Prole power

2015-08-22 09:33

YOU knew straight away whom the Czar and Lenin and that lot were talking about when they referred to the Intelligentsia, say I to Godfrey. It’s a pity the word has fallen out of use. We-e-ell, says Godfrey to me, I dare say you might be right, in a manner of speaking, as it were.

But then again, says he, considering that most of us, those of us who have had the opportunity, indeed the privilege, that is, of a fulfilling education, most of us choose to develop the intellect to whatever capacity may be our lot, taking into consideration, of course, the blessings which evolution has bestowed upon us, metaphorically speaking, by virtue of hereditary genes, which is, in short, to say we make the most of the intellect we inherit from our intellectual forebears, from which it follows that I prefer the appellation ‘Intellectual Community’ to ‘Intelligentsia’, which word implies a certain sarcasm, a certain scorn, which Lenin too often displayed for educated persons according to his classification, a lamentable habit of Marxists, says Godfrey. What I am saying briefly, says he, is that as one studies people one realises that one cannot in any measure generalise about them according to class or category, each is her or his own individual. Says Godfrey. Ja, say I. A certain silence follows.

Godfrey, see, is one of such intelligentsia, he has majored in Hell of a Clever Thinking III at the University of Natal. Godfrey, say I, you lovely lad, it’s you I’m talking about, you stupid fool, it comes from living in a university and studying people, f’chrissakes. Tomorrow you will come with me to Port Shepstone where I am to do the Sardine Run half marathon. You can watch, also you can be a dead-ordinary dood-gewone citizen and see how you like it.

And we’re off! We’re twenty in a fourteen-seat taxi. Neither pick-pocket nor mugger could get at Godfrey’s shoe if he tried, where Godfrey has hidden his money. The fat woman on his right remarks on his blue eyes and invites him to remove his specs, please. He doesn’t mind, since the neat number on his left is also taking an interest in his eyes and we’re all crushed together nice and cosy on a nice cool day.

People in the front seats yell at the driver to slow down in the name of mercy, the Law, God, anything. The driver bares his teeth maniacally, he relishes his power over us his passengers, needs it. He accelerates. Muscular young men threaten to assault him. He accelerates.

The fat mama is about to pour for Godfrey a Thermos-top of coffee with a biscuit and the neat number is edging in for one too when a tyre sheds its retread entirely and collapses with a deafening flap and a roar rather than an explosion, so we only swerve about and make black marks all over the road rather than roll the taxi. Everybody screams. We pull up on the verge. The driver hauls out his jack and spare tyre. The muscular young men seize the spare and examine it. They examine the other three wheels too. ALL RETREADS! The driver declares that’s all he’s been given and climbs into his seat for a good sulk.

One of the musculars examines the legend on the driver’s door: Owner A. Mdlalose, it reads, with an Umlazi address and a couple of telephone numbers. He takes out his cellphone and clicks a number. He hands the phone to the driver and says ‘Here, tell Mr Mdlalose we’ve got his taxi and he won’t get it back before he comes here with four matching tyres and NO RETREADS!’

The driver is the hell in; he won’t let his passengers hear what he’s saying to his boss, he struts off into the long grass pretending to pee. He comes back enraged and slams the passenger door shut. The door falls off. The passengers seize the door and write on it with lipstick WE ARE ONE! TOGETHER WE WILL WIN! and lean it against a handy AA telephone post. Women hayisa, trill, others argue shrilly and wave their arms about and prod the driver with their fingers. Another fat mama hauls out one of those big cheap red, white and blue polypropylene bags and starts preparing food for her squad of grandchildren. Two thousand people go thumping and gasping along the road, following a motorcyclist with a video cameraman seated backwards on the pillion. Is that the …? says Godfrey. Yup! say I, the Sardine Run. Pity, says Godfrey. It is fate, say I, why don’t you phone your ma to come and fetch us home?

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