This story centres on a political party called the ANC in a country called South Africa, which can be found at the bottom of the African continent. (Africa is a continent and not a country).
It takes place between two provinces – Gauteng and the Western Cape – which is further down south.
The ANC has long been the ruling party in a democratic South Africa.
In recent times, the ANC found itself being lead by a well-loved (mostly by the party’s members) leader, who’s main skills included corruption and scandal. These were sought after skills, and many party members mimicked them.
The ruling party found a home and support base in Gauteng. But a two-hour plane ride away, there lay a land foreign to them. Despised even.
This was the Western Cape, which was ruled by the Democratic Alliance. Another political party, a true opposition.
Many a time, members and leaders of the parties engaged in verbal duels.
The DA was a proud organisation. Their pride often got in the way of several injustices and inequalities, which infected their territory.
The ANC was quick to point these out. Their word-slaying was not without mischief and purpose – they were hungry for a piece of the Western Cape pie.
These contradictions and contrasts become evident in the opening paragraph to this book.
Below is the introduction, which we will look into, line by line, to illustrate its importance and significance, and to identify the relevance of this introduction to the story.
The introduction reads:
It was the best of times because there was a birthday party, it was the worst of times because there was a political party called the ANC.
It was the age of wisdom – but you had to look very hard to find it. It was the age of foolishness – this was more obvious. It was the season of light (but not in the enlightening sense but because it was January in South Africa, and really warm and sunny), it was the season of darkness (dimwittedness).
It was the spring of despair and the winter of hope. We had everything before us (like empty promises) and we had nothing before us (like the lack of fulfilment of those empty promises, or the abuse of taxpayers money, or corruption or any kind of general thievery practiced by those in power, who abuse said power).
The DA thought it was going directly to heaven; the ANC, they (DA) thought, was going to hell.
In short, the period was consistent with the current period. The period is now.
Some of its noisiest authorities insist on it being received, without care for whether it is good or bad, in the superlative degree of comparison only (like pre-Jacob Zuma).
“It was the best of times because there was a birthday party”:
The ANC would travel to those southern shores to celebrate their birthday party as they turned 103 ripe years old at Cape Town stadium.
The party paid large amounts of money (R2.2-million plus an additional R130 000) to secure the use of the stadium.
Over and above that, more money would be spent on accommodation, food, beverages and the upkeep of an ANC lavish lifestyle.
You can imagine, this time was indeed the best, for the ANC.
“It was the worst of times because there was a political party called the ANC and a political party called the DA”:
The country was feeling a bit downtrodden and defeated because of the party’s poor leadership.
It really was the worst of times – and by times we mean a bunch of Zuma years.
It was also the worst of times, specifically around the time of these celebrations, because the ANC would enter DA territory.
The DA was not pleased and made the organisation of the event incredibly difficult, resulting in the ANC’s secretary general lambasting the DA and saying it had imposed “draconian measures” on the ruling party.
He also blasted the DA for imposing conditions on how the ruling party would hold its celebrations.
“It was the age of wisdom – but you had to look very hard to find it, it was the age of foolishness – this was more obvious”:
We suspect the author wrote this line for effect. When one reads the rest of the story there is no wisdom to be found.
Literary specialists the world round are still trying to uncover any signs of wisdom that may (or may not) have existed during the time in which this story was written.
As for the latter part of the sentence, which refers to foolishness, it is self-evident. Even just in the SparkNotes of this intro alone.
“It was the season of light (but not in the enlightening sense, but because it was January in South Africa, and really warm and sunny), it was the season of darkness (and by this I do mean dimwittedness)”:
The celebration was to take place in the first month of the year 2015.
A hot month in South Africa. The country was full of sun and light but not enlightenment (for clarity please refer to the previous explanations about the lack of wisdom).
The darkness, however, refers to perpetual bad decisions and limited introspection on the part of the ANC – the need for a massive celebration despite soothsayers recently declaring the party broke (no money in the bank).
“It was the spring of despair and the winter of hope. We had everything before us (like empty promises) and we had nothing before us (like the lack of fulfilment of those empty promises, or the abuse of taxpayers money, or corruption or any kind of general thievery practiced by those in power, who abuse said power).”:
The author takes contrast to a whole new level here.
Just read that sentence, over and over again. It’s genius. We don’t want to ruin it by stealing from it with a massive description. It is what it is. And as for the “times” it was true.
“The DA thought it was going directly to heaven, the ANC, they (DA) thought, was going to hell”:
These people – on either side – must not think. The author repetitively makes reference to the lack of intelligent thought. His end game is this; if you can’t think, don’t.
Finally, the last few lines of the powerful introduction stand together and make a pointed statement.
“In short, the period was consistent with the current period. The period is now. Some of its noisiest authorities insist on it being received, without care for whether it is good or bad”:
The author is making clear the foolish stance of both parties here by using this specific event to signify a bigger period. A current period. Now.
The birthday bash, the conflict, the ignorance is just a metaphor and a small reflection of a bigger and self-perpetuating problem.
We don’t want to ruin the end of the story for you. There are some pages yet to be written. Subscribe to us for more updates and explanations as this story unravels.
This satire is based on the introduction to Charles Dickens book A Tale of Two Cities.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”