A letter to the ‘General’

Dear Harry Knoesen,

I know you can’t see me, but I have just saluted you in proper military fashion. Because I don’t have a beret, boshoed or staaldak, I have a tea cosy on my head. Not ideal, I know, but it’s better than disrespecting you by saluting with nothing on my nut. That kind of sloppiness would get you a month in DB back in the good old days.

I am saluting you because you are an officer. A general, in fact. Even though you gave yourself this rank in your own organisation, the National Christian Resistance Movement, you are still a general in my eyes. Just this morning I started the Anti-Dishwashing Movement and, after a brief promotion ceremony in the garden, I demanded that my wife calls me Brigadier Ben and obeys my every command. Then she went off and had her own ceremony and made herself a Major-general and now everything has gone to hell in a handbasket.

Condolences on being arrested by the Hawks at your Middelburg home. They are not really known for doing arrests so it’s just pure bad luck on your part. Did you know they had been investigating you for the last two years? Probably not, otherwise you might not have been sitting in the lounge wearing your wife-beater and sleeping shorts. Not the best image for the head of a private militia dedicated to violently ending the scourge of democracy and returning the apex race to its rightful place.

The cops say they found an “explosives factory” and lots of guns and ammunition at your house. When I was a teenager, I had a catapult that I wasn’t allowed to have so I kept it at a friend’s house and only fetched it when someone needed to be shot. Don’t you have any friends? What about your soldiers? Couldn’t one of them have looked after your arsenal?

The communist-controlled media tells me that your organisation is nicknamed the Crusaders. I like it. Catchy. Reminds me a bit of rugby, for some reason. There’s also that other group, Cash Crusaders, but as far as I know they don’t have an armed wing. Cowards.

When you came up with the name you were probably thinking more of that time when the Catholics declared a holy war on them uppity Muslims. Then again, there probably aren’t many Catholics among you. In the old days, if you fought in the crusades you were automatically forgiven for your sins. It was a penitential exercise, unlike what you’re going through, which is more of a penitentiary thing.

I imagine your crusaders have a fair amount of sins to be forgiven for. I’ve done some terrible things with a head full of brandy. Okay, I never got around to blowing up national key points or driving black people into the sea. Sorry about that. The sad truth is, I get quite friendly with the darkies when I am drunk. Do you think I might be possessed by demons? Maybe I’m just drinking the wrong kind of brandy. I shall switch to something cheaper and have an exorcism just to be safe.

I heard you made a video saying the South African government hates whites and that we have to strike first. I don’t know, boet. From what I can make out, the government hates everyone. When it comes to plundering, looting and ruining people’s lives, they don’t discriminate. As for us striking first, well, I can’t speak for you, but I seriously lack rhythm. White men can’t toyi-toyi. I suppose we could try the langarm, but I fear the enemy might not take us seriously.

In the video you call yourself an “English Afrikaans Boer”. Are you related to the Knoesens of the Derbyshire Dales, perchance? They come from a long line of potters, painters and medieval mass murderers. Lovely people. Mostly.

You also say, “Yes, I am talking war. If Malema can say what he wants because he is black, then as a white general of my own movement, I can also say what I want.” Damn right. That’s the beauty of our Constitution. Freedom of expression, freedom of speech, equality for … hang on. Aren’t we meant to be against this whole treating everyone equally business? Are you saying you want the same rights that Julius Malema has? Isn’t that what the darkies used to say about us? I’m so confused.

You said on Facebook that when you take back the land, you will make sure all white South Africans get “a free piece of land large enough to build and live on”. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but could I please have a free car instead of a piece of land? I am useless at building things and growing stuff. I don’t know how to use a spirit level or a plough and if I want meat I would rather go to the Spar than shoot a lamb in the face. On the other hand, if you want to extend your war to the Indian Ocean islands – and I think you should – then I would like to put my name down for a piece of land in the Seychelles. Somewhere on La Digue might be nice.

I believe you were a member of the Middelburg council for the ACDP. That must have been frustrating for you. Did you leave because they were too liberal? Calling for the return of the death penalty is one thing, but why stop at hanging? For two hundred years, the feudal authorities in Japan boiled, burned, crucified and decapitated their criminals. We need to be more like the ancient Japanese. Unless you think Japanese are the same as darkies, in which case we need to be less like them.

So, listen. Tell me about this Riana Heymans woman who got arrested a few days after you. Is she one of your “special” Crusaders? You know what I mean. Praise be. She’s quite attractive in an unpleasant sort of way. Is she single? I once wrote some marital vows based on Blood River that would work well for her.

By the way, I read somewhere that you were in the army? Makes sense. I don’t think we met. I was a signalman. I told them I was colour-blind and they still put me in signals. No wonder we lost the war.

Good luck, ou pel. As they say, when days are dark and friends are few … sorry. I didn’t mean to say dark. Everything will be all white on the night. Vasbyt.

Rage against the naaiing of the lighties

After hearing about the Matric Rage going down this weekend, I knew right away I had to be part of it.

When I finished school, we didn’t have such a thing. On the last day of school, our teachers gave us a final farewell beating and sent us home to be beaten by our parents who sent us to the army to be beaten by our corporals. Good times.

I am delighted to see that school-leavers are finally venting their rage. They must be full of it. Rage against a derelict education system that left them ill-equipped for life on the outside. Rage against the puritanical purveyors of pedagogy who denied them the opportunity to experiment with sex and drugs and other essential rites of passage during break time. Rage against the parentals – against tyrannical fathers who maintain their tight-fisted grip on power by controlling the cash flow and cosseting mothers who merely extend instead of sever the apron strings. And, more than anything, rage against a government that has pocketed their inheritance and kicked them in the teeth.

I, too, am filled with unrequited rage and shall be expressing it at Plettenberg Bay. To be sure, I’d rather be at the Ballito Rage or the Umhlanga Rage because the constabulary in that region is a lot more laissez-faire and the weed is of a better quality. However, since I am passing through the Transkei, perhaps I shall purchase several kilos of primo from one of the mendicant vendors who traverse those dusty boulevards and share it among my fellow ragers. On the other hand, perhaps not. There is nothing that dispels a good head of rage more than a good head of Transkei rooibaard.

During my research, I came across a rage page on the internet. Instead of extending an open invitation to anyone with rage bubbling in their hearts, it said quite the opposite. “To attend you have to have finished school and be no older than 25.” What? For a start, it was school that damn near finished me. And while my behaviour frequently exhibits tendencies that fall squarely into the realm of the juvenile delinquent, my well-travelled face will betray me when it comes time to demand entrance to this elitist, ageist gathering of the doomed.

The website promised bands, DJs and “beach activities”. You can keep your bands and your DJs. I want to be part of the beach activities. No. I want to spearhead the beach activities. American troops pulled it off nicely at the Omaha Beach Party in 1944, even though several thousand died at the after party. Since then, security has improved considerably and I expect fewer casualties at the Plett Rage.

In fact, ragers were reassured that an experienced security team “with close ties to the local law enforcement” would be on hand. Yes, this is exactly what rampaging mobs of pheromone-crazed teenagers want – surly bouncers on braaing terms with the local cops trailing them through the vomit-stained streets and breaking their legs whenever they show signs of over-excitement.

The site also provided this coded message to ragers: ‘As you embark on your road trip to the paradise of Plett, say goodbye to exams, stress and deadlines and say hello to freedom!”

It must be code because if Plett is paradise, give me hell any day. As for entering a shiny new stress-free world full of fabulousness and frilly cocktails, well, I hate to pour acid rain on your dreams, but the best you can hope for is the chance to sign on the dotted line and work for 50 years.

And that’s if you’re lucky.

A survival guide to Black Friday

It’s that time of year when we all turn into gibbering idiots and experts take it upon themselves to advise us on the blindingly obvious. In the event of a thunderstorm, avoid standing in an open field waving a golf club at the sky while wearing a tinfoil hat.

The annual plummeting of the national IQ is exacerbated by Black Friday, a day upon which pornographic greed and an overwhelming fear of missing out come together and cause people to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need.

Here’s how one news story started the week. “With Black Friday and festive shopping mayhem fast approaching, experts have urged consumers to stay alert and safe.” It’s not every journalist who can combine a harmless American tradition with Jesus’s birthday and still manage to strike terror into our hearts.

It’s my opinion that mayhem is best experienced suddenly and without warning. You really don’t want to see it coming. You want to be yawning and scratching your crotch when it heads your way. Be unprepared. That’s my motto.

One of the experts trained in the art of staying alert and safe urged shoppers to be vigilant at malls and shopping centres. I remember a time when it was the streets that weren’t safe. A time when you would seek refuge in malls to avoid getting hit by crossfire, recruited into a biker gang or offered stolen goods you couldn’t afford.

Now, the streets are full of unemployed humanities graduates whose accusing stares fill us with guilt, damn their selfish hollow eyes, but they are mostly harmless. The real danger lurks where the ravening beasts of capitalism have made their loathsome lairs. If it’s sanctuary you’re after, you are safer in a crack house than a mall at this time of year.

The expert urges us to “be aware of the general spike in follow-home incidents”. If I ever start a rebel army – it’s on my bucket list – I shall demand to be called General Spike. Are you listening, Julius? The name is taken. You can have General Dealer, unless my rebel army rebels against me and I start a cannabis farm, in which case it’s mine.

One of the main reasons I go to a mall is in the hope that someone will follow me home. Don’t judge me. I live alone. I’m not the only one who does this. Look around the next time you’re at a mall. Almost everyone who is on their own is hoping for a follow-home incident. Not necessarily by four armed men in a BMW with tinted windows and no licence plates, admittedly. But nobody shops solo with the singular intention of buying things. It’s a deeply unnatural act. How would you even decide what to get without having a second person to consult? After one of my many break-ups, I made the rookie mistake of going to a flea market on my own. I was never the same after that.

The expert says criminals are in the malls watching what you buy. The trick is to have a decoy trolley filled with nappies and bottles of Purity. Not even burglars want to break into a house infested with the freshly born. Your real trolley, full of expensive gear, will have to be pushed by a decoy person. Maybe a friend or relative you don’t particularly like. Get them to take it to their house. You can pick it up the following day, if they’re still alive.

The expert advises that if you think you’re being followed, “drive immediately to a police station”. This is where it gets tricky. What if you are drunk or high? I can’t imagine shopping any other way. The last thing you want is to reel into the charge office babbling about imaginary bandits on your tail. “They were right there, ossifer. I swear.” Brazen it out. Demand a police escort. Then, when you get home, threaten to report them for abusing state resources unless they give you money.

The expert also suggests that when you get home, you should “wait in the road for the gate to open before driving in”. Are there people out there who drive in without waiting for the gate to open? Their gate budget must be ridiculous. We don’t all have gates, though, and I’m certainly not going to wait in the road until the gate people can come around and put one in.

Another piece of advice is to “carry as little as possible in your handbag or pockets”. Has this expert even met a woman? Can you imagine the carnage if husbands had to insist on wives emptying their pockets and handbags before going shopping?

Besides, do we still have pickpockets and bag-snatchers? Bit Dickensian. I suppose you could put scorpions in your pockets and a small improvised explosive device in your bag capable of being detonated remotely. Also useful if your bloke goes into your bag without permission. Then again, if he loses his hands, your workload in the bedroom doubles. Might not be worth it.

Another expert, valued for his razor-sharp acumen, warned against over-spending. Thanks, mate. If it wasn’t for you, I’d be in a homeless shelter. I have no self-control whatsoever. I can’t tell the difference between income and expenditure any more than I can boil an egg without adult supervision.

He also suggested we save money by eating at home instead of in restaurants. I don’t know, bro. Pravin Gordhan is poisoning a lot of people these days and you never know when he might get the address wrong.

The expert said that instead of maxing out your credit card, “rather save up over time for that big-ticket, luxury item”. I’m not so sure. We don’t have a whole lot of time. The country is flying on one engine. If that flames out, there will only be little-ticket items available. Like bread. And maybe a chop if you’re lucky. I say go big now.

The expert also suggests that you put your wallet in the front pocket of your trousers. I’ve tried that but I find it attracts a fair amount of unwanted attention. I have to stop myself from shouting, “My eyes are up here!” Girl, you’re already holding hands with a dude. Behave yourself.

We should also leave “unnecessary bank cards and large amounts of cash” at home. Who are these people with unnecessary bank cards and large amounts of cash? Drug dealers? I suggest you follow them home and steal their drugs. Give you a taste of their own medicine.

Apparently people who get year-end bonuses are most at risk of being robbed. It’s a good thing I’m a freelancer, then. I haven’t had a bonus in fifteen years. No wonder I’m still alive. What extraordinary luck.

Hate this life? Try a second one.

Does anyone remember Second Life? Is it even still a thing? I was rummaging about in the archives when I came across a piece I wrote for the Sunday Times twelve years ago. It appeared on Christmas Day.

………………..

Christmas is a time for miracles. Before the week is out, we will look back, shake our heads in wonder and say: “It’s a miracle we survived.” Personally, I am not prepared to chance it. Taking crime, taxi drivers and the aberrant nature of my family into account, the odds of not surviving are disproportionately high. I don’t have enough money to flee the country. I do, however, have plenty of time. Time which I intend spending with my new friends in my new life. My Second Life.

The godlets at Linden Labs must have taken a lot longer than six days to create this world. It’s far more complicated than the one I’m living in at the moment. I am told that once I have explored this vast digital continent teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity, I might even find a perfect piece of land on which to build my dream house. This is wonderful news. In my first life, I can barely afford the rent.

Then I discover something that sets alarm bells ringing. Millions of US dollars flow through Second Life each month. Although the virtual currency is called the Linden dollar, it can be converted to genuine American money at LindeX, the SL Linden Dollar exchange. Excuse me? I will have to spend real money? On stuff that doesn’t actually exist? This feels wrong. Very wrong. Drowning my gut instinct with a shot of whisky, I cross myself and take the plunge.

The SL website opens on a digital babe wearing a bikini top, short skirt and giant black and white wings. She is standing on the edge of a forest. Cute. Damn cute. I want to find her and take her to a Christmas party immediately.

The only thing that scares me is Second Life’s logo. It’s some sort of eye with Mayan overtones. I find it disturbing. It reminds me of the eye above the pyramid on the US dollar bill which, as everyone knows, is a secret symbol of the Illuminati.

A registration form asks me to choose a Second Life name. I am disappointed to find that I can choose only my first name. The second I must source from a variety of options. Not a good sign. Overtones of Big Brother. Hints of Stalinism. Why is my right to freedom of choice being trampled on before I have even joined their world? They also want my real birth date ‘for my own protection’ and a genuine email address. Sweat trickles down my spine.

Surnames range from Adamczyk to Zhangsun, with a whole bunch of Boomhauers, Gigamons and Obolenskys in between. You can’t be a Smith but you can be a Skinstad. Jones is out but how about Jaxxon? Or Tigerpaw? Or Demonia? Why can’t I just be me, Ben Trovato? Sadly, no Trovatos are allowed in Second Life. The closest I can come is Benjamin Trenchcoat. But it is not to be. Not only is the name unavailable, but my first name is not available with any of the surnames on the list. This means there are countless Bens waiting out there for me. It’s a depressing thought.

Then, finally, a name nobody has thought of. Joumase Troglodite. Far from perfect. I’ll probably spend most of my time spelling it to the girls that I meet. But what the hell. If I have anything in Second Life, I have time. It’s not like I’m going to get old and die. Oh, no. None of that mortality nonsense for me. I don’t care what happens to me in my first life because I will remain eternally young and virile in this brave, new world. Whoops. Get a grip.

Now I must select my doppelganger. I have 12 avatars to choose from, none of whom look remotely like me. I’m assured that I will be able to change my appearance at any time. This is good, because I choose to be some sort of half-rabbit, half-rat and I know that even the girls in Second Life would balk at opening up to a snaggle-toothed rodent.

Another form has just popped up. It wants my real name. Maybe I should legally change my name to Joumase Troglodite. That would fox them. They also want to know what country I come from. Things are bound to go horribly wrong. Why would I make it easier for them to track me down? I put Sierra Leone.

Then, instead of being plunged into a brightly coloured utopian paradise, I am encouraged to Upgrade to Premium Now! What’s this? For $6 a month, I can get land on which to build, display my creations, entertain or run my own business. In return, I will receive a one-time grant of L$1250 (that’s Linden dollars) plus a weekly allowance of L$300.

My sphincter tightens reflexively. I am sorely tempted to Skip This Step, but I hesitate. I have been in strange places with no money before and I know how ugly things can turn. I tell myself that this is not Guatemala. This is a place that doesn’t exist anywhere outside my imagination. Somehow, this makes it all the more terrifying.

Without my weekly allowance, I’ll be just another random rodent slouching down the street with nothing to do and nowhere to go. It will be a very bleak Christmas.

A payment form flashes up. Well, that’s my cover blown. I fill in my credit card details and submit. Not Authorized. No reasons given. Maybe it’s because I have provided them with two different real names. I skip back a couple of steps. Punch in my real name. Switch Sierra Leone for South Africa. I still get rejected. Already in trouble and I haven’t even tried to sell someone a fake Rolex. What kind of dysfunctional world is this where you have to tell the truth at all times?

It’s no good. I close down and start all over again, feeling increasingly like a refugee trying to get a permit to live in South Africa.

I try once again to upgrade from basic to premium, this time choosing the $9.95/month option.

Something seems to have worked. I’m told that my next bill is due on January 8, 2008. Although my account reflects a zero balance in both Linden and US dollars, I am allowed to buy 512 square metres of land. With what? Where’s my one-time grant? My weekly allowance? Where’s my vast digital continent teeming with people? I’m going to find a way to bust into this cursed world. And once I’m in, I’m going to rob a bank or mug someone. They leave me with no choice.

It takes 15 minutes to download Second Life. And there it is. Wow. I am not alone. There are 49 610 people logged in right now. At 9pm on a Saturday night. How terribly sad.

Up pops a Critical Message. Residents must treat each other with respect and ‘refrain from any hate activity which slurs a real-word individual or real-world community’. There are Behavioural Guidelines. Contravention of the Big Six will result in suspension or expulsion from the Second Life community. They don’t tell you what the Big Six are, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

As if by magic, I appear on Orientation Island where I will learn to move, communicate and modify my behaviour. A bit like a cross between a high-tech kindergarten and a reformatory.

Half a dozen avatars drift about looking just as lost and confused as me. Our names hover above our heads, making anonymity impossible. I feel exposed. Someone called Ahmadeno Camel gives me the lazy eye and saunters past. Then I walk into a rather plain-looking avatar going by the name of Esme Alsop. What’s the point of going into SL and then giving yourself a name that reminds people of the ugly girl who works upstairs in accounts? She stands there looking at me for a while. Great. That’s all I need. Cornered by Esme Alsop telling me about her operation while the other avatars fornicate and carouse all around me. I turn and walk away.

I am no longer the rodent I was when I started this tomfoolery. I am now a handsome young avatar in jeans and a black shirt. Rather nice, if you ask me. A girl with long black hair and a French-sounding name moves away before I can get close enough to talk to her. That’s the French for you.

Talking is done through a stereo headset and microphone or by typing in your comments. Conversations appear on the screen, making typing errors seem like some sort of speech defect.

I turn around to find the sublimely named Satine Odriscoll watching me. “Hey babe,” I type. “Wanna grab some egg nog?” She stares at me in silence. No response. What’s the matter with this girl?

Have you lost your hands?” I type. Still nothing. “Are you a mute?” I add. Suddenly she runs off. In tears, probably. Why do I feel so bad? That’s not even me. It’s just some stupid avatar. But part of him is me. Don’t we share a consciousness? Oh God. I feel an existential crisis coming on. Or is it metaphysical? Isn’t this meant to be fun? Why am I thinking so much?

One of the tutorials on Orientation Island involves going to the library and fetching a torch. I want a beer, not a torch. Anyway, I do as they ask and I am pleased to see that it is a torch of the flaming variety, not one of those dainty plastic orange numbers which would have made me look a bit LGBTQI.

Uh, oh. Someone called Samehabo Kanto has snuck up behind me and is clearly ogling my bum. What does she want? Why doesn’t she say something? What if it’s not even a girl? I’m not turning around. In my confusion, I somehow manage to attach three or four flaming torches to different parts of my anatomy. Everyone avoids me after that. I can almost hear them whispering, “Here comes that Torchboy freak. Run!

Bored with the tutorials, I inadvertently take off my pants. Luckily I have on a pair of white undies. This will almost certainly make my intentions a little clearer. I look around for someone to chat to, but I find myself all alone. Oh my God! Those aren’t undies! That’s my bum! I’m naked! And here comes Joss Ninetails! Don’t panic. Play it cool. Joss glances at me and carries on walking as if she comes across naked men in the street all the time. Maybe she’s from San Francisco.

Impatient to move on, I give the tutorials a miss and walk down a road that takes me to Help Island. I feel my spirits sink. Where is Christmas Party Island? Rum ‘n Coke Island? Hot Monkey Sex Island?

Then I have some sort of fit. My head shakes violently back and forth. Am I sick? How will I ever find a doctor? Fortunately the shaking stops after a while and I wander off. I walk and walk and walk and see nobody at all. Great. Lost my way. Lost my pants. But look – I can fly! I soar over the sea and back across the island looking for parties to gatecrash.

When I finally land, Disco Randt comes up to me and asks me why my pants are off. I shrug (there is a long list of gestures, including laughing and smoking) and type, “you should know – you took them off.” Disco replies, “yeah right” and hurries away without a backward glance. My first conversation! I am so excited that I have to sit down for a bit.

Help Island is proving to be no help at all. I need to teleport to the mainland where everyone is having fun. But I can’t find the teleporter. I begin to suspect one needs a degree from MIT to work it all out.

I come across a billboard warning Residents not to ‘grief’ one another. Griefing can range from shooting, bombing and pushing, to more subtle forms of intimidation. There are guns and bombs on the island? Where? I must get some at once! Girls are impressed by weapons. Okay, some are terrified, but mostly they are impressed and they will fight among themselves to chat with me. But it’s no good. I can’t find out where to get the bombs and guns. Everybody I ask walks away from me. Some of them even run.

Hello, what’s this? Someone with the unfortunate name of Bogdan Pausch drives past me and parks at the edge of a shimmering technicolour mountain. He gets out of the car and I hurry over. “Give me your car or I will shoot you,” I type. Bogdan gives a tinny laugh. No fear. Nothing. How does he know I’m not armed? Bogdan wouldn’t last a day on the streets of Johannesburg. I try to force my way into his car, but it doesn’t work. Bogdan laughs again.

I spot Joss Ninetails and chase after her. I ask her if she can help me get to the mainland. She types, ‘Hi Joumase. Follow me’. I go weak at my virtual knees and start walking after her but I’m momentarily distracted by Creij Sciarri. She has a magnificent pair of wings on her back. When I turn around, Ninetails has disappeared. Damn! She was my last chance of getting off this cursed island.

I fly out over the ocean and once I am far enough from the coast, I press the ‘stop flying’ button in the hope of putting a swift and painless end to my second life. No such luck. I just kind of float there for a bit, then fly back to the island. At least in the real world I can kill myself.

I need help getting off Help Island,” I type to no-one in particular.

Somehow I manage to teleport myself somewhere. Probably to another part of Help Island. A group of people are standing about chatting. Great. Maybe they know the way out. But from what I can pick up, they know very little about anything at all. For a moment, I think I have landed in a section reserved for retards suffering from Tourette’s. They have mouths like sewers and say LOL in every sentence. They also ignore me completely.

I am bitterly disappointed to discover that Second Life is infested with the same half-witted imbeciles who inhabit the real world. There must be reasonably smart people somewhere in this godforsaken world. But where?

Disconsolately shambling along a path leading to nowhere, I come across another enormous billboard. It features a resident with some sort of No Entry sign over his crotch. The message is: “Please Don’t Walk Around Naked.”

Nearby, a knot of people are gathered. I wander over to eavesdrop on the conversation but I can’t understand a word. It looks like Spanish. This is meant to be Second Life, not Vida Segundo.

Feliz navidad,” I write, my avatars’ hands making little typing movements. The lads stop chatting and turn to look at me. “Donde esta las senoritas?” I ask. One of them fires a burst of what looks like Catalan at me. Then they take turns laughing and walk off. “Bloody foreigners,” I type quickly, but it is too late. They are already out of range.

It’s 2am in Cape Town – 4am Second Life time. I go to bed, naked. When I wake up on Sunday morning, I find that Second Life has taken over my brain. I can think of nothing else. This can’t be good.

Dumping reality in a crumpled heap on the bathroom floor, I fire up the Acer with fresh enthusiasm. Today, I’ll buy a house. Today, I’ll find a Christmas party. Today, I’ll … hang on. Where’s my money? I’ve paid $9.95 and there’s still nothing in my account.

I have no idea where I am. Cuwynne Deerhunter walks up to me. She is well-dressed and neatly groomed. I’m glad that I have my pants on. Without wasting a moment, I type: “I am hungry. Please can I have some money to buy a loaf of bread? And maybe a house.” She calls me a loser and stalks off.

With nothing better to do, I drop by the offices of Uthango, the first South African not-for-profit company to open virtual offices in SL, to see if someone there could lend me money. Apart from me, the place is empty. Then again, it is a Sunday. I suppose they are all at home slaughtering cows or polishing their Ferraris or whatever it is that black diamonds get up to over weekends.

I teleport somewhere else and when I materialise I find that I have gone all limp. I am standing motionless, chin slumped on my chest. “Come along, off we go,” I shout, stabbing at the arrow keys. Something is wrong. In brackets behind my name is the word (Away). Away where? It’s as if something stole my brain while I was being teleported. Inexplicably, I am still able to remove my pants. I whip them off in the hope that someone will notice and come to my rescue. But nothing. I stand there for ages, rooted to the spot. To the casual observer, it must appear as if I am intently studying my willy.

Joumase Troglodite has gone away. Where or why, I cannot say. There is nothing for it but for me to go away, too. I think I’ll go to the pub on the corner where the girls are friendly and the beers are cold. Spending Christmas in the real world might not be so bad, after all.

Buy buy baby

Hark, the Christmas tills do ring. The season of giving, taking, looting, stabbing and shooting is almost upon us. The Little Drummer Boy has already driven me from at least two malls.

All you can do is laugh. You have to, otherwise you’ll cry. This is where my new book is useful.

As you know, if you’ve been paying attention, Durban Poison is available in proper bookshops like Exclusive Books and Wordsworth. Other shops might have it, too. If they don’t, burn them to the ground.

If you want your copy scribbled in, you’ll have to buy it right here on this site. Just click on the Contraband link. You wouldn’t be the first. In fact, I’m on my way to the Post Office right now to despatch the first bunch of orders. I have even provided photographic evidence in case you think I’m lying.

Stock is limited, as is my enthusiasm for continuing to pay for packaging, postage and driving to the Post Office.

Contraband

‘Durban Poison: A Collection of Vitriol and Wit’ by Ben Trovato is the funniest book I’ve read all year

The dark side of change

It’s unlikely I was the only one suffering from a minor medical emergency last Sunday. Having tried all the regular remedies – aspirin, fried food, suicide – I dragged my shattered carcass off to the shop and bought a few cans of Coke.

I don’t usually drink this filth for political reasons, which, at this point in time, are a little hazy. I think it had to do with the bottlers in Columbia hiring paramilitary thugs to murder employees caught drinking Pepsi. Or something. I don’t know why I cared. I might have been going through my social justice warrior phase before discovering it doesn’t pay very well.

On Sunday I couldn’t have cared less if Coca-Cola turned out to be the official sponsor of the Trump family. I needed to dilute the massive amount of post-World Cup beer that had caused my blood to stream about as well as Telkom Wi-Fi on a rainy night in Diepsloot. Coke can adulterate, corrode or kickstart just about anything and it was my last shot.

I ripped the can open and guzzled it right there in the shop. There was a moment when everything went quiet. Like that scene when a bomb goes off in Saving Private Ryan. Instead of being stricken with temporary deafness, like Tom Hanks, I clutched my throat and, eyes swiveling wildly in my head, retched clumsily into a conveniently placed ornamental palm. Like Gary Busey in, well, real life.

I thought I’d been poisoned. It tasted as if the paramilitaries had spiked it. Once my internal organs calmed down, I inspected the can. “Plus Coffee” it said. And, in the event that one’s hangover was affecting one’s vision, in bigger letters, “Real Coffee From Brazil”. To make absolutely sure the customer knew what was happening, there was even a picture of coffee beans on the side. I didn’t notice any of this when I bought it because nobody in their right mind pauses to check if their Coke has been contaminated with anything other than the usual cola-related toxins.

What kind of crazy person would come up with such a terrible idea? This is not the work of a normal crazy person, that’s for sure. This is off the charts. Have people built up such a tolerance that they now need a caffeine boost with their sugar?

We have all, at one time or another, been exposed to children speeding on sugar in a confined space. I have been on long-haul flights with children who were given Coke to drink. They react as if they are being electrocuted. Now imagine them having the new Coffee-Coke twenty minutes into a thirteen-hour flight. They would kick the back of your seat so violently that you’d end up with a splintered coccyx and, a month after disembarking, a kidney transplant. The runty savages would be fighting among themselves to get into the cockpit and everyone in economy class would spend the night praying for engine failure.

My point is that people should just leave good enough alone. Remember that old slogan, Coke adds life? Okay, it doesn’t if you work for a bottling plant in Bogota. But for those of us far downstream of the production line, Coke has done its job adequately.

What would happen if someone had to drink a Klippies and Coffee-Coke? I shudder to think. Actually, I’ve been shuddering for three days. I wish it would stop.

I’m not the only one who doesn’t want things tampered with. Take Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi of the EFF, for instance. An educated and sensitive man, he was deeply conflicted when the Springboks won the World Cup. There are black and white players in the team, which meant he could only voice his support whenever a darkie had the ball. The moment it was passed to one of the neo-colonial, counter-revolutionary puppets of the West, he had to shout “Phansi amaBhunu!” or look away and pretend he hadn’t seen. It couldn’t have been easy for him. The final whistle must have been particularly awkward. Not everyone can make it clear that you’re cheering the black players only. You’d need a PhD in political science to pull that off.

Simultaneously angry, happy and sad, Ndlozi turned to Twitter and offered his congratulations to Siya Kolisi. The white players, he suggested, should get their congratulations from Prince Harry. The prince, who has made it abundantly clear that he has had quite enough of white people in general and his family in particular, was off drinking beer in the Boks’ changing room. Harry would have noted that Faf de Klerk, while possessing the instincts and agility of a Miniature Schnauzer, is developing a bit of a boep. Being a gentleman, he refrained from pointing and laughing.

Our benign president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is also encouraging change. He said we should do like Siya says and work together. That’s fine for Siya to say. His house is a hotbed of racial unity. Personally, I’ve only ever known blondes to be nothing but trouble. Brunettes, too. And redheads.

Comrade Ndlozi’s political doppelgänger down at the shallow end of the gene pool, Oberstfuhrer Steve Hofmeyr, offered to translate Cyril’s message. “Let the Siya injection make you numb so you don’t fight back when we grab your land from under your arse because you’re white.” Translated from the original Afrikaans, obviously.

Steve bravely left his land unguarded and went to a friend’s house to watch the final. He couldn’t watch at home because he destroyed his DStv decoder a few months ago. I can’t remember why. Perhaps because it was black.

So that’s the thing. We don’t want change in this country. Not really. If we did, we’d do like the Ecuadorians and Chileans and take to the streets in our millions and refuse to leave until someone did something to fix the economy. If Eskom started working and Jacob Zuma stopped appealing, we’d have nothing to complain about. We would be lost without our healthy sense of fear and loathing of those who look, think and talk differently to us.

#ImStaying because I can’t wait to see what Cyril doesn’t do next. I also want to feel what it’s like to live in a country that’s been accorded junk status by all three major ratings agencies. Not every nation can achieve it, you know. You have to really not work at it. So far it’s only two out of three. Hopes are pinned on Moody’s delivering the coup de grâce in three months’ time.

For now, though, let us link arms with the likes of Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, Irvin Jim and Helen Zille and go laughingly backwards into the future.

 

 

  • Don’t forget to visit the Contraband page and order your signed copy of my latest book, Durban Poison.

Get your Durban Poison here!

I promised that my new book would be available on my website and, lo, it has come to pass. Praise be.

I’m happy to devalue your copy by scribbling something in it. If you want it inscribed to someone other than yourself, supply the name in the box marked Order Notes.

There is limited stock available. Seriously. I am not just saying that to sell more books. I’m not like the others. Also, given the reputation of the Post Office, early orders are advisable unless you want to get it in time for Christmas 2020.

PDFs of my other titles are also available. Just click on Contraband.

Contraband

 

 

 

 

Boks, beer and a brand new book

Right. It’s the day after the big win and I know how you are feeling. But you’re in luck. I happen to have the perfect cure for a crushing hangover. It’s my new book, Durban Poison, and it will help tremendously in the recovery process. Laugh or die. The choice is yours.

Published by former smasher of drugs and crasher of Ferraris, Melinda Ferguson, the book has been selected by Exclusive Books for inclusion on The List. It’s also available in other bookshops and online. And as an ebook.

In the next few days you will be able to order a copy right here on this site. If you like, I’ll devalue yours by scribbling something in it. I might even get around to posting it. Coming on top of the Bok win, this really is the cherry on the koek.

What a time to be alive.

 

Durban Poison PR

https://www.iol.co.za/sunday-tribune/i-aim-for-100-words-per-beer-ben-trovato-talks-new-book-36052829

 

 

 

Officially opposed to the official opposition

So Mmusi Maimane has, with rat-like cunning, jumped ship and left his party floundering like a stranded snoek. We knew this was coming the moment he held Herman Mashaba’s hand aloft and declared the former Joburg mayor a hero for stabbing the Democratic Alliance in the ribs.

I was going to write a fresh column but I am currently having a little trouble giving a fuck.

Here’s something I wrote to the pastor eighteen months ago.

…………….

Dear Mmusi Maimane, Bleeder of the Opposition.
Congratulations on finally getting rid of your mayor in Cape Town. Patricia de Lille is extremely dangerous and I’m not saying that just because she is a woman. She was born in Beaufort West, for heaven’s sake. It was only a matter of time before she started selling crack and bludgeoning councillors with her mayoral chain.

You’ve had a rough time of it lately. There will always be barbarians banging at your gate, but more worrying is the enemy that lurks within. The old Democratic Party should never have allowed the New National Party to wheel its Trojan horse into what is now your house. Not your fault. You were fresh out of school at the time. Sometimes I forget how young you are.

You addressed a rally on Freedom Day and made the rookie mistake of suggesting that white privilege was getting in the way of ending black poverty and needed to be addressed. This might have gone down with the great unwashed, but not so much with some of the senior members of your party. By senior I obviously mean white.

Your remarks struck a jarring chord with your silver-tongued shadow minister of public enterprises, Natasha Mazzone, who held up her father as an example of why not all whites were privileged. You’ll be familiar with her tweet but here it is again, just to give you one more sleepless night. “My father arrived from Naples in Italy, he was dark, and could not speak English or Afrikaans, but he was a great chef. He built himself up from nothing to make a good life for his family.”

She has a point. I remember seeing the signs along Durban’s beachfront in the 1980s, “Whites Only – No Blacks or Italians”. It was a struggle for those Napoleons, or whatever the hell people from Naples are called. A new kid appeared in my grade eight class after the second term and didn’t seem to speak any language at all. I liked him. A couple of days later the history teacher threatened to kill him if he didn’t provide his name. It was Giovanni Aquavelva or something. The teacher excused himself and ten minutes later the alarm went off and everyone ran outside into what appeared to be some sort of police ambush. The last I saw of Giovanni he was being carried off in the jaws of an Alsatian dog. He’s probably still trying to get his matric at a school in KwaMashu.

Not being able to speak English or Afrikaans clearly counted in the Mazzone patriarch’s favour. Whoever hired him and helped him on his way to becoming a great chef must’ve mistaken him for a well-tanned mute from Margate. If word had got out that he was Italian, he would have been lucky to find work at the Soshanguve Wimpy.

There seems to be a pattern here, comrade. May I call you comrade? I know the honorific is generally reserved for active members of the league of revolutionaries, but as a white man I find it prudent to call all black people ‘comrade’. Unlike AfriForum, some of us think it a bad idea to continue hammering nails into our own coffin.

But getting back to the pattern. Most of your problems seem to be caused by women. Who among us can forget Lindiwe whats-her-name who claimed to have been human trafficked into the DA and was eventually granted asylum by Harvard University?

You also tried to muzzle your predecessor, Helen Zille, who seems to have developed either a drinking problem or a thinking problem. She does have her moments of lucidity, but then gets onto Twitter and all hell breaks loose.

Then you had Dianne Kohler Barnard sharing a Facebook post by a flaming cockwomble who suggested that life in South Africa was better under the Fuhrer PW Botha.

And Phumzile van Damme resigned as the DA’s spokesperson earlier this year to spend more time “studying” and starting a “family”, which is political code for “I can’t be around these people any more”.

So, in the end, it was De Lille’s radio interview with Eusebius whats-his-face that enabled you to sever all ties with her. “I will walk away from the DA once I have cleared my name,” she said, recklessly violating section 3.5.1.2 of the party’s code of conduct.
Big mistake. Firing her on those grounds, that is. What you should have done is gone around to her house with a baseball bat and made it clear that even if she did succeed in clearing her name, she wouldn’t be walking anywhere anytime soon. You want to leave the DA? Fine. But you’re gonna have to crawl on broken legs, baby. Get Mazzone’s people to do it. They know. Then again, Mazzone and almost everyone in your party has a lot to learn about omerta. If there’s one thing the DA could benefit from, it’s the Mafia’s code of silence. Do your people ever shut up?

Because nobody really knew why you wanted De Lille out so badly, the charge sheet was released this week. It seemed a bit limp, to be honest. I’ve been accused of way more serious stuff over the years and have never been asked to leave anything apart from a couple of pubs and one or two marriages.

People say the DA is misreading the mood of the voters. They are only half right because fifty percent of your voters are preoccupied with menstruating and menopausing and you’d be a fool to guess what kind of mood they might be in. As for the men, well, it’s hard to say. When South African men get in a mood, they don’t necessarily blame their political party and change sides. They might murder their wives and girlfriends or drag the family off to Perth, but it would take more than a palace coup in the mayoral chambers to get them to vote for the ANC.

Besides, a thundering tsunami of fresh crises and scandals will crash down on us between now and the next elections. The dogs will keep barking for as long as the caravans keep coming and going. It’s when the dogs fall silent that we need to start worrying.
Speaking of baying hounds, I see the media has begun turning on you almost en masse. I can’t understand it. You were their darling for years. It’s becoming increasingly clear that you need a big move, and the sooner the better.

I suggest you declare the DA a guerrilla movement and start wearing camouflaged battledress. Get yourself a pair of aviator sunglasses and a beret. No, not a beret. A top hat. Instead of going to the bush, you hole up in the coffee shops. There’s a fabulous steampunk outfit in central Cape Town called Truth. The baristas look like insouciant rebels who travel through time and, best of all, they’re black. It’s perfect for your headquarters. You could be the Jonas Savimbi of our time, but better dressed, more eloquent, clean-shaven, slimmer around the hips and, when things get tough, you reach not for an AK-47, but for a mug of gourmet home-roasted coffee. In no time at all, you’d win back the white voters you’ve lost in the past few weeks.

By the way, condolences on what President Ramaphosa did to you in parliament the other day. “We will be the first to defend Mmusi Maimane against those in his own party who deny racial inequality,” said the wily coyote. It was like handing a thirsty man a poisoned chalice. Ancient tactic, divide and conquer. Instead of simply sitting there looking forlorn, you should’ve leapt to your feet and told him in no uncertain terms where he could stick his Machiavellian strategies.

On the other hand, we all welcome a kind word when days are dark and friends are few.