I don’t suppose
there’s any truth in the rumour that the parliamentary proceedings channel on
DSTV is to be renamed “Supersport 15”...
And when I saw the headline on a News24 feed:
“Wild Boar Causes Chaos…”, I thought it was further comment on SONA – until I
saw it actually happened in Spain, at an airport, and involved a real boar
The recent chaos in
parliament keeps on reminding me of certain literary precedents, especially
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
I, however, decided to name this one Malice
A kind of autism
Someone recently made
a psychological analysis of Russian President Putin, based on video recordings
of his speeches, analyzing his “micro-expressions”.
The conclusion was that he
suffers from a variety of autism, which explains his lack of empathy with
others and his fondness of confrontation. I’m somewhat sceptical about this work, but I was surprised at the lack
of comment on the very curious behaviour of President Zuma (and others) during
the debacle at the recent State of the Nation Address.
The EFF were strangely
and unexpectedly impressive. While the parliamentary leadership seem to have
spent their time planning for a violent confrontation, the EFF had seriously
done their homework. They were calm, polite, firm, and right. They knew the
book of rules, and that the Speaker was not entitled to ignore or repeal those
rules. She seemed unaware of this and implacably worked towards creating an
excuse for having the EFF thrown out of the house. Though they raised points of order, she
ignored these and did not properly rule on them.
Since the events, the
EFF have been dismissed as “hooligans” who were “extremely provocative”. They
may have been annoying, certainly, and that was clearly their intention, but
they were scrupulously courteous and well-mannered. The only hooligans we saw
were the thuggish heavies who swarmed in and dragged them out.
Ruthless in seeking revenge
Mbete reminded me very
much of Madame Defarge in Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, the woman who sat at the
guillotine, knitting away ferociously, exalting in her desire for retaliation,
her knitting encoding the names of those due for removal, and enjoying the
executions. Madame Defarge was ruthless in seeking revenge and the political
persecution of real or supposed opponents of her beliefs. But I don’t believe
the rumours that Mbete’s tall yellow and black hat hid the gadget that jammed
Read: Why cell conversations are annoying
She had slightly
revised her tactics after the previous confrontation. First, with the
ostentatious condescension of a nursery school teacher, she pedantically
explained her view of events, ignoring the appropriate standing orders.
Because the President
was present and able to answer questions, he wasn’t going to, so you could not ask
him anything. Next week, when he won’t
be here to answer anything, you will be free to ask your question. In a way, she was like the Red Queen in Alice
in Wonderland, who told Alice: “The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday –
but never jam today.”
Her facial expressions
were fascinating, often appearing malicious, and when the uproar began, there
seemed to be a smirk of satisfaction at what was happening. It’s also highly unusual for any
parliamentary session to be co-chaired, with two people sharing control (and never,
surely, actually necessary).
But along with the chairwoman of the National
Council of Provinces, they functioned like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. They just
about finished each other’s sentences, and certainly echoed each other in full
agreement, as though they were convinced that whatever they said became even
more awesomely true if repeated or echoed. As the original Tweedledee said: “Contrariwise,
if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it
ain't. That's logic.”
Resuming the speech
When the President
finally resumed his speech, it was as though nothing unusual had happened in
the interim; he simply continued, without commenting on the bizarre scenes he, like
the rest of us, had witnessed. Shortly
before, he had told an interviewer that he wasn’t in the least anxious about
the prospect of giving his big speech, remarking that he never feels anxious.
If that is really so, maybe that in itself is something he ought to feel
anxious about. It’s an occasion when a huge audience watches him closely, noting
his errors, omissions and faults.
supposed to be talking about health of our whole nation, and how he plans to
fix its problems. If the prospect of
such a challenge does not make you anxious at all, maybe that suggests you
don’t take the situation seriously enough – which should make us all rather
Read: Anxiety disorders
As he spoke,
especially as the long and generally uninteresting platitudes wound on, he
began to behave more oddly. He stumbled
over words and phrases quite often, as though he had never actually read the
speech before he stood up. He was
troubled by phrases in English but also in other African languages, especially
Zulu, with which the text was peppered.
There was quite a bit of oddly chilling, smug chuckling. He muttered to himself at times, and
What was he laughing
about? What aspect of the nation’s ill-health, the high unemployment and
economic difficulties did he find so very amusing – as we are regularly plunged
into darkness, and will be for the foreseeable future? Perhaps we should ask
him to share the joke with us...
Politics get in the way of empathy
Politics hard-wired in brain
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Professor MA Simpson is Health24's CyberShrink. A South African psychiatrist, he qualified in medicine and in psychiatry in Britain. He has been a senior academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries. Read more of his columns.