Deck the halls with boughs of folly

I was delighted to hear that students at the University of Cape Town were burning paintings last week. I have been wanting to do this ever since my art teacher gave me an F for a heavily stylised depiction of my, well, we needn’t go into details. I deserved at least a B+.

Art is responsible for so many terrible things in this world. World War Two, for instance, was a direct consequence of Hitler being a frustrated artist. “Nobody understands my art! Ich habe genug gehabt! Mutter, wo sind meine Unterhose? I am invading Poland in the morning!”

The paintings were ripped from the unsmiling walls of Fuller Hall, Smuts Hall and Jameson Hall. What’s with all these halls? Halls must fall. I admit to never having been inside UCT. I walked in the grounds once late at night, thinking I was in Kirstenbosch Gardens, and haven’t been back since.

Truth is, I’m a little disappointed that nobody thought to do a painting of the students burning paintings and then burn that painting while painting another painting of that painting burning. That’s what I would call art.

At least nobody was burning books. They often don’t catch alight properly, especially the thick ones, and there is nothing worse than a half-burnt book. Now, if you want to talk about oil paintings, those babies really go up. Rookies sometimes try to burn watercolours. Shame. They have so much to learn.

Quite frankly, I am in favour of all art being destroyed. This should preferably be done by the artist the moment he or she has finished creating it. This would save us from getting petrol on our hands and … no, wait. If the artist destroys his own work, that becomes a statement of its own. And statements are art. Well, not the statements issued by the ANC Youth League, obviously. Gibberish can never be art, unless you are a gibber, in which case you should worry more about improving your standing in a society where gibbers are taken less than seriously.

I went to Paris in my early twenties and wandered into the Louvre hoping to buy some cigarettes and a beer. From the outside it looked like an old hotel. Eventually the French had to put up a giant glass pyramid in front to indicate that this was an art gallery and not some sort of maison de mauvaise réputation for impoverished tourists.

Anyway, I ended up standing in a queue for what felt like hours. Knowing how much the French love their wine and fags, it didn’t surprise me in the slightest. What did surprise me was to get to the front and instead of finding a bisexual maître d’hôtel waiting to take my order, I was confronted by a smirking tart called Mona. She was of no use to me or anyone else. Who cares that she was painted by Leonardo di Caprio three thousand years ago? They’re all dead. Most of my morning had been squandered and I was still no closer to a beer or a cigarette. Of course I was angry. Anyone would have been. Well, maybe not the idiots who wasted half their day queueing up to look at a stupid picture of some French chick not even wearing makeup or showing her boobies. No wonder they lost the war.

That’s why I think it’s a good thing the students are burning paintings at UCT. Art doesn’t make you drunk or high. I can’t see the point of it. Statues are the worst. They actually take up space where real people could be standing.

After Paris I went to Florence. I was hitchhiking and didn’t care where I was going. If someone picked me up, I’d go wherever they were going. Some Italian pervert picked me up in a Jeep and said he was going to see Florence. I asked if she had a sister but he pretended not to know what I was talking about. That’s the Italians for you. The city itself was rubbish. Too old, for a start. And you could barely walk for fountains and statues.

There was this one dude called David carved out of some kind of rock by Michael-someone-or-other. He had his willy out right there in the open. David, not Michael. I reckon Michael is probably dead by now. Or living in Benidorm. Same thing.

People say you shouldn’t burn pictures of dead white people because they represent history. I say that’s exactly why you should burn them. History is more evil than Creationism and madder than Scientology. It shouldn’t be taught in our schools. Having to learn history is like having to talk about yesterday the whole time. I don’t care what happened yesterday, and I’m not just saying that because I can’t remember what happened. Terrible things took place in history and the whole filthy business is best forgotten. We should start every day as if we’re seeing and hearing everything for the very first time, like Alzheimer’s patients do.

Lying in the bonfire of last week’s vanities was a bronze plaque of Jan Smuts. He was either a hero or a traitor, depending on who you talk to. I have no intention of ever talking to anyone who knows anything about Jan Smuts. I do, however, think his plaque should have been melted down and beaten into tiny swords and distributed among the protestors. They could then symbolically stab university management without inflicting anything more serious than a scratch. Guns could also be redesigned to fire foam bullets, like NERF guns, causing little more than a light bruise. I think I just solved the problem of violent crime and it seems likely that if I pursue this, I will be in line for a Nobel Peace Prize. Then again, FW de Klerk got one so maybe I won’t.

The good news is that an online site called Joy Digital is calling on Christians to “pray for our nation, pray for our students and future leaders, and pray for the protestors”. To be honest, I prefer religions that don’t simply pray for absolutely everyone. I like the ones that say, “Don’t pray for that lot, because they’re utter bastards.”

They also said, “UCT has coined the name ‘Sodom on the Hill’ as it is filled with sin and debauchery, and many sins of the fathers have been passed down.” UCT coined the name? It seems unlikely. In a burst of defiance that would’ve made Jesus proud, they said, “We cannot turn our backs on UCT and return to our Christian bubbles. We need to be informed and involved.” Is this a threat? I can’t tell. To be on the safe side, it’s probably best you all go back to your bubbles.

The students also erected a tin shanty with en suite portaloo at the bottom of the Jameson Steps, which are well on their way to resembling the Eastern European Steppes. The point they were making was that white students were getting preferential treatment when it came to accommodation.

Vice-chancellor Max Price, going greyer by the minute, told reporters there are 6 800 beds in the universities residences. “Over 75% are currently occupied by black students.” I’d be interested to know what percentage make it out of the beds and into lectures on any given day.

Price needs to toughen up. He needs to come steaming into his parking bay in a jet black Ford Mustang with 375 horses under the hood and a blood-red boot-mounted spoiler. The first thing the protestors see when he opens the heavy door and slowly steps out is a pair of steel-capped crocodile skin boots. His sealskin pants are tight – not gay tight, but tight so he can kick people in the face. He is bare-chested. In one studded gloved hand is a briefcase. In the other, a World War Two flamethrower left to him by his grandfather, whose portrait is now just a pile of ashes blowing across the M3. Mad Max – The Final Chapter.

A word for those Rhodes Must Fall oiks. In the last five years, 95 000 whites have left South Africa. That’s an average of 50 a day. I know it’s not happening fast enough, comrades, but be patient. One day there will be nothing left to burn and nobody left to blame.

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Hairy lips, healthy balls

You know who else liked moustaches? I’ll tell you. Hitler. Stalin. Saddam. Gaddafi. Mussolini. That’s who. And here we are, being bullied into growing fanny dusters fit only for tyrants. Movember my ass. Having us walk around with moustaches for a month isn’t going to raise awareness of men’s health. All it will do is make women ridicule us even more than usual.

You mightn’t be so quick to put out a welcome mat on the doorstep of Casa Nostrils if it wasn’t called a moustache, a word that has the ring of the usual French nonsense about it. But what if you lived in Germany, where a moustache is called a schnorrbart? Would you want to be associated with Schnorrvember? Or, if you’re in Iceland, Yfirvaraskeggvember? Never mind if you’re from Slovenia. Those poor bastards would have to celebrate Brkivember. The idea of three vowels in one word is enough to drive your average Slove to suicide.

Normal people like me and perhaps you are not going to be pressured into cultivating a nasty habit that could well affect our political leanings and, indeed, our very sexuality. If Freddie Mercury had kept his top lip clean, he’d be living as Farrokh Bulsara in a trailer park in downtown Orlando today with a wife called Blanche and three gifted but disturbed children.

Having said that, it’s interesting to note that gay bikers and heterosexual farmers alike are huge fans of the mouth brow. And yet if you had to walk into a bar and ask a biker if he’s a farmer or a farmer if he’s a bottie-bandit, you’d probably get your face broken.

I don’t have a moustache because, in my line of work, it’s important to be trusted. People need to believe that what I write is the truth. If I am to be taken seriously, my upper lip needs to be dusted with nothing more than anxious beads of sweat. Unfortunately, and I don’t claim to know how this came about, men with moustaches cannot be trusted. I might lie through my teeth, but at least I don’t lie through my moustache as well.

Don’t get me wrong. My face doesn’t always resemble a finely buffed piece of Carrara marble. If anyone ever makes a movie called Unshorn of the Dead, I’m their guy. Fact is, men who live alone tend to let themselves go from time to time. Especially those who make their living within the confines of their own home. Not that you can call this a living. Or even a home.

This means my entire head is covered in fur for at least three weeks of the month. Not thick, coarse clumps of it. I’m not Chewbacca. Once there is a beard involved, though, the moustache ceases to be a moustache. It simply becomes part of a general facial flocculence that has been the defining feature of many of history’s lovable rogues ranging from Santa Claus to Charles Manson, from Jesus Christ to George Washington.

I dislike my hairy face, but I like shaving even less. By week four I will catch sight of myself in a shop window and recoil. That’s when I buy a case of beer on a Friday night, turn up the music and have a one-man shaving party. Pathetic doesn’t come close.

But what really gets my goat, apart from the stock thief in number nine, is that we allow these shadowy organisations to influence our decisions based on nebulous notions such as men’s health. I’m not even sure such a thing exists. Obviously I’m talking from first-hand experience here.

I’m reluctant to do this because I don’t get paid enough to involve myself in research, but apparently the idea of Movember originated in a bar in Adelaide in 1999. What a surprise. A bunch of Aussies off their faces decided that everyone should grow a moustache in November. Even the women, presumably, what with Australia being such an egalitarian society.

“What if they don’t do it, Bruce?”

“Well, mate, we’ll cut off their goolies.”

“And roger all the Sheilas!”

A stray dingo must have walked in at some point because the members of the freshly formed Movember Committee decided they’d sell T-shirts and give the money to animal welfare.

Being Adelaide, there was no real rush to get things moving. The committee passed motions, water and out. The dingo eventually ate the treasurer and, in turn, was taken to the kitchen and converted into bar snacks. Such are the laws of nature.

Five years went by and Movember, much like the committee, was still struggling to get to its feet. Meanwhile, a far sharper group of spritzer-drinking Aussies got together in Melbourne and started their own moustache-based event. Being more cunning and almost certainly more sober than the Adelaide mob, they linked theirs to a campaign to raise awareness for prostate cancer and depression in men.

“But, honey, what about the …”

“Shut up. Your lot doesn’t have a prostate.”

“I am depressed, though.”

“Of course you are. You don’t have a bloody prostate.”

So these new blokes formed the Movember Foundation which spread quicker than typhoid. More than $174-million has been raised around the world since then. I don’t know where it’s gone. I like to think some went to shelters for women traumatised by having to kiss men with moustaches.

In 2010, Movember merged with a testicular cancer event called Touchback. Quite frankly, I find the connotations of reciprocity disturbing. I don’t mind checking my own landing gear, but that’s where it ends.

Few South African men suffer from intellectualism and we should perhaps point out to the common herd that growing a moustache in November does not constitute adequate protection against prostate cancer.

Nor will the general health of men magically improve by a mass sprouting of soup strainers, no matter what the witches and warlocks of Limpopo province say. We might, however, be healthier if we didn’t have to work so damn hard. When I say we, I mean men who aren’t me. Men are becoming increasingly stressed by roadblocks and paternity tests. We get depressed by speed limits and flea markets. So let’s tackle the real issues first.

Movember’s main man in South Africa, Garron Gsell, if that’s his real name, says there’s a stigma around diseases that affect men, impacting on early detection and life expectancy. Never mind the bollocks. There’s a stigma around men, period. And early detection of a doomed marriage can also greatly improve life expectancy.

Gsell says the underlying message of this year’s theme is that “if you choose to live well and follow a healthy lifestyle … you can help shape your future”. In other news, if you wear shoes you can avoid getting thorns in your feet. Also, using an umbrella in the rain can help you stay dry. And not drinking a bottle of brandy for breakfast is good for you.

Finally, let us not forget that the biggest cause of depression among men is an inability to grow a moustache in November. Mo-shaming is a real thing. So if you do come across someone without a moustache, try to restrain yourself from smashing a beer glass into his face. He might not be a contumacious misanthropic iconoclast at all. He might, for instance, be unable to grow a moustache because he’s had radiotherapy to treat testicular cancer.

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Advance Australia Unfair

After flying halfway around the world I arrived in Joburg hung over, hysterical with sleep deprivation and barely able to walk upright on my mangled economy class legs. It was freezing cold and I was still dressed for Bali. Everyone else was dressed as if they were going to business meetings. Poor bastards.

Changing planes for Durban, we waited half an hour before the pilot decided to say something. “Guys,” he said, “you’re not going to believe this.” What? There’s no beer on the plane? Jacob Zuma has agreed to pay back the money? God is a woman?

“Our battery isn’t charging.” I summoned a stewardess and offered to round up a dozen guys to give it a push-start. She said it wouldn’t work. I looked around. She was right. There were only four or five darkies on the flight. They’d never be able to do it.

Someone must have come along with jumper cables because an hour later we were landing in Durban where I blended in with everyone else yawning and scratching and slouching about in baggies, T-shirts and slops.

I got home and did what most people do when they’ve been away for some time – read the papers. Catch up on the news. Sigh heavily. Start drinking. Plan to emigrate.

I hadn’t unpacked. I could call a taxi and be back at the airport in an hour. Get the last plane out. It doesn’t matter where. Just away. Away from the tyranny of democracy.

Whoops. That was the jetlag talking. I have since discovered half a bottle of Jose Cuervo beneath the sink and feel much better, thank you. I suspect comrade domestic worker has been using it as a household cleaner, which would explain why my place always smells faintly of tequila. I thought it was me.

Skipping past the stories about politics and crime – it’s increasingly difficult to separate the two – I finally found something to read without risking an aneurysm. The London-based Economist Intelligence Unit has released its latest list of the world’s most liveable cities.

My bags are still packed. There they are. Right next to the front door. My passport is in my pocket. I have a taxi on speed dial. It’s not too late. No, wait. That’s the tequila talking.

Top of the list is Damascus, the capital of Syria. That can’t be right. Ah, wrong list. Damascus is the least liveable city. Africa puts in a good showing, though, with Lagos and Tripoli romping home in fourth and fifth place, sadly nudged out of the medals by Dhaka and Port Moresby. Oh, well. There’s always next year. Looking at the cities, it might be more accurate to describe this as a list of the least liveable cities for white people.

Top of the list of the most liveable countries is bloody Melbourne, mate. And if you think that’s outrageous, let me tell you that Australia takes another three spots in the top ten with Adelaide, Sydney and Perth, leaving Helsinki, Auckland, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Vienna squabbling over the scraps. It won’t have escaped your notice that this is also a list of the most liveable cities for white people. Who mostly speak English.

Cape Town, incidentally, our only reasonable facsimile of a well-behaved city, never even made it into the top 50 most liveable. Thanks, Cape Flats. Thanks a lot.

So. Europe and Canada are out of the question. Too many people, too cold, too alien. That leaves Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth or Sydney. Tough choice. I have family in Perth, so I can’t go there. Just kidding, uncle. Uncles. And cousins. That’s my father’s mob. My great-granny on my mother’s side was a true blue Aussie and is almost certainly the reason I am genetically predisposed to petty crime.

A lot of mainly white South Africans choose to emigrate to Australia because there is plenty of sunshine and alcohol. And also because … well, as Queensland author Stephen Hagan puts it, “Australians are the most racist people in the developed world for their treatment of the First Australians and I make this claim comfortable in the knowledge that I am sufficiently supported by incontestable statistical data.”

I imagine being among worse racists than oneself can only be good for one’s self esteem.

Australia is also an option if, like Adolf Hitler, you prefer dogs. The government announced last month that it would destroy two million feral cats by 2020 in an effort to protect indigenous wildlife. They will use poison traps and attack dogs to kill the kitties. You can’t get more humane than that, Bruce.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of South Africans emigrate to Australia every month. I doubt I will be among them any time soon. I’m not smart or mad enough to understand the visa process, which appears to have been formulated by a statistician incarcerated in an institute for the criminally insane.

If you go over on a 189 visa but don’t have your OTSR because your job is on the CSOL list and you’re still on a 186 but haven’t submitted your EOI for a 489 you’ll need a 457 sponsor and the DIPB will want the IELTS.

Australia is infested with migration specialists dedicated to helping South Africans reach the promised land. Well, they call themselves migration specialists. They’re really just human traffickers in polyester suits and pencil skirts.

I thought I’d get in touch with one of them for an assessment of whether or not I stood a hope in hell. I knew the answer before I even filled in her questionnaire. Age, skills, academic qualifications and financial means are apparently important to the Australians, and unless there’s a critical shortage of borderline indigent middle-aged columnists who make a living out of shaming and ridiculing the rich and powerful, then I’m probably staying right here.

My “migration agent” said she had taken the liberty of stalking me on the Internet. “It is quite evident you have a very successful career,” she wrote. It’s not quite how I would describe it, but it seemed a promising start. Then it went downhill, fast. My occupation – her word, not mine – is on some kind of red list and, because I’m not a teenage virgin, I would need to be sponsored by a state or an employer and work for them for four years at an annual salary of at least R1.2-million. If my current remuneration is anything to go by, I am not worthy of sweeping Sydney’s streets.

Perhaps sensing that my special skills would do little to enhance Australia’s reputation in the eyes of the world, she offered me another option. Something called the 457 visa stream allows an offshore company to become a sponsor, which can then sponsor the employee to work in Australia. In a suggestion that smelled strongly of loophole, she said, “If we can get your current business to qualify as a sponsor, we may be able to get you the 457 visa.” With a masterful use of understatement, she described this as “a long shot”. She clearly sensed that my current business operated largely on cold beer, loud music and long absences from the “office”.

If my personal human trafficker were to handle the visa application, she would require the modest sum of R30 000. The loophole option would cost me another R40 000. And the Department of Immigration would want R18 000 for both. So, that’s almost R100k in return for an email from the Australian government three weeks later saying, “We regret to inform you …”

I’m going to unpack, open the gin and have a little lie-down.

BenRoo1