The F-word: Attention all attention seekers

2012-09-01 10:53

The term “attention seekers” has not been far from the lips when discussing Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s Tony Blair posturing, or artist Ayanda Mabulu’s painting of President Jacob Zuma that is now trending, or the ever effervescent statements of Julius Malema.

It was not as if former British Prime Minister Tony Blair dropped in unannounced.

The organisers of the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit advertised it for months.

Tutu could, and should, have announced his unhappiness with sharing space with Blair as soon as it was known he would have to.

By going on a Malema-style last minute moral drive, Tutu appeared as a man with more of a desire for maximum publicity than one inspired by deep conviction.

It was a made-for-the-media event.

So perfect was the Arch’s timing it could be said he missed his true calling. Perhaps the pulpit’s gain was spin doctoring’s loss.
Perhaps he did not intend it that way and merely suffered a late attack of conscience.

If that is the case, it is acceptable, but he must say so.

As a man of godly scriptures the Arch knows too well that it is never too late to repent and turn against one’s old ways.

I have no doubt Mabulu was inspired by more than art for art’s sake when he put together the piece of Zuma showing his penis.

But after the excitement caused by The Spear, there was no way this would pass without more buzz.

Having said all this, I’d rather we had more people like Tutu, Mabulu and Malema than less.

We need more attention seekers.

South Africa needs fewer shy people and more boldness.

It does not matter what they stand for as long as they contribute to a culture of speaking their minds about what affects their communities, local municipalities, country or leaders.

The problem in South Africa is there are far too many who choose to stay under the radar “doing their own thing”.

We are increasingly becoming a nation of indifferent people who think politics is for politicians rather than being about us and our children’s futures.

Too often the impression is created that it is white South Africans who have chosen to disengage.
It is the educated and middle classes across the colour line who, because they can afford to pay for private services ordinarily paid for by the state, do their best to avoid “attention”.

They stand for nothing. They raise their voices against nothing. Their anger at e-tolls was an aberration.

They are always ready to send a secret message of support to the “brave” but would deny their own heroes and principles if they happened to contradict those of the powerful in their midst.

Land of the free, home of the brave we certainly are not.

In a land replete with cowardice and self-preservation, it is refreshing to have individuals like Tutu and Mabulu, the Lindiwe Mazibukos and Mazibuko Jaras, who are willing to risk the ire, loneliness and ridicule of the many because they stand for something.

Inevitably, it is us who stand for nothing, or who are not able to say in public what we stand for, who are the first to criticise them.

And often the best we can come up with is that they are attention seekers.

Of course, labelling others attention seekers is easier than having to think about what they say or stand for.

It is safe too.

Other than the might of others, cowards live in fear of new ideas that could demand they change their ways.

They would rather settle for recitations and slogans without reflecting on them – be it in places of worship, work or at the branch, if they do decide to join a political party.

A lot demands our attention.

Had it not been for attention seekers who took government to court over undelivered textbooks or who demanded the state provide ARVs for those living with HIV, but could not afford treatment, who knows where we would be.

»Follow me on Twitter @fikelelo

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