The Soap Opera

Anyone raised in a black South African township will probably agree that suppertime does not involve any dining tables, and almost always means sitting around the television set in the evenings watching some kind of television show whilst stuffing yourself silly with whatever your mother cooked. I come from such a family, and this habit has been so religious that lying around in front of the television set consuming tons of emotional and dramatic nonsense with advertisements in between has become a tradition. As a matter of fact, the best way to recognize a member of my family is by looking for reddened eyes with bags under them – the signature trait of any person who is addicted to staring at the television screen all day. However, there is something about the television that has since remained etched into the back of my mind. Anyone who is familiar with the South African Broadcasting Corporation – more commonly known as the SABC – is also bound to be aware of such television shows as Generations and Isidingo. It is from these television shows that I have since adapted, honed and enhanced all the little foibles that are responsible for what I believe makes me unique. Much like a number of young and ambitious people who start off in places like Soweto, my source of ambition and inspiration has always been external. The SABC has therefore given me a template upon which to develop my social persona. I am sure that the intention of the SABC might have just merely been to provide the masses of South Africans with adequate, fair, unbiased quality entertainment, however I doubt they realized that I was part of those masses of people who still continue to consume the content of the soap operas that they broadcast.

It is interesting to note however that while the soap opera is extremely popular with South African audiences, poetry, plays, literature, performing arts and visual arts plays little but a role in the daily lives of many. It is almost as if people do not realize that art represents the conscience of a society at a specific place in time. Art is meant to mirror the behavior of the human population and create a parody of it; a sort of canvas upon which the essence of the human condition can be painted and showcased to the rest of the world. This is how the foolishness of politicians becomes apparent to the masses. In addition, this is how the masses become aware of their conscious and unconscious perpetuation of prejudices and ill behavior. It is for these reasons, that the undermining of the arts for the sake of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine in South Africa is so unfortunate because it denies the South African population the opportunity to have a filter by which to assess its conscience. This casts a shadow over the humanity of this nation. This is probably the reason why I have become so accustomed to studying mechanical engineering without ever considering the HUMAN aspect of who I am. This is also the reason why I believe that anyone studying engineering does become, in part, a machine, when they should not be. I find this all slightly ironic because the medium of the soap opera was inspired by a man who has attracted a lot of controversy to his name for generations. Some people call him prolific, others an artist whilst others simply hate the fact that they had to be taught about any of the things that he did purely because they hated school. Whatever your association with this man is, there is no denying that he has immortalized himself into the history books. I know this man by no other name besides William Shakespeare and he rose to prominence in my mind when I first read Romeo and Juliet.

William Shakespeare was definitely a man who my colleagues and I loved to hate when I was still in high school. Spending time having critical and philosophical discussions about his contributions to globally accepted westernised culture was a pastime of mine. However, when it came to the business of writing formal reports that contributed to my grades for English Literature, my motivation did dwindle quite substantially. Much like anyone else who has been to school, homework becomes the enemy; a sort of thief that sneaks into your life to steal all the valuable time you would rather spend playing GranTurismo. About the only reason why I have ever tolerated anything that related to the schooling system was because going through that system has always had and continues to have some aspect of value, which I believe can contribute greatly to the future that I plan to live. This high school experience culminated in one moment where I began to believe that with my knowledge of Shakespeare, I could be chivalrous enough to get the girl of my romantic desires to see me in the same way that I saw her. I continue to believe this is the ONLY reason why any lovestruck, infatuated teenage boy would ever read about romance. Needless to say, the girl of my romantic desires had her eyes set on some random boy from the athletics team, and I was left behind with my chivalry and the work of a playwright who has been dead for longer than the existence of my family tree. However, I soon began to recognize the value of what remained from that play in the word Juliet when it led to my discovery of the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Sprint.

Giulietta is a term that derives its inspiration from that very famous Shakespearean play set in Verona, Italy. As a matter of fact, Giulietta is the Italian version of the word Juliet; a name that has now christened one of many Alfa-Romeos, which have captured my attention. This is the attention of a millennial – someone who thinks waiting for ten minutes for a song to come to an end is an eternity. However, since my early years of puberty, I believe that some maturity has managed to find a way to firmly plant itself into my mind. It is from this millennial evolution of mine that I have come to realize just how resoundingly true the fact that patience is a virtue actually is. I have therefore slowed down considerably since then, and I appreciate every moment of the life that I believe fate has chosen for me to live. I cannot help but imagine that this new mindset that I have gone about embracing is not very different from how life used to be approximately sixty years ago. I am certain that if I had to travel back in time to that moment in 1954 when this car made its debut, my state of mind would have been more than welcomed. There is an honesty and a simplicity I adore about the cars that were built before my birth. There definitely are grounds for respecting anybody who had the capacity to drive such cars with intent and immense skill. The reason for this is simple – cars today are becoming increasingly interactive – doing anything and everything that a driver would require. Think of this ability as having a butler on wheels, which used to be a thought that could only be shared by a privileged few. However, the advent of technology and competitive pressure due to capitalism has reached levels where the gap between rich and less-affluent car owners is being slowly bridged. It is now possible to purchase a Kia Rio with the same ability to connect to your phone or navigate you to whichever destination you wish to see as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Sprint represents a time when a car was nothing more than four wheels stuck on the ends of a handful of seats; where the only thing standing between you seeing the dawn of a new tomorrow and the sunset of your coffin was the ability to command a machine with the will of your feet and the strength of your hands. This is a time that has long since passed, and the world is lesser for it.

10 thoughts on “The Soap Opera

  1. I date closer to the Giulietta’s birth than that of a millennial. Iit was worth my attention span to see you arrive at this description:
    “The Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Sprint represents a time when a car was nothing more than four wheels stuck on the ends of a handful of seats; [providing] the ability to command a machine with the will of your feet and the strength of your hands.”

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    1. I believe the description was appropriate considering that advances in vehicle safety have long improved since then. If you take the time to consider that while the Giulietta Sprint is magnificent to behold, it was a car that had no airbags. As such, anyone who would have driven one during its era would have had to come to terms with the likelihood of death whilst at the wheel – far more than anyone would ever think about in the cars of today. With regards to the comment on the feet and hands, power steering and ABS were still relatively new concepts at the time. The Chrysler Corporation only started fitting power steering to their cars in 1951 and during the 1950s, ABS was only ever seen on aircraft. ABS only started making its way into production cars during the 1960s, which is a testament to the strength and will that would have been necessary to take command of this beautiful machine.

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  2. Hi – Thank you for following my blog. I hope you will gain some pleasure from it. Like your ideas – keep up the good work Des.

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