Koping With Stupiderity

One of my biggest problems I have realised is that I expect too much from humanity. My natural inclination is to assume that anyone I meet, and people I speak to, are rational, thinking, and reasonable people. When I put it to paper – website – like this I realise how foolish such a notion seems, but I can’t seem to help myself when I am out there in the world.  In my experience the great-majority of those people (the readers of this column exempted) haven’t got the sense to scratch their balls without first consulting a Youtube video.

This is of course alright. It’s absolutely okay to be the kind of person who eats corn flakes by stabbing at them with a fork. It’s something that could have happened to anyone at birth, but I shouldn’t expect the people I meet to be anything other than that. I could save myself endless hours of frustration if I just lowered my expectations of those around me. Harnessing this great power could see me breeze through traffic, smile benignly as the old woman in front of me in the Pick n Pay queue counts her coins for the fiftieth time, and sigh serenely as I hang up on call centre salespeople. At the core of this realisation is that I am seldom irritated with animals. Dogs are stupid. They spend most of their time walking in circles in an attempt to sniff each other’s behinds. The most one can expect from a dog is that it doesn’t poo on the carpet, however because my expectations of them are limited I rarely find myself frustrated. On the other hand I tend to expect so much more from the people than that they simply do “their business” outside, and this leads to disappointment.  For starters I used a public toilet the other day, and discovered that someone had in fact done their business outside the toilet. Cue existential despair.

Probably one of my favourite examples of epic stupidity occurred when in a moment of youthful exhuberance I accidentally found myself at a Boksburg nightclub I now believe was called Masquerades. I was confronted at the bar by a large bald headed man who told me that he “headbutted concrete pillars”. I smiled and asked, “Why?”, with a look on his face bordering on condescension he said, “For fun”. To which I replied, “You have had a lot of fun this way” taking my life in my hands. Naturally he laughed, said “Ja!” before smashing his head against a concrete pillar.

Lowering one’s expectations in these situations is admittedly easier said than done, but I have at least found another angle to understanding those among us who are so simple they believe white privilege isn’t real, but white genocide is.  A 2012 study led by Richard West at James Madison University reveals the stupidity that resides in each and every one us, by indicating our numerous thinking biases and errors.  Among a series of questions he uses to reveal these biases is this one:  A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

Naturally most people respond that the bat is a dollar, and the ball ten cents. This is incorrect. The real answer is that the ball is 5c and the bat is $1.05. It’s what West called a thinking bias, a quick route our brain has been trained to take over time, that we use because it’s simply easier than doing the actual maths. These biases affect every facet of our lives, and are there to give us quick shortcuts to save time in our day-to-day lives. One of the most powerful of these is called the “self-serving bias” in which we tend to think we are better than others.  Most people for instance believe they are above average in intelligence – even whose who think that vaccinations cause autism.

West further found that we are amazingly good at spotting when others make these errors and are terrible at recognising them in ourselves.  The reason for this is that we judge others logically and based purely on their actions, while when judging our own behaviours we factor in emotion, motivations and intentions. In each instance, we readily forgive ourselves our mistakes, but look harshly upon those of other people. And it gets worse. The study further found that the more traditionally intelligent a person is (the more “cognitively sophisticated”) the more likely they are to make these errors. Essentially: we are all dumber than we think we are, and even if we aren’t, that just means we make more mistakes.

Of course while this does explain some of the daily stupidities we are all made to endure, and  allows us to climb down off our high-horses and view the perpetrators in a kinder light leading to peace and forgiveness, I still think the guy who did a poo on the floor of the Douglasdale shell garage right by the hand-dryer is an asshole.

Anything But Selfies

I hate social media, and the reason I hate it, is because hating things on social media seems to be the best thing about it. It’s a confusing paradox. Last night someone pissed me off cause they hated something I also hate. I hated them, because they hated the thing I hate, in a snarky and off-putting manner that wasn’t in keeping with the more dignified, and quirky way in which I hate things. At least I thought so. I hope me saying that doesn’t make you hate me.

Probably the thing that I hate the most about the internet is the “selfie”. Not anyone specific’s selfie, just the concept. When I went to Japan way back in 2001 I took a few “selfies”, because I travelled there alone and needed proof I had been. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and I felt like a bit of a loser for having no friends who could take these pictures for me. A man alone taking pictures of himself, was viewed with the same suspicion as a trenchcoat owner in a play park. That was how it should be. Why was he alone? Was he a murderer? A lunatic? A Backstreet Boys fan? Turns out he was likely none of those things, just a normal, narcissistic arsehole like the rest of us. The only thing that prevented us from taking nothing but selfies back then was apparently the stigma, and once that evaporated so did our dignity. Now every second Instagram account is just pictures of the owner’s face blocking the view.

We should have seen it coming. It’s not like we haven’t always been narcissistic. Ever since the days of nobility spending hundreds of peasant’s worth of salary on oil paintings, we have wanted nothing as much as to look at our own faces. Coke had its first sales increase in more than a decade when it introduced the idea of adding names to their cans and bottles. We as a species are so self-involved, so desperate to be recognised as special, we will actually spend extra money just so we can drink from a can that says we have a common enough name to make printing it economically viable. It’s our biggest, most easily exploitable failing. We are idiots, little more than apes. Want proof? What was the first thing a monkey with a camera ever took a photo of? Itself.

I am more than willing to bet that if that ape had access to a computer it would also be posting that it has an IQ of 172 according to the test it just took on Facebook. Taking an IQ test on Facebook should automatically qualify you to fail it. “Only the smartest will be able to spot the…” If that sentence doesn’t end with the words, “data mining capabilities of this test”, then once again, finding the solution means you don’t qualify for the descriptor.

Facebook’s entire business model is based around selling our predictability. They are only able to promise that an advertiser will get x number of likes per x amount of cash they spend, because they know exactly what we will click on and when. That’s how mundane, and predictable we each are. If you see something on the internet that claims you are special it’s probably just selling your data to sex-traffickers or worse, McDonalds, cause you aren’t. You, like me, are a number.

We aren’t special so we need to stop acting like we’re among the most intelligent and handsome, just cause an app told us we are smart, or that we look a lot like the celeb Selena Gomez. No matter how many filters you use you don’t look like Selena Gomez – you look like the selfie monkey. So stop photographing your face, and turn the camera outward. At least then you’ll likely get a better view, and I will have one fewer thing to hate.

Seeking – Cheap, back-alley liposuction.

I am overweight by about 8kgs. It’s not a lot by some people’s reckoning, but it’s enough to cause me a healthy dose of self-loathing. I therefore want to be thinner. On the surface losing weight is simple – all a person needs to do is eat less, and move more. The equation is simple. The application is not.

A few years ago I went to a dietician to see what I was doing wrong, and get an idea of what I should be eating. What she told me was horrifying. Apparently a fistful of nuts is not just the name of my favourite adult video, but rather what one should eat six times a day. “Whenever you think of pizza, just eat another handful of polystyrene,” I seem to remember her saying, sometime after I decided to ignore her completely. What she was saying made no sense – if God had wanted us to eat fruit he would never have banished Adam & Eve for an apple.

It seems when people say, “be hungry”, what they mean is, “Be hungry all the time. If you aren’t constantly famished, you aren’t living your best life”.  A famous comedian once accurately said, “Losing weight is easy. Stop eating. There were no obese people in the concentration camps.” Sure, but then those people were also notoriously hungry. Not one person left Bergen-Belsen delighted with their figure, and determined to stick to the diet.

In short you need to be ravenous, and if you are ravenous you are grumpy. If your personality has begun to make you a victim of office politics, and your wife is secretly visiting a divorce lawyer to consider options, then congratulations, you are probably dieting correctly.

The second step to losing weight is to simply move faster. Apparently moving faster, and more often is the key to making my body look less like a bag of milk. I have tried it. It’s unpleasant. Water comes out of me and makes my shirt wet, I struggle to breathe and things start to hurt. Doing this once is awful, but people say I must do it every day.

Lifting up heavy things then putting them down again also works. Lifting things up, moving fast, then putting them down is the best way to lose weight. If you pick up something heavy, move it quickly to somewhere else, then put it down, and start to see bright lights flashing behind your eyeballs, then you are both succeeding at exercise and at not eating. Well done. This is what healthy feels like.

It would be much easier just to make excuses. “It’s baby weight.” I want to say to anyone who looks at me sideways. “My son isn’t even two. I have time to drop down to my pre-pregnancy weight.” But things are getting dire.  I recently told a friend it was puppy fat, and he asked me why I ate a puppy.  So next week if you see me, please understand why I look so sad. I am starving, and spending all my energy picking things up and putting them down again, all so the TV news won’t use a photo of me with my head cut off when they talk about the dangers of obesity.

Oh To Storm The Beach At Normandy

People don’t really ever think about the consequences of their actions. Every day all of us do things that may one day, unknown to us, cause untold misery to people of the future. For instance, did the neolithic cave person who first picked up a stick and started beating out the rhythm of a song ever consider that he was one day going to be responsible for Noot Vir Noot? Probably not.

Likewise did the first person who offered to carry something for someone else in exchange for one of his cabbages envisage the modern work environment of cramped desks, medical aid, and a 60 hour working week? If he did then I hope he is in the special hell alongside Judas, Gert Van Rooyen and Speckles from Pumpkin Patch.

In the end it was probably a few dozen of these well intentioned, but ultimately crushing decisions that lead to the world, and the lives, we now live, and it seems none of us want to go back despite being in a state of near constant misery propped up by anti-depression pills, alcohol and that “Britain’s Got Talent” video of the disabled woman getting a standing ovation.

We hate it so much that the way we relax is to connect to virtual realities where we imagine we live in a series of post apocalyptic nightmares. The deeper humanity finds themselves trapped by reality, the more popular entertainment centred on fantasy, and science fiction becomes. “The Walking Dead” isn’t a horror show it’s a vision board. We would rather spend our time pretending to wander a maze full of undead than face another day in our cubicle selling insurance, or connecting with loved ones over a lukewarm Woolworths lasagne.

Life is one long unskippable cut scene and the tedium is only relieved when we get home, switch on our alternate reality machines and pretend we are storming the beach at Normandy. What was once your grandfather’s greatest nightmare has become what we look forward to at the end of a long day. And why not? For the rest of the day we are just waiting for death by endlessly switching between the same three websites anyway. 

The best motivational speakers would end this piece by telling you, your chains are all of your own making, and that at any point you can throw them off and travel the world with nothing but an Instagram account, but then those guys are all in the only category of people capable of doing that – the mega rich, and I am not paid to make anyone think they can be their best selves. What I can do however is point you in the direction of the game Horizon Zero Dawn. As the lead character Aloy you get to be both primitive and live in a post-apocalyptic scenario. It’s basically our collective dream, and you almost never get stuck in traffic.

This Should Get Facebook To Notice Me

Facebook has been caught allowing third party apps to steal the personal details of 50-million of its subscribers and I have never been so moved to apathy before. British based Cambridge Analytica apparently managed to lure Facebook users into giving them access to their accounts in return for finding out which type of 80s TV character they are, and I say that’s a fair trade. Sure they got all my photos, and are allowed to do whatever they want with them, but at least I know I am Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote. I do however recognise that this may just be the beginning of a long downward spiral to an eventually Orwellian society, crushing suppression and an undignified death in a human meat abattoir.

Fortunately a comprehensive 2014 study found that Facebook is able to manipulate the emotions of its users dependent on what it puts in front of us. By constantly showing us happy posts they can subtly alter our emotions to make us more cheerful, and by showing us sad posts they can make us miserable. Just a few years of abused puppy articles and suicidal friend updates, and we will dance our way to becoming the next batch of Enterprise Polony. But look, as much as I like sausages, I am not sure this is a path I want humanity to be on.  There are a lot of steps between now, and us becoming willing sausage fodder, and not all of them will be as pleasant as the final result.

“Step One” is now, where each of us is connected via the comment thread to the very dumbest and most arrogant people our friends know. “I can’t believe tomorrow is Monday again” insists someone you have never met whose death as a sausage will only improve their IQ.  Already we can see the beginnings of “Step Two” in which watching a video, hating it, and scrolling away, results in that video playing loudly in the top corner of your screen until you throw your computer through a window. Turning off Facebook will soon be impossible. Expect “Step Three” to include a blend of steps one and two, in which Facebook gets an ignorant racist to follow you around and scream his opinions at you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but with a range of funky filters.

If you can believe it though, things are only getting worse from there. I am particularly not looking forward to the day when Mark Zuckerburg, drunk on power, slowly starts isolating individuals from their friends, removing photo tags, redirecting messages, blocking communication, and just when they feel that all hope is lost, showing up at their house with a black van, a role of tape and a gym bag stuffed with various home made saws.

We can pretend that we are going to post less, and add fewer photos from our most recent holidays, but it all seems rather futile. The truth is it’s too late. Google knows everything from where we are at any given minute to what we search for at 3am. Twitter’s algorithms can tell them who you are going to vote for, and what kinds of books you really read. And Facebook has used your webcam to watch you changing.  All that’s left is for us to do is accept, submit and try to stay off Mark Zuckerburg’s secret hit-list.  This column probably hasn’t helped.

A Bully’s Downfall

Cyberbullying is a great term for what happens when our inevitable robot emperors throw us to the world’s last starved lions in their murder dome circuses, but we have wasted it to describe people dehumanising others on the internet. Personally I have never really had much respect for cyberbullying having undergone a lot of real world bullying while I was at school, and generally believe that while I was being shoved in a rubbish bin a rude email would have seemed like a carnival, but I leave it to you lot and the comments section to prove me wrong.

Being one year younger than most of my peers at school, and about five years physically less developed, I suppose bullying was inevitable. *

The main protagonist was a boy by the name of Chris Taylor**. Chris was blessed with the facial features of a smashed clam, and the physical prowess of Stephen Hawking circa 2019, but he did manage to carve himself a rather niche school career as capering jester to the A Team rugby guys – he made them laugh at the expense of the smaller boys, and was rewarded by being able to kiss their girlfriend’s unattractive mates. From standard six to eight there wasn’t a class I was in where he wouldn’t call me “gay” – the all boy’s school equivalent of an Oscar Wilde retort – to peals of laughter from his friends.  I wasn’t left with much option, but to put my head down and endure it as he, and those who wanted his space as gibbering marmot to the rugby set, tore into me with an enthusiasm they usually only reserved for rubbing themselves off around a soggy Marie biscuit.

It all ended one physics class in Standard 8 (Grade 10 for younger readers) as Chris once again attempted to mock me over something or other. Fully aware that retorting would probably result in violence being done unto me, I snapped and slowly, piece-by-piece, feature-by-feature, began to dissect Chris’s failings much to the uproarious delight of his friends. It wasn’t hard. His face looked, as I mentioned before, like the bloated carcass of a beached whale that had recently been dynamited by a group of hillbilly villagers whose hatred of each other was only outdone by their, until recent, hatred of the whale. At first he stared at me with shock, and then anger, before, tears welling in his uncomprehending eyes, he stood up, came around to my table and punched me. I laughed out loud, and the captain of the A-Team stood up, took him by the shoulder, guided him to his seat, and told him “you aren’t coming back from that. Sit down”.

It should have been a moment of huge delight. Years of being bullied ended in one terrific torrent of shame and humiliation for my antagonist, but instead I was just sad. I felt bad for Chris as he sat having my best lines zinged back at him for the rest of the class. He looked utterly defeated, hunched in his chair, like the gargoyle rejected from the crenellations of Notredame cathedral for being too ugly. I had won, at last, and not by a small margin, wasn’t that reason enough to feel something more than dejected relief? Instead I just felt like I had been dragged down to his level. I was part of it, polluted by it. And it did not feel good.

It was a feeling I only became associated with again this week as South African cricket arch-nemesis Australia were brought low by their own hubris. No doubt the blows I dealt Chris would never have hit so hard, had he not been as arrogant with his taunts in the past, and likewise it is the same with Australian cricket. Sitting at the top of the pile, morally judging those below them, the team has been brought crashing to earth, not only by the media, but on the pitch where the Proteas utterly humiliated them, and once again I feel bad. I mean who cheats and still gets thrashed by 322 runs?  I wish this had never happened to them, and that the age old rivalry could continue unsullied by this nonsense. I already miss the Australian teams that we hated for their arrogance, but respected for their sheer sporting class. Steve Smith and his travelling team of angry cheats haven’t a patch on the touring teams of the past, who weathered the animosity and even added occasional moments of humour, and grace on the rare occasions they lost. Instead of feeling delight at a crushing victory, I just feel sad that what we as South Africans had in an arch nemesis has now gone, and we have been polluted by association with their downfall. Will we ever fear Australia again or will they, like Chris after that fateful day in Physics class, never hold the psychological upper hand again?

* In the telling of this, some facts have been stretched for comedic effect, and revenge.

**Absolutely his real name


Toddler’s Ruin Your Youtube

As the father of a toddler my Youtube channel has now been shot to hell. Whereas once I was recommended episodes of TV panel shows from the UK, the latest music videos by my favourite bands and hilarious John Oliver clips, I am now directed towards various nursery rhyme sites, singalong songs, and rather bizarrely, highlights from Ru Paul’s Drag Race – what are other parents doing with their toddlers?

This is not strictly my fault. The algorithms on these sites are quick to latch onto any new behaviour, and my son just happens to be entirely fascinated with any object that might contain a game, TV show, or photo of himself. If he is around, I find it impossible to hold my phone anywhere in the house without triggering some kind of instant, exhaustive battle for ownership that makes WWE look like kittens snuggling. The second my phone is out my pocket, even to take a call, my son rushes me like I’m the ball carrier, and he is Francois Pienaar off the side of a scrum. All my photos are of him moving toward the camera to see what I am taking a photo of.

Thanks to Youtube I am already aware that parents who once watched the nursery rhymes I am watching with him were soon onto Paw Patrol (somehow I find I already know the theme tune), Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and episodes of In the Night Garden, a show set in a horror park, filled with sentient balloon people, a group of men who never wear trousers, a woman who lifts her skirts for anyone whose looking, and a man whose desperate loneliness leads to him going to bed each night with a stone. It’s a show adults universally describe as being, “Bizarre” and/or “Creepy”.

The prevalence with which this show is mentioned online makes my initiation into the cult seem inevitable. Am I really one day going to allow my child to become totally absorbed by poor miserable Makka Pakka, depressively stacking and washing stones, just so I can get five crucial minutes to take a shit? The answer is yes, and the reason is that I think what we had as kids was, if not worse, then at least just as inspired by hallucinogens.

Lets starts with the obvious. Bob is a sponge that lives in the sea. In a pineapple. The Flintstones have a Martian friend named “The Great Gazoo” and the main enemy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a brain who lived in the stomach of a nightclub bouncer.

The Teletubbies were amorphous blobs with TVs in their stomachs, who lived on custard and toast and talked to a baby sun. They also look like the last faces you’ll see before you’re strangled to death by bath salt addicts at a funfair. The only female smurf was constructed in a lab by an evildoer intent on leading the good Smurfs astray, Pokemon is about kids who keep magical animals in tiny cages, and then force them to fight each other, and The Carebears was about a gang of mystical cloud beings, who watched every single child, 24/7 looking for signs of unhappiness and then shot rainbows out of their stomachs to alter people’s moods. Henry the train gets bricked up alive into a tunnel in Thomas the Tank Engine, Johnny Bravo and Pepe Le Pew are sexual predators and Donald Duck frequently had roast birds for lunch.

Keeping it local Pumpkin Patch had a dancing dog, fruit that sang, and two puppet cousins so nightmarish they made you wish humans didn’t have hands, while Sarel Seemonster, Karel Kraai, Bennie Boekwurm and the other characters from Wielie Wielie Walie are proof that the Apartheid government wanted English kids to suffer too. No one knew what was happening in Liewe Heksie, Mina Moo was a talking cow who was trying to get you to drink her udder juices, and if Zet had ever come burbling into my room I likely would have kicked him down the stairs.

The truth is that children’s TV has always been weird. We don’t pay artists enough, and children’s entertainers even less. As a result it’s only shaggy drug addicts with no talent, and a penchant for child abuse, who dress up like wizards and prowl the grounds of Arts Festival. It is there they are promptly picked up to develop TV shows. This has worked for generations, not because the peyote gives these criminals any additional insight into a child’s mind, but because children are new. The whole world is a wonder to them. They can spend hours just hiding in a bush or throwing rocks at other rocks. The reason we remember the shows from our youth with nostalgia is that we saw them with a child’s brain. These shows appeared no more wonderful, or strange, than the rest of the world and it’s the memory of this feeling that triggers our nostalgia. Either that or the Xanax.

What Happens Next Will Change Your Life

Do you remember the word “meh”? I do. I remember how much it annoyed me. It was the internet equivalent of a casual shrug, a roll of the eyes, the unimpressed utterance of a billionaire’s son who has just been told he is going skiing for Christmas again this year. It feels like we haven’t seen it in ages. And then just the other day, it came back with a vengeance, and just where you wouldn’t expect it.

This was our response to a story that emerged of a South African international triathlete who was out running at 3am, attacked, and dragged into bushes on the side of the road where his assailants tried to cut his legs off with a chainsaw. This story was the the very definition of horror. I mean who the hell goes running? And at 3am? If I am awake at the 3am the only thing I am running is my mouth. Making matters worse they tried to take his legs with a chainsaw. Put the assailants in clown costumes and it could actually be a Stephen King book, yet South Africans shrugged, muttered, “Polony is worse” and the story was relegated to page five by day two.

The Times had a quote that said, “He offered them his cellphone and wallet and they tried to take his legs”. How much more unenthusiastic could you get? And what does this say about the quality of our cellphone networks that robbers would rather take your legs than an expensive piece of tech? Even if you aren’t stealing it for the unreliable service, a single phone must be easier to dispose of than a pair of legs? Almost anyone will buy a cellphone, but I can think of only one person in the country who could use a pair of athletes legs – Oscar Pistorius. Case closed.

In a world where a lynch mob of thousands can be summoned up in a heartbeat on Twitter to rant about everything from an accidentally exposed nipple to a teenager who made a bad music video, one would think there was still some emotion saved up for a truly disturbing news story. Instead we saw the return of “meh”.

These days no experience is immune to being hyped up. In a world where everyone has an opinion, and a blog (NB Link) click-bait headlines have had to over promise to get the kind of simpletons who would otherwise be having a conversation with cutlery to follow the link. “You won’t believe what happened next”, “7 Weird Blogposts that will change your life forever”, “A South African housewife used this one weird trick…” and we as normal people have started doing it too.

Every one of life’s experiences on social media has now been overblown to the point of irrelevance. It seems a rare hero who can have a cup of coffee without photographing it for Instagram and uploading it with a description that makes it sound like he orgasmed on the spot in front of applauding shop assistants. No one goes to a concert anymore without telling their followers it had them gushing like a character on a yoghurt commercial who just tasted the new flavour, and, instead of being bait for people who spoon-fed themselves fertiliser at a young age, superhero films are now religious experiences that leave audiences weeping on their knees in the cinema. It makes us all seem delusional.

The flip-side is also true. No mishap is so small it can’t be made into a tragedy. Minor slights have become career ending slurs, unfunny jokes are now internet ammunition, callous behaviour inspires hashtags, and a sleeve brush makes Aussie cricket captains run crying to a match referee. There is a kind of person for whom this tragedy is sign that the times are changing. That we as humanity are sweeping out the old, and celebrating the new. Really? Are we? Then how come, despite all of this, we still haven’t used a catapult to fire Dan Roodt into a pit full of wild dogs?

So maybe I shouldn’t complain? Maybe the shrug of the shoulders Mhlengi Gwala got, was the best we could hope for – a genuine response in a sea of over indulgent trash, and false emotional epiphanies? Maybe when a story like Mhlengi’s comes along, and no one reacts, you should take a minute to appreciate the quiet, the tranquillity, the “meh”. Or maybe you could just accept the internet for what it is, and tell everyone this blog is the best thing you ever read, and that it made you feel like you touched the balls of God. I know that would at least make me have a real emotion for once.

How To Lie To Children

The average person lies 3000 times a day. It’s a fact. Well okay, it’s not a fact, it’s a lie, but, like with real columnists, I wanted you to think of me as an expert on the subject. What’s true is that according to a 2002 study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, 60% of adults can’t have a ten minute conversation without lying at least once, and that lying makes you appear at least 12% more interesting to members of the opposite sex. One of those two stats is also a lie.

The other day I told my 19 month old son a lie. I told him the lamps in the store were broken so we didn’t have to turn them on and off for the rest of the day, and so began my slide into the deluge of lies I will inevitably tell him over the course of his life. I am prepared for it. As a middle-aged man I have long ago grown comfortable with the fact that sometimes it’s better to tell a lie than to hurt someone’s feelings, or even just to perk up a boring conversation. I have also comforted myself with the fact that this is true because someone much smarter than me proved it is.

Immanuel Kant looked closely at society’s long-held moral principle that, “it is a duty to tell the truth” and suggested that it would, if taken unconditionally and singly, make any society impossible. To show this he created a scenario, in which he asks you, the reader, to imagine that you live in an isolated house in the woods. You are all alone, when you hear a loud knocking on the door one night, and you open the door. A terrified man (let’s call him Bakkies Botha) stumbles in, screaming that he is being chased by a murderer who is trying to kill him. “Hide me!” he sobs. So you do. You lock him in the basement and go back upstairs.

Later there’s another banging on the door. This time, when you open it, the murderer stands there with his weapon, angry and clearly intent on violence – for the sake of comedy, let’s assume he is beloved TV icon from the 80s, “Zet”. Zet describes Bakkies Botha in detail – Two metres tall, played for the Springboks, has the face of three day old road kill. “Do you know where that man is?” Zet asks. According to Kant, if we want to be truly moral, we have a duty to say “Yup, he’s in the basement”. You see Kant is arguing that in order for us to be good, decent people it is our duty to avoid moral ambiguity and to always tell the truth. Zet has the moral duty not to murder, and we are not responsible for what he does with the honest answer we give him. For Kant, lying really is black and white. Probably why they called him a Kant.

Since my son was born, I have thought about the concept of lying in some detail, and therefore feel no shame in the fact that I lied to a toddler simply to avoid switching a store lamp on and off, for hours on end, until the cashiers tossed us in the street. I have concluded that I am happy to use lying as a parental aid if it helps him to go through life a little less upset, or if it makes parenting fractionally easier.

It is, for instance, going to be much easier for me to say, “If you want to grow up big and strong, you have to eat your vegetables”, than what I really mean, which is, “your size is mostly genetically predetermined, as is much of your well-being. Eating your veggies is just one factor in a thousand unknowables that may affect health. The question of your mortality is highly arbitrary. You may never grow up at all, but eat your veggies because maybe they help, and they are a lot cheaper than the meat you like so much.”

When he catches me snacking, and asks what I am eating, I will always say, Brussel sprouts, Spur will only be open on his birthday, and “Barney the Dinosaur” definitely causes cancer.

I know that there are still parents out there determined to be totally honest with their children all of the time, never once deviating from the truth, and if they intend to be like that, I would urge them to remember some of these things:

“The dog went to go live on the farm” should be, “Bongo is dead and probably in a rubbish bin behind the vet”. “You are the most special, wonderful child in the world” is statistically unlikely. And instead of saying, “Mommy or daddy knows best”, just admit, “We haven’t a clue what we are doing, and don’t understand the long term consequences of most of what we say either”.

In the end I think it’s obvious that you too should lie to your kids. People who are lied to as children are more popular in the work environment when they grow up, earn more and live an average of 2.3 years longer. They don’t, or at least they might, but I have no proof for that, but then I think you get the point by now.

It’s Never Time To Dance

In the 80s classic movie “Footloose” Kevin Bacon plays a super cool teen who moves to a town where dancing and rock music have been banned and teaches them all to cut-a-rug, much to the constant dismay of John Lithgow’s character Reverend Shaw Moore. Audiences cheer when the Reverend gives in at the end and dances at the prom for the first time in years, but that’s where the movie lost me. Much like “Black Panther” is currently being hailed for the fact that it is offering under-represented minorities a chance at on-screen representation, up until that point Rev Shaw Moore had been my T’Challa. Until the moment he gave in and danced, he had been the only character I had seen on film whose open loathing for dancing matched my own.

I simply can’t see the attraction to it. I don’t understand why we as a society feel the urge to move rhythmically to music at almost every special occasion (this is one area where funerals absolutely crush the opposition). Don’t get me wrong, I love music. I like listening to it, and having it on in the background, I just don’t understand the bit where we stand up and sway, gyrate or jerk ourselves around in a predetermined area in time to it. Some people say it’s fun, I say it’s sweaty. And perhaps the last thing I understand is watching other people do it.

Maybe this makes me a troglodyte, but I don’t get what drives us as a species to cavort, let alone pay money to see others prance around. Ballet is quaint, the music is nice, but unless Natalie Portman is artistically stabbing herself before doing it, I have zero inclination to go to watch it – even for free. The fact that women will literally disfigure their bodies and starve themselves for years in order to do it is beyond mystifying. Perhaps in the days before the internet, and “the advertising industry” the dances provided some modicum of titillation? After all the outfits are so tight one of the main ballets is called the “Nutcracker suit” (suite whatever). These days we don’t need it. And we definitely don’t need contemporary upgrades. Most forms of modern dance look like a seizure, and I won’t pay for that, though ironically I may be tempted into paying to watch someone have an actual seizure. “Ah but look at the tango it’s so sexy!” I hear fans cry. It isn’t. It’s two oily, elderly people dry-humping. If I want to see that I will go to the pub.

Dancing is without a doubt the absolute worst of all the arts. If you are a professional dancer, then please stop. You are only wasting our time, and yours.

Perhaps the lowest example of this art form is the dancing reality TV show. Unfathomably in their hundredth season each “Strictly Come Dancing” and “Dancing With The Stars” are like watching the same Youtube video of Larry from accounts getting carried away at an office Christmas party for hours on end. The draw card is supposed to be the celebrities, but MNET’s latest “Dancing With The Stars” has so few recognisable faces they should have called it “Dancing with people”. The line-up includes a former Miss SA, three people who used to be in national sports teams, and a genuine track star’s mother. Look I am all for public humiliation as a TV concept, but dancing? Couldn’t we just throw rocks at Frank Opperman in a town square and call it a day?

I know what many of you are thinking now. Of course I don’t get it. I am a middle-aged grumpy white man, and exactly the kind of person kids have to teach to be happy again with their choreographed dancing in the streets, but that’s where you are wrong. Unlike all those other middle-aged grumpy white men from the movies, I will never surrender. You will never warm my cold heart, I will never dance for the first time in years at your prom. I am the Bane to your Batman of boogie, and you never see Bane dance – unless he is super drunk with a tie around his head.