with its self-serving “ethics & objectivity” exposed by Wikileaks and the Murdoch phone-tapping scandal as a smokescreen, an excuse to dissemble and distort. And the tourist turned into a predator power snack in Fish Hoek? Metaphor = wild Africa isn’t Hammersmith or New England: you visit, you heed warning signs and take care. Or else. Heart of darkness shit.
Anyway here’s another one for the metaphor heap. SABC programming is not good. I could have reached for an adjective off the top shelf – execrable, disastrous, grim but really how much more rhetoric and public cash can be thrown at the problem at this point? Just dynamite Auckland Park HQ and let’s start again. Maybe use all the money it takes to keep the behemoth in air-conditioning, B-grade foreign content and team-building weekends away for, I don’t know, seeding fearless new media companies, mining local stories for exhilarating narrative drama, funding enlightening socially grounded entertainment ventures that people actually want to see: a year in the life of Kenny Kunene, a week following Patricia De Lille, a night on the trauma unit of Baragwanath. Instead it’s soap opera and dance competitions. The endless repetition of movies that weren’t that good the first time round. Shrill adverts shilling toilet cleaner and burgers. Public broadcasting so sterile, so defanged, so demeaning, dull and laughably out of touch with it’s audience it keeps shitty neighborhood video stores in business. And finally a metaphor that nutshells the situation perfectly.
On a yet to be fleshed out and investigated, highly suspicious little jaunt over in London a pair of “senior SABC officials”, as various news sources put it, with an alleged “R400 000 allowance”, were arrested after reneging on an agreed on an amount for sex with prostitutes. Wait. Hold up. Before we get to that, how much did you say the allowance was!? 400k. Walk around money. Bang hookers money. London Eye catch a West End show maybe dine at the Fat Duck money. Hey fuck you, okay. Caught-that-morning Norwegian salmon aint cheap at Harrods. We deserve Harrods salmon. We’ve earned nice things. Not that Pick ‘n Pay shit. For being such great public broadcasters. For being such a beacon of the possibilities of public-funded media. For getting the difficult task of raising the level of public discourse in a developing nation with a broken skilling and education system, with an absent reading culture, with so many problems in maths and science and literacy, so right. Right? We’ve earned this little break in the big smoke. So what if it’s money siphoned from the fiscus, money citizens and corporations have paid in good faith? What’s the point of it all if we can’t go large in London?
Whores kicked up a fuss. Imagine the accents if you will. “Excuse me? Not paying? What am I? Your sister? This don’t come cheap Mister. Stay right there bruv. Yo Carmen! Carmen! Call the police! We’ve got more of them limp dick SABC no-payers here! Shame innit?” You don’t mess with a hooker. You can’t finesse the books with them. You play, you pay. Now this is the most heat and light the broadcaster has generated since Tutu at that Fifa Opening Ceremony. An event that turned the whole country into a passing expensive lay! Oof. Zing. To the metaphor then.
Pimped by our public broadcaster, it has turned us into hookers. We want to get paid. Paid in enlightenment, in entertainment, in challenge and distraction. We want an SABC that delivers thrills, laughs and edification. We want value for license fees. But the broadcaster won’t pay. Refuses to give us what we want. The whole incident suggests that brilliant 1970’s satire on broadcast-TV, Network. In it a disgruntled news anchor, turned shaggy truth-telling prophet, tells viewers to get up and go to their windows and yell “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” I propose something similar. Get up right now and go to the window. And yell: “Get fucked SABC!”