Monday, February 7, 2011

A Famous Grouse: February 5

Latest Weekend Argus column, unedited. -- AD

WE should be pleased that Tony Ehrenreich, the perpetually whining Cosatu provincial secretary, has stepped forward to take on the bicycle menace, particularly with regard to the cycle lanes running from Woodbridge Island to the city centre.

Ehrenreich has declared that the lane is for wealthy white Capetonians. It is therefore elite and racist, nothing more than a brutal instrument with which to bludgeon the poor and keep them in their depressingly oppressed corner of the Peninsula.

What’s more, the poor probably don’t even have bicycles and, as Ehrenreich will tell you in that unfortunate tone of voice, must instead make do with overcrowded and unsafe trains, buses and taxis if they wanted to get from one place to the other.

We could, at this stage, take note of transport and public works MEC Robin Carlisle’s comments on the matter, that it was thanks to the neglect of Ehrenreich and his colleagues in the ruling party that the city’s public transport was in such a parlous state. But then this is exactly the sort of thing Carlisle would say. It is, at best, informed opportunism and it is surprising that newspapers still pay attention to such nonsense.

It would be better for all if Carlisle and company could stop harping on about the old days when things ran smoothly. There is a democratic revolution afoot -- and why should Cape Town have an operating metro passenger rail system when, let’s say,  Polekwane has none at all?

The city has, meanwhile, pointed that there are also dedicated cycling lanes in Belhar, Athlone and Gugulethu.

Highly unlikely, you’d think, given the general contempt for the people living there.

Nevertheless, one enterprising newspaper duly despatched a team to Gugulethu to check these claims and, lo, there was indeed a cycling lane. But without cyclists.

For 40 minutes the team “monitored” the lane and it just lay there, indolent, untrundled by a single bicycle. Eventually a nearby resident explained that the lane was used in the morning and in the evening when people weren’t at work.

Quite why the team did not return to “monitor” the cycle lane at these times has not been explained. Editorial budgets being what they are these days, a second trip was perhaps out of the question. That was a cheap shot at the accountants, I know, but I feel that, in our age, a newsroom without enough bicycles for its staff is a newsroom that has little regard for its readers.

But, suffice it to say, had the team returned, five would get you ten that most of those making use of the lane would be pedestrians, not cylists -- something that would no doubt please Ehrenreich.

The ANC’s constituency is the downtrodden. As long as they’re mired in neglect, the miserable drones remain ballot box fodder. That, at least, is the apparent thinking in Luthuli House. God forbid the city dare suggest the masses even begin to enjoy a leisure activity like cycling. Next thing they’ll be happy and thinking for themselves -- and that’s bad news for the revolution.

Besides, the revolution’s vehicle of choice is not the bicycle. It is the luxury high-performance motor car. With a price tag of a million-plus. And a classy hood ornament. Like a 19-year-old girl with raw fish on her groin.

Which brings us to the vulgar businessman Kenny Kunene, who served up sushi in such a manner at his trashy waterfront nightclub last weekend.

Guests included the ANC Youth League’s celebritarded president, Julius Malema, who typically made most of nearest microphone, this time to inanely challenge the authorities to enforce liquor bylaws at establishments frequented by the ANC's nob class.

And typically, especially where Malema is concerned, the ANC leadership has once again defaulted to damage control mode, and has distanced itself from the incident.

Kunene, too, has foresworn nyotaimori, or “body sushi”, which he once defended as a noble and ancient Japanese custom.

It is nothing of the sort. The practice is rare in Japan, and its roots probably lay with the Yakuza, or Japanese mafia. This of course would explain why Kunene and those like him so often dress like pimps and gangsters -- because they eat like them.

Another ancient Japanese custom is seppuku, or “stomach cutting”, a ritual suicide formed part of bushido, the samurai code.

In order to attenuate shame, a disgraced warrior -- or revolutionary, if you will -- would plunge a sharp knife into his abdomen. Hacking at himself in a sidewards motion, he would attempt to disembowel himself. At the same time, he would bare his neck, so that his kaishakunin, a personally selected attendant or second, could lop off his head with a sword.

There’s a lot to be said for the old ways.

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