Should you be judged by your friends?

A friend of mine landed a huge new job last week at work and we went out on the town to celebrate her accomplishment. I was basking in her glory so much I could have put up a neon sign above her head, flashing “she’s with me”. I was proud of her and was happy to be seen in her company. But what if my friend had instead been the subject of a serious criminal investigation? Would I be as happy to be seen celebrating with her in public? Thankfully I am yet to test this, and between you and I, I hope it stays that way. 

But a few of our political figures are under scrutiny for some of their more dubious liaisons. We can all agree it’s okay to have a girlfriend who was a mule and is incarcerated in a Swiss prison, right? I mean, stuff happens. Right? But when you lie to your boss, who just so happens to be the president of the country, and use state resources to visit said (convicted) drug mule in a Swiss prison, at a staggering cost to tax payers, you’re taking your friendships too far.  

Sometimes your friends choose you, and sometimes you choose them. Some of today’s best friends were yesterday’s enemies, or worse, vice versa. For better or worse, the vast majority of friendships have an expiry date. So, if your friend was to be charged with a major crime, would you stop being friends with them because of how it might reflect on you? Or would you dig in your heels and put your loyalty forward, a ’la “He’s my friend, finish and klaar”? And if you support your friend through a major charge, is it fair for people to paint you with the same brush, judging you guilty by association? 

If I were to be judged by the smorgasbord of characters I call my friends, you might conclude that I’m eccentric, a lover of the arts, well travelled and fun with political ideals that tend to lean more towards the left. On the other hand, you might think that I’m a lazy ideologist with too many opinions. So really, what do your friends really say about you? 

I’d like to think that I’m open minded enough that some of my friends also abide by values that I may fundamentally disagree with. There’s something unappealing about exclusively hanging out with people who never disagree with you, where our entire world outlook and belief system are exactly the same. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by people who are smarter than me and can teach me more than a thing or two, cause I know I can hold my own when necessary. 

As we head up to what promises to another bruising round of elections in 2012, watch carefully how politicians of all parties calculate and make their moves in the next few months. The shenanigans have begun, with the media being willing accessories to the inevitable conniving, backstabbing fest that is inevitable. 

So what does the company you keep say about you? Everything, and apparently nothing. South Africans have short memories, and soldiers who were pointing guns at each other not too long ago are now openly sharing cigars while slapping each other in the back.  But your BFF could very well turn out to be a nightmare down the line, and the way things are going, today’s top dog is never far from being the dog’s breakfast tomorrow. 

So to paraphrase an old adage, be careful who pick as friends on your way up, cause you have no idea who you might need on your way down.

Kgomotso Matsunyane is the host of “Late Night with Kgomotso” on SABC2.  She is a partner at TOM Pictures, an award winning T.V. & Film Production Company in Jo’burg.  You can follow her on twitter @MotsoMatsu. 
 
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