/ 7 January 2016

The hashtags cometh: Must-have #MustFalls for 2016

The statue of Cecil John Rhodes did not fall
The statue of Cecil John Rhodes did not fall

The random and generic use of the MustFall hashtag
It all began with Cecil John Rhodes, who, in the end, did not quite fall, but was gently hoisted by a crane and deposited in a safe space. Then #MustFall was attached to the broader campaign to transform South African universities and remove the financial barriers to ­tertiary education.

Now, suddenly, Everything Must Fall, from Jacob Zuma to rain to supermarket prices to whomsoever the Springboks or the Proteas are battling against this week. Enough, we say. Find a hashtag of your own to pin your hopes on.

In the modern world, after all, the rallying cry of “Must Fall” goes as far back as the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, although that was in German and it was accompanied by the application of pickaxes and hammers, rather than hashtags.

Albert Einstein, bemoaning humanity’s propensity to obliterate itself with ever more sophisticated weapons, once predicted that the fourth world war would be fought with sticks and stones. He was wrong. It will be fought with tweets.

People who lose wars on Twitter always complain that 140 characters are not enough, which is a pretty weak excuse when you consider that the entire universe can fit into E=mc2.

A good twar, with its staccato volleys of invective and indignation, escalating swiftly from logical fallacies into schoolyard taunts, can be perversely entertaining for the noncombatant.

But in the end, you are always left with the sour and hollow sensation that humanity does not deserve the miraculous technologies that are designed to improve our lives and make the world a better place. Come on, people. Make love, not twar.

The quaint and curious notion that the president must be recalled
A far likelier proposition, in aeons to come, is that the president will be quietly and conveniently forgotten. What was his name again?

The celebrity unpology
Step 1: Commit an act of indiscretion or stupidity that would have gone unnoticed had you not been famous and adored.

Step 2: Lay low for a while, in the hope that the storm will blow over.

Step 3: In the midst of the howling hurricane, look for something upright and immovable to hold on to, such as a lamppost or a lawyer.

Step 4: Get your lawyer to crochet an unpology for you, a statement of public remorse that is so riddled with loopholes that you could stick it on a table and use it as a doily.

Step 5: Post to social media.

Too much caffeine? DJ Black Coffee made an unpology. (Vathiswa Ruselo, Gallo)

A benchmark example of this form was: “I am inclined to express my deepest regrets,” by DJ Black Coffee after he was caught breaking the sound barrier in his Maserati. Must have been all those black coffees.

Passive-aggressive press statements from the presidency
“We have noted”, they invariably begin, setting a tone that plunges you straight back into the principal’s office, where you know you are in for a good talking-to as you gaze down at your shoes.

Then they haughtily dismiss the latest round of rumour, speculation and innuendo, leaving you all the more convinced that what you have heard and read is true.

But the real question is why, in the 21st century, the office of the president feels the need to channel its commentary through a cabal of media workers whose inboxes are already overflowing with bluster and bumf. Just munch a screenshot and post to Twitter and Facebook, please, and we will duly note for ourselves.

The phrase ‘I can’t even’
Yes, you can even. Yes, even you can. Throughout history, against the greatest of odds, people have managed to rise above their circumstances, confront their greatest fears and “even”. Give it a try.

Even if all you manage to accomplish is the banishment of this listless, self-defeating phrase from your personal lexicon, a small part of humanity will be forever grateful. Thank you, and good evening.

Invisible cellular bandwidth vampires
Everyone knows that the cellular network service providers siphon off your data bundles while you sleep, recycle them and sell them to build new office parks or pay their international operating fines.

Either that or you really need to cut down on all the data you’re using to complain to your network about the rate at which your data is disappearing.

Millions of like-years ago, Facebook was invented by Mark Zuckerberg and associates as a sneaky way for socially awkward undergrads to rank the hotness or notness of their co-ed fellows at Harvard. It’s certainly come a long way downhill since then.

South Africans love to make fools of themselves on Facebook.

Only the brave and foolhardy rush into Facebook these days, while the rest of us cower in wait for the latest reports from under the rock. To be fair, Facebook is merely a ­facilitator for the hatred, fear and ignorance that dwell in people’s hearts, but maybe it’s time for Zuckerberg to hack a new algorithm into the interface.

“Hi, it looks like you’re about to post a horribly racist status update. Do you REALLY want to lose your job, be subject to possible civil and criminal action, and be a social media case study for the rest of your life? Press YES/NO before you submit. Thank you, and have a nice day!”

Big-number innumeracy
It is a well-known fact that South Africans are among the worst performers in the world when it comes to basic mathematical functionality.

You can see the proof whenever the red-shirted Economic Freedom Fighters hold a march and the media try in vain to estimate how many zeroes pitched up.

Counting the Economic Freedom Fighters is not easy for mathematically challenged South Africans. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

This is why we should be grateful that the government is planning to spend R1 000 000 000 000 on the nuclear power deal with the Russians, assuming that there are, in fact, a dozen noughts in a trillion. Either way, someone has to do the counting and someone else, the paying. Do the maths.

Sorry, but if your idea of “smoking” is sucking elegantly on a solution of atomised propylene glycol through a USB-charged electronic cigarette, then you shouldn’t be allowed to share in the only known health benefit of smoking, which is standing in the fresh air with your buddies outside the office before work.

Beware the second-hand smugness of vapers and their electronic cigarettes. (Mohd Rasfan, AFP)

Please form a separate cluster on the far side of the building and stop trying to assure the rest of us that your habit is safe, because the dangers of second-hand smugness are not to be underestimated.

The great divide between science fiction and science reality has rarely been more poignantly illustrated than in the contrast between Michael J Fox swooping down the sidewalk on a skateboard with no visible means of support, and battery-operated hoverboards spontaneously combusting in a shopping mall.

Hoverboards will lead to some pratfalls in the coming year.

At least Segways serve a purpose, which is to allow security guards to lean into the wind and comically give chase to shoplifters. Hoverboards, on the other hand, serve only to remind us that some people will fall for anything, and that the future of our dreams isn’t what it used to be.

Dietary fascism
Not since the well-documented case of Jack Sprat, who could eat no fat, and his wife, who could eat no lean, have so many people made it their business to tell us what we need to do to lick the platter clean.

Down with dietary fascists who tell us what to eat.

The unpalatable truth is nobody really cares what you had for breakfast, brunch, lunch, supper or your mid-morning, mid-afternoon and midnight snack, unless you can attach it to Instagram and make it look delicious. Bon appétit, and don’t forget to eat your vegetables.

Wallowing in doom and gloom about the future of our nation
The good news, whatever you may read in the newspapers or on social media, is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even better, it’s not the light of an oncoming train.

This we know for sure because research confirms that due to a mix-up in the tendering and ordering process, the train is too tall to fit into the tunnel.

Shine on, rise up and have yourself the best of all possible 2016s!