OPINION

Götterdämmerung SA-style

Jeremy Gordin |

10 February 2022

Jeremy Gordin asks what unifying call to arms the President can make at a time like this?

Last week readers might have noticed that I evinced a modicum of sympathy for alleged parliamentary arsonist Zandile Christmas Mafe, whom a district surgeon diagnosed as suffering from a type of “schizophrenia” – generally defined as a “mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements” [i].

The reason for my empathy is that there exists a (mostly) hidden part of me, a part that in moments of weakness and vulnerability plunges me helplessly into embracing inter alia political correctness, virtue signalling, leftist gobbledygook, and – above all – pseudo-intellectuality.

I mention this by way of explaining that, when I am in such a (fugue?) state, I would not, for example, publicly admit to having thoroughly enjoyed an apparently shallow recreational movie such as Thor: Ragnarok, a 2017 American superhero film about Marvel Comics character Thor, produced by Marvel Studios, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

But the real me loved it – especially because of (what real intemellectuals might term) the “leavening humour” of a minor character named Korg – an eight-foot tall Kronan warrior made of stone (as Kronans are [ii]), who is “played” (or “voiced”) by director Taika Waititi [iii].

Waititi had said he “wanted to do something different [in this movie],” and this he did by having the ostensibly menacing Korg being softly spoken and self-deprecating in an accent based, said Waititi, on that (or those) of “Polynesian bouncers”. Apparently, Polynesian males, generally being large albeit kind fellows, often find work playing rugby or being bouncers. So, as those who’ve watched the movie know, scary-looking Korg is quietly spoken and hilarious in what to most of us seems a Kiwi accent.

Who can forget the moment when Thor asks Korg, “How did you end up here [fighting in a gladiatorial arena]?” And Korg explains: “I tried to start a revolution… but I didn’t print enough pamphlets so hardly anyone turned up. Except for my mum [iv] and her boyfriend, who I hate. As punishment, I was forced to be in here and become a gladiator. Bit of a promotional disaster that one, but I’m actually organizing another revolution. I don’t know if you’d be interested in something like that. Do you reckon you’d be interested?” (Well, maybe you had to be there, so to speak.)

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In case I’ve lost you, my point (or one of them) is that the movie is (nominally) about Ragnarök, which is Old Norse for “Doom of the Gods”. In Scandinavian mythology, it is that moment when the world of gods and men will implode and explode. Giants and demons approaching from all points of the compass will attack the gods, who will face them and die.

I.e., it’s classic end of the world stuff – so for people like Waititi, me, and I hope others, there must be some funny stuff. If you think about it, laughing in the face of cataclysmic disaster is one of the few things we humans do well, probably better than any other species.

Now then – sorry (again) I’ve taken so long to get here – on recent mornings, following the publication of RW Johnson’s incisive “South Africa’s very own Reichstag fire”, I have woken up with the word Götterdämmerung in my mind and on the tip of my tongue. As you probably know, Götterdämmerung literally means “twilight of the gods” and it is a direct translation into German of Ragnarök and used to describe situations of world-altering destruction marked by extreme chaos and violence. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

No great mystery, you might say. Even though I seldom dream in German, and never listen to Richard Wagner (the last of his cycle of four music dramas is called “Götterdämmerung”), the word “Reichstag,” which has frightening connotations for me, doubtless led my unconscious to “Götterdämmerung”.