Friends & Friction: MPs fail to show us their true colours

2014-02-24 10:00

Russian Members of Parliament, called “deputies”, recently proposed a bill that will ban children from participating in beauty pageants until they are at least 16.

The draft outlaws participation in any contest where children will show themselves off and be judged on their appearances.

Sadly, life has become an endless beauty pageant fuelled by fashion and cosmetics industries. Skin lighteners and other forms of cosmetics do not bring any light to the world. They thrive on making people feel inadequate.

In India, for example, there is a product called Fair & Lovely. In one commercial, you see a beautiful Indian model who says: “Four is my lucky number. I graduated after four years and after my fourth interview I realised that the obstacle to achieving my dream job was my skin?…” She then uses Fair & Lovely, which promises to give you a fair skin within four weeks.

Men are targeted too. In one advert, a young Indian man tries to get the attention of a woman. She ignores him until he uses a skin lightener.

The competition is tough in the skin-lightening industry and global brands aren’t holding back.

There is a Palmolive product called White + Protect with the slogan: “I look White. I stay White.” Nivea’s Whitening Cream for Men is also popular in Asia. The commercials claim “that’s what men want”.

White people are also being made to feel inadequate. All sorts of tanning creams and lotions are aimed at them.

France has a growing Muslim population from north Africa and the country has banned Muslim women from wearing their veils in public, possibly to ensure an increase in the sales of cosmetics and fashion garments.

South Africans are largely shielded from skin lighteners, thanks to the revolutionary thinking of the black consciousness movement, which fought to make black people feel comfortable in their own skin. The apartheid government deserves part of the credit too for banning hydroquinone-based skin lighteners.

Unfortunately, our members of Parliament seem to have fallen into the abyss of vanity – as seen at the state of the nation address (Sona) last week. The opening of Parliament has been reduced to a crass fashion show where politicians parade their appearances.

What an irony because the word ‘Sona’ in Zulu means “we spoiled” or “we sinned”. Indeed, what happens at the opening of Parliament is a sin. It is an unbridled display of vanity.

To paraphrase the general who served in World War 2 and later became president of the US, Dwight Eisenhower: “Every luxury car that is bought by the state, every champagne that is corked in Parliament, signifies in a way, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”

This august newspaper revealed the number of service-delivery protests a week before Sona, yet no one paid attention. The message Parliament sent to the people is that our politicians do not care about the true state of the nation. Instead, they prefer to stay in the queue to get their own Nkandla villas.

Our political culture of “if it was good for the last moron in power, it is good for me too” suggests that the next president will feel entitled to a palace that is bigger and better than Nkandla.

Mr President and all Members of Parliament, please remember, noblesse oblige extends beyond entitlements. It requires noble behaviour too.

The privilege of taking a parliamentary seat means you agree to shed classless behaviour such as Tinseltown vanity. Sona should be about truth and not sin.

Tell us the truth and let us see your true colours so we can judge you by your actions and not your appearances.

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