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Koos Kombuis

The majority isn't always right...

2013-04-10 15:42
According to a story on News 24, "tokeloshe salt" is making a comeback in Mpumalanga.

This mysterious substance, which sells at R5.99 per container, and which is designed to keep "tokeloshes" at bay - whatever that is - is apparently flying off the shelves.

This is truly mystifying. Why would people in Mpumalanga spend R5,99 on what is obviously a scam? For the same amount of money, they could buy a sizeable amount of mieliemeal with which to feed their whole family. Yet they choose to blow their hard-earned cash to ward off some imaginary monster.

This is one puzzling story. But, I have another one.

At the recent Absa KKNK festival, I participated in creating a play. Though I did not write it and though I had no final say in the production, I spent hours with the text writer and the cast to help get the concept off the ground. We were all pleasantly surprised when the play proved extremely popular. Soon, the cast of two were playing to packed audiences and sold-out halls.


Not only that, the emotional response of the public was overwhelming.

Then came the bombshell. A reviewer for the Oudtshoorn festival paper trashed it. He trashed the script, he trashed the story, and he trashed the leading male actor.

Of course, having been personally involved with the play, I could not trust myself to say, with authority, that the critic was wrong. For all I knew, the play might have had artistic flaws that none of us could see.

I told you these two stories, not to get back at the reviewer, but because they form the backdrop to a question I have been asking myself lately. It is perhaps the most difficult question I have ever asked myself. It is at least as difficult a question as the time I asked myself, at the age of eighteen, how to undo a girl's bra in the darkness of the back seat of a car with one hand while holding a beer in the other. I never did get a satisfactory answer to that one. I might never get an answer to this one either.

My burning question is: is there perhaps something fundamentally flawed with our concept of democracy?

Democracy is based on the assumption that the majority of people are always right. That is why, when the majority of people vote for a certain political party, that party gets to rule a country until they make a mess of things and gets voted out. That's how the theory goes. Fair enough.

But apply this to, say, Afrikaans music. The vast majority of Afrikaans music lovers prefer singers like Bobby van Jaarsveld and Kurt Darren to, say, Rikku Latti or Jan Blohm. No personal insult intended to either Bobby or Kurt, but any person knowledgeable about music would be able to tell you that the music of Rikku Latti and Jan Blohm is far superior than most Afrikaans music, including my own.

Yet, if democracy is to be believed, people like Bobby and Kurt are among the best musicians in Afrikaans. Finish en klaar. No further questions asked.

Tokeloshes don't exist

Take another example. I know, and most of you know, that homosexuality is simply a sexual preference. It is not a disease, nor is it a sin, nor is it a sign of a bad character or of moral decay. Try telling that to thirteen million Zambians who believe otherwise.

Get my point?

Perhaps this is what the author of that damning review felt like when he attended our play. Quite possibly, he felt himself surrounded by morons. Yet, whether he was right or not, it was his right and also his duty towards himself to express his minority opinion.

I don't like the ANC. In terms of the country as a whole, it is a minority opinion, but it is an opinion to which I'm entitled to.
Am I right, or are they right? Political opinions are subjective, after all, aren't they?

There is one thing I DO know objectively, though, and it is this: Tokeloshes don't exist. And even if the majority of people believe they do, they still won't exist.

Yet these very same people who cling to their belief in the tokeloshe are very likely the same people who believe that a vote for the ANC is the only right option for South Africa.

Indeed: there are times when democracy sounds the best thing mankind has ever invented. There are times, however - Germany in the thirties, to cite an example - when democracy can create monsters. Real monsters, not imaginary ones like the tokeloshe.

So what do we do? Throw democracy out the window? To replace it with… what?

That's exactly the problem: No-one's ever been able to come up with anything better…

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