After seeing Jonathan Shapiro’s latest caricature on the Mail and Guardian depicting the president as a piece of err… (let’s call it a muscle), I jokingly asked a friend “who’s got balls, Zapiro or the president?” I would end up engaging with the drawing for the weekend and the more I looked at it I ended up asking myself “what’s up with these white satirists and their fascination with the presidential d*ck?” I wanted to write an open letter addressed to Zapiro and other ‘white’ Satirists. I was angry at how we've just come from the issue of the Spear and now this!
I was then taken aback. It dawned of me that the fascination with the muscle has been a male thing all my life. Growing up as a young boy I remember how guys would tease each other about having a "worm" and how others would brag about "their big snake". Fights would break out over such a debate. Friendships would be jeopardized as well, all due to a small matter of a piece of muscle.
This is still the case even today. Driving around one feels pity for the street poles and electricity boxes draped with posters promising 'enlargement' of the muscle, for a fee off course. This even had a visiting American stand-up comedian remarking: 'I was surprised at seeing the posters. This is Africa! I thought you guys never had that problem'. Well it seems we do, and the most disturbing thing is that every time men get excited about their 'worm', 'snake', 'beast', 'man' or 'python' then everything else comes to a standstill. Fights are declared and friendships come to an end. A high school friend of mine, Lebo, can tell you. He learned the hard way when he commented on another friend who was negotiating watering arrangements with a tree. In his over joking self he commented about the guy ‘writing on the tree with his little pencil'. My, oh my, what followed next was a list of expletives that made the good ole Chief from Ulundi's expletive filled rant some baby talk. All this happened after we've had a nice lunch as friends and were discussing the coming weekend’s escapades. What went wrong, after all the comment was made in jest! What was the fuss about?
Coming back to the Zapiro caricature, I was not surprised when Jackson, Blade and their friend started issuing statements, that sounded like political discussion documents, criticizing the caricature. All of a sudden it looked like we were back to the infamous Murray’s 'Spear' moment. Men and their muscle, jeez!
The country was faced with a crisis of an education system failing thousands of children in up north, we prioritised the classification of a painting as nudity whilst youngsters can freely download and share pornographic material using their phones. As we speak there are communities without clean drinking water (if at all they have water) and here we are again trying to entertain a drawing of a male reproductive muscle. Half of the population is sitting idle without jobs, young people are hopeless with and without qualifications alike and the only thing we think of is to call them to wake up and come march against a piece of art? Man, do we have our priorities set up straight. It really is true, some men at times to tend to think with another organ of the body.
Frankly I don't care about Zapiro's drawing, what I am concerned about is understanding how the national agenda can be shifted from delivering promised services to people to being about a piece of muscle? If we care much about the muscle to make it a national agenda can't we at least discuss about the initiates who are dying in their quest for 'manhood'. At least we will still discussing the object of many men's obsession.
I voiced my frustration about this shifting of the national agenda to a female colleague and her response got me laughing. Growing up her mother had always told her and her friends that men who profess endowment were often hiding their shortcoming elsewhere. Could this be the case with us as a country, are we hiding our shortfall at addressing bread and butter issues behind caricatures and artworks?
Well throw the Das Kapital at me or engage with me "robustly" about my perceived lack of understanding but just like my childhood friend Lebo I have found out that the small matter of the muscle can change the agenda of a nation much to its detriment. Come to think of it, perhaps we should send the muscle to school without textbooks and then, only then will we shift the focus to provision of textbooks and other services to the communities that voted for and awaiting such.