I learned a lot from my late grandmother. She was the one who taught me the art of hypochondria – and yes it is a craft. She taught me how to play poker but gave up on me, saying that she hoped that at least I would be “lucky in love.” But mostly she taught me that if one doesn’t to want to know something, then one simply should not ask.
We learned this the hard way. Early in my childhood it became clear to me that we were never to enquire after her health unless we had a decent amount of time, a basic medical knowledge and we were well versed on pharmaceutical interactions. And of course, unless we really wanted an answer, when truthfully, mostly, well, we didn’t. So, instead we would simply say. “Granny, you are looking fantastic today!” But she was smarter than us and in no time at all her response would be “You should only know how I feel!”
It was a lesson well worth learning and I am a little surprised that this very basic message isn’t something that others haven’t taken on board.
Ahead of South Africa’s now infamous State of the Nation address a few weeks ago, the President’s Office took to Twitter to ask the people of this blessed country what they would like to see the President address in his speech. It was a colossal failure as it essentially provided a platform for anyone with a gripe, to air it in a public and in uncontrolled manner. The President’s office created a singular area for anyone wanting to lambast or discredit the President and allowed quick search access for anyone wanting to see what others were unhappy about. What could his office have been thinking?
And then last week, in an attempt to reach out to their European support base, Hamas did the same thing. They launched a campaign on Twitter #AskHamas. And indeed people did. From asking difficult questions like “who answers your suicide prevention hotline?” “Now that Egypt recognises Hamas as a terrorist organisation and has blockaded Gaza, will you bomb them or just Jews?” “Are woman allowed to #askHamas?” “If a suicide bomber is gay, do you let him blow himself up or throw him off a 3 storey building?” “My wife wants to change my rocket launching room into a room for our stupid baby. How do I honour kill her?” And of course “Will you be publicly executing the person who came up with the #askHamas idea?”
According the Washington Post, 36,000 tweets were received in a single day, most of which lambasted Hamas for its misuse of donor funds – where they were used to build terror tunnels and not schools and hospitals, for their use of human shields in the conflict with Israel, for their human rights abuses, public executions, treatment of gays (illegal in Gaza) and violation of the rights of woman and children. It was a particularly foolish step for any organization, even a terrorist one. What could they have been thinking?
The answer can only be that they weren’t. That in the room (or bunker), where this unfortunate idea was conceived, there sat one strong and convincing bloke (unlikely it was a woman) who managed to bully the rest of the team into thinking that this would work. Because Europeans want to be able to communicate directly and not through the dastardly Western Press that were sufficiently pliable when in Gaza, but not from the moment they would exit. And everyone nodded their heads and was convinced that this was a superb idea; even though deep down I am certain that someone had their doubts. They had to have.
So it must have been with the South African State of the Nation Tweets. One can imagine some sycophant convincing the President that he is more popular than Jerry Springer (its still a big thing down South) and that it would be a fantastic opportunity to descend to the level of the masses and meander amongst the mortals. “They love you!” I can imagine this person saying. “No one will have a bad word to say”. “I guarantee it!”
We all construct our own reality. It’s how we survive the turbulent and frightening life we lead. But if we want to have any hope of preserving the carefully fabricated mirage that we have created for ourselves, like my grandmother should have taught us, its best not to put it to the test and most definitely there are times when it is best not to #Ask.