Here comes the Polokwane Pledge

2008-02-16 00:00

Like most post-Polokwane comrades, I salute the genius and foresight that informs the new daily pledge for school children. If anything is going to create a binding social contract on the youth, it will be this, with its careful entrenchment of victimhood married to an elephantine selective memory about the past. Like most pledges this one has a certain puissance that comes — dare I say this out loud — from its similarity in form and function to a magic spell. Spells, as all you old Hogwartians know, have a strict internal form, need to be recited at specific times and invoke forces that do not usually occur in reality. So too with the Polokwane Pledge.

You may be thinking as you read this, that the writer is hostile to pledges. Hell, no; not a bit of it.

When I was a cub scout, we started every meeting with a pledge that went something like this: “Akela. We’ll do our best. We’ll dib dib dib. And we’ll dob dob dob.”

Then we would make mock ears with our fingers and hop around like little frogs. Of course, this is quite a lot different from the Polokwane Pledge, which as far as we know contains no choreography.

Now, being simple God-fearing rural folk, you’re probably wondering what the cub scout pledge actually means. It’s quite simple, once you get the hang of the thaumaturgy. First, Akela. Depending on your cultural background this means either the giant she-dog who lives in the sky or the mummy wolf in charge of all the cubs. (Cubs. Get it?)

In our case, Akela’s avatar took the form of a dumpy junior primary school teacher with a bum like Saartjie Baartman and generous wedge-shaped ankles disappearing into flat-soled lace-up shoes. Nothing like a giant she-dog or a mummy wolf, but that’s thaumaturgy for you.

“We’ll do our best!” has its problems, what with a lack of definition regarding “best” not to mention the grammatical ambiguity of the word. Is it a noun or an adjective in this case? If an adjective, what comes next? Our best knots? Our best first aid? Our best kindness to small furry animals? Our best pyromania? Our best attempt to get into Girl Guide knickers?

Now if “best” gives you problems, try to get your head around “dib dib dib”. Why, I wonder, did Colonel Baden Powell require this promise from the Empire’s 10-year-olds? Was it something he ate — or given the state of the siege, failed to eat — at Mafikeng so long ago? And what about “dob dob dob”, an action, may I observe, that seems to be a consequence of having first successfully pulled off what “dib dib dib” implies.

Look. Let’s cool it, right now. The thing about mysteries, is that they’re mysterious and the last thing a hack like myself should be doing is undermining the faith-based fantasies of those who write spells and impose their mindless utterance on the helpless children of others. After all, what with the forthcoming shutdown of the Scorpions, we the people are going to need all the magical help we can get.

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