Someone said I’m an attention seeker. Ouch! If I was an attention seeker I don’t imagine this being the kind of attention I’d seek. This isn’t good attention. If this was good attention I’d be feeling as delicious as black forest gateaux. I feel mortified and ashamed.
Why would anyone want to make news out of anything I have to say? Who am I? What does it matter what I say or think? I’m not an opinion maker. My shame is born of a sense of having been caught doing something I shouldn’t and being exposed. Like being caught with my hand in the cookie jar, and being brought out in front of the whole school to have it announced in my shamed presence that Tselane stole cookies from the cookie jar. I expressed my opinion. So what? As the saying goes, opinions are like butts, everybody has one. So beyond the entertaining diversion of chatting on facebook, I don’t know why anyone would care about mine.
I’m not ashamed of my thoughts? How can I be? They’re my thoughts. They’re different from some other people’s thoughts, inevitably, and they should be. How is it possible that someone else’s disapproval, the disapproval of a stranger, can make one ashamed of one’s own thoughts? I own my thoughts. No one can change the experiences that shaped a person to think the way they think. At least not without extensive psycho work, and I don’t think that I’m mad.
I’ve been asked by journalists if I want to ‘set the record straight’. Is there a point? No! The hole is not yet so deep that I can’t find my way out of it. There is no lid on the coffin. Let me not carve one.
One gentleman said I’m siding with a painting over my President. No! What do you mean? Where does anyone come up with such a concept? It’s impossible.
The painting, The Spear, is audacious. I get the outrage. I understand from whence it comes. I don’t share it. I am objective about the painting. The artist must have known there would be loud mutterings and furious fists of rage beating at the heavens, but imagining his head. This was a well thought out, intelligently considered piece of conceptual political commentary on the job the president is doing. Does it not, then, make sense that at some time in the not too distant future the response to the commentary is also intelligently considered? Calm down! It’s a painting.
People are angry and insulted, yes, but where does that anger lead? So far, to violence. Is that intelligent? It’s too stupid for speech. The courts may find in favour of the presidency and then, what? Then precedent is set for a Stalinist crackdown on freedom of expression and then we must be very afraid.
Art isn’t about offending anyone’s culture. That isn’t the point. The statement the artist is making is the point. I haven’t seen the artist addressing the point. What is the painting saying? And why in this way? Does anyone else look forward to hearing that explained? Is what the artist says valid, in our estimation? Will we fly into renewed, even augmented rage if we don’t like what the artist says? Will we talk of necklacing and beating up and other ludicrousness that I’ve seen on the social network? Is it impossible for there to be an exchange of ideas? Must everyone attack the thinker instead of engaging with the thought?
What I wrote was ill advised, but not without thought. It was part of the conclusion to a process of thought. It was to create discussion. It wasn’t a conclusion in itself. Discussion sometimes results in changing one’s thinking. I’m open to ways of thinking and the ideas of others. I think. There was, however, no intelligible discussion on this painting on fb. No one wanted to discuss the painting. They were all stuck in their infuriation at the penis of the president being on display, as though it was a photograph of his penis rather than an abstraction.
I was told I’d outed myself as a Zuma hater. What? I made a comment. It wasn’t an outpouring of hatred. When did I say that I hate the president? It’s preposterous. Is objectivity banned? Is one not allowed to be outside of the collective hysteria and vitriol? I hate no one. I’m not emotional about the issue.
I was asked if I regret my comment. I’d like not to regret it, but that headline ‘Tambo’s daughter tells Zuma ‘get over it’; I swear I screamed out loud when I saw that. Who did I piss of so much that they would want to do that to me? So yes, I regret every written word, not because I think my thinking is erroneous. I stand by my thinking. But because it has led to this cataclysmic headline, which misrepresents and misunderstands and makes me come across as so unbelievably arrogant; beyond arrogant, and I am not.
I like to initiate discussion on facebook. It’s one of my things. When a good one gets going it’s usually fun and informative. People who are complete strangers to one another debate, and ideas are exchanged. It’s an interesting diversion. Sometimes it descends into name-calling and insults flying, which is entertaining to watch. Mostly it’s intelligent people who are rational, quick witted and prescient.
This discussion on The Spear descended into name-calling. I was called a coconut, a spoilt brat, a sell out, an attention seeker, and a Brit out of touch with African culture, an agent of the extreme right wing; to name but a few of the more polite ones. People said that they’d lost all respect for me. They were disappointed in me. Why all this? Because I think the presidency taking an artist to court is petty? I do think so. And what after court? This comes hot on the heels of the secrecy bill debacle. Are we now to face conceptual censorship as well? Is this when the thought police enter?
I respect the President. I bow in patriotic homage and gratitude to the Office of the Presidency. It is peopled with honourable men and women who devoted their lives to the achievement of our freedom. How do I not hold that in the highest esteem? They fought for our constitution, which is premised on the long held ideals of The Freedom Charter, and therein it is enshrined that I have the right to freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Our president, Jacob Zuma suffered Robben Island and exile. He gave his entire life to the achievement our freedom. How could it be that he would deny any one of us the right to make use of the very freedoms he fought to give us? It doesn’t make sense.
Who was it that said, “I may not like what you say, but I’ll fight for your right to say it”? I think it was Voltaire.
My intention of having a stimulating discussion on a slow Sunday about the merits of the painting, The Spear, coupled with my reaction to the news that JZ felt insulted by the painting, has led to me being executed at thought point by a very large number South Africans.
I wish that I had kept my thoughts to myself. Had I known the result of my tweet would be this, naturally I would never have tweeted.