Thursday, April 2, 2009

Criticism is a Dirty Sport

I've been perusing Zapiro's cartoons. It felt dirty, like viewing a hideous, twisted soul. To get a better picture, imagine those dark horror movies, or even the all-action blockbusters, where the character development starts and you're given a clear indication of the bad guy. They have certain features that mark them out, a twitch, a limp, lip-licking, shifty eyes or an elitist pet that they stroke. At any rate, they're designed with a feature that makes you feel dirty being around them, as though their mind is so dark that you dare not soften in its presence lest you become corrupted.

I paged through Zapiro's latest cartoons, one at a time. Inevitably there are aspects that draw you in - you say to yourself: "Yes, he's so right about Zuma" or "Oh, I understand the shower head he's drawn permanently pertruding from his head". For a while you afford yourself a smile, but the further you go, the more you begin to realise ... this guy doesn't let up. His drawings of Zuma are hideous, everybody gets the sledgehammer, it feels like you're caught in a deathtrap and there's never a softening in his spirit.

I didn't write this peace to slate Zapiro, but rather to illustrate what it's like to be a permanent critic. For a long time the DA have worn the opposition party badge and the feeling has been growing stronger and stronger that they believe their only job is to oppose. Too often you listen to the DA in a debate, and while you agree with their criticisms, you stop at the end and try to recall what solutions they had suggested.

In truth, the ACDP can also be guilty of being constantly critical. It gets tiresome, and moreover, it becomes depressing. I've experienced those branch meetings where you talk about nothing but the evils that are overtaking us. You come out depressed and you find less energy to return.

But what then is the opposite of criticism? Approval? Sometimes. Sometimes you have to summon the extraordinary courage to admire what your enemies have achieved. There are things I admire about the ANC. I respect that they managed to get 66% of the vote - that they could pull together a huge majority spread across 9 different ethnicities. Think about the Rwandan conflicts and you'll understand that kind of significance.

There is another alternative ... to provide a viable alternative. In other words, for every "don't", provide a feasible "do". I've talked about "criticism" in a negative vein, but we also talk about "constructive criticism" in a positive way. The one diminishes and the other enhances, at least potentially, depending on how well you receive it.

My guess is that the ACDP has been better positioned than the DA to be a critic, because the ACDP's approach has been to measure the ANC up against the Bible. If the Bible says that theft is wrong, then the DA can criticise for the sake of criticism. But by having a reference to work against, the ACDP can say theft is wrong, but also has the manual that provides the solution. The Bible has plenty to say about what good morals look like and what kind of life the righteous lead. Do the DA have a manual they work against?

Either way, we have to train ourselves to be solution-minded. People who solve problems become likeable. They also become good candidates to win elections. The ANC won in 1994 because they were the solution to apartheid (at least in the voters' minds), and the ACDP must gear itself to win elections by being the solution to the ANC.

1 comment:

Pete said...

Very good artical Eric, keep up the good work posting like this, and perhaps even start posting what good solutions would be. :)

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