For narcissists, there is no worse insult than being laughed at.
The past few weeks offered three teachable moments, and profound contrasts, to those deservedly being laughed at and when public ridicule is misplaced.
The first is US President Donald Trump, who habitually invites laughter and deserves it.
Trump triggered raucous chuckles when he boasted about, and embellished, his “administration’s accomplishments” to bemused world leaders huddled for the recent UN General Assembly plenary.
In Trump’s warped mind, his tower of accomplishments includes: advancing isolationist policies that threaten world order and peace; nixing longstanding global trade and other treaties; subordinating US interests to Russia’s; and being played by a Korean leader he once ridiculed as the “little rocket man”.
Laughing at Trump, in his face, as he paradoxically berated multilateralism while hosting the UN, would ordinarily make for compelling TV were it not for the peril it spells for humanity.
Contrast Trump’s smirk on inviting further ignominy with the following, second, scenario.
Two days earlier, golf fans were delirious with joy as Tiger Woods finally overcame decades-old ridicule and adversity.
Woods changed the expectations and limits of what was thought humanly possible in professional golf. The rest, as they say, is history.
With the world his oyster, Woods, who was then five major championship wins shy of tying the 18 majors record held by Jack Nicklaus, was caught putting on greens other than his matrimonial hallowed turf.
The golfing legend was rightly called out for his infidelities.
Woods’ contrition and efforts at salvaging his troubled marriage failed. Since 2008, when Woods famously won the US Open on a broken foot, his woes, which can be traced back to when his mentor and father Earl died in 2006, didn’t end with his divorce in 2010.
Wisely, Woods retreated from the public eye as he worked on fixing his game and personal life. Woods emerged a more perceptive, engaging and humble person after his painful ordeal.
No one wants to fall. This includes the once-venerated liberation organisation, the ANC, the hubris if which drove South Africa perilously to the brink of the abyss.
The Washington Post sports columnist Tom Boswell’s perspective on Woods’ redemption offers weighty lessons for the beleaguered, narcissistic ANC.
Not only has the ANC become the laughing stock of local politics but, in the past decade, the ANC has turned this once-promising nation into the laughing stock of the civilised world too.
In his piece Boswell eloquently posited thus: “On Sunday Tiger rose. It has taken 10 years, but finally everyone, or almost everyone, understands that what distinguishes Woods, what has brought him some dignity — and finally a great deal of it — is his will to get back up after all his falls.
“Who ever imagined that we would see ourselves in Tiger’s struggles, in his humiliations and often futile comebacks, or that he, fighting back tears as he walked up an 18th fairway, listening to the crowd roar, would finally see himself in us, too?”
The parallels and contrasts between Woods’ journey and the beleaguered ANC are profound.
Whereas Woods once had the golfing world as his oyster, so did the governing ANC enjoy unfettered hegemony over local politics until the party lost its soul.
To put it mildly, the ANC is in disarray. Its political acumen and moral rectitude have atrophied.
If losing once-secure metros during local government elections be the electoral equivalence of being laughed at, then there’s potentially plenty of laughter awaiting the arrogant and unrepentant ANC next year.
Unlike Woods, the ANC fails to reckon with the consequences of its wayward conduct. The party preaches, but fails to overhaul bad habits and improve its disastrous methods.
Despite losing the earlier advantage of a young, limber body and a free-flowing swing that was the envy of his peers, Woods’ preternaturally calm demeanour, predisposition to consequence management, atonement and rediscovered hunger to succeed helped him to overcome adversity.
Whereas the free world laughed with us during the Nelson Mandela halcyon days, the ANC has lost its earlier advantages and the allure of Madiba’s stewardship.
Despite promises to renew itself and atone for ravaging our political economy, the ANC seems resigned to being a hive of venality.
How else would one explain the ANC’s disbanding of its North West provincial leadership only for it to enlist sacked former provincial leader Supra Mahumapelo in the provincial interim task team?
Still reeling from recent reports alleging a plot to oust its president, yet another die of ridicule was cast when Mahumapelo resigned from the interim structure.
Like Trump, the ANC seems predisposed to inviting scorn on self and incapable of “self-correcting”.
The ANC’s fall from grace and continued disarray have permanently altered its spirit and character.
As former president Kgalema Motlanthe once opined, the current ANC might first have to die so it can rise and redeem itself.
What will distinguish the ANC from other failed African liberation movements could therefore lie in its ability to square up to its problems and political will to restore that most basic public belief in it: that it deserves to be trusted, again.
And when it does, the number of hands reaching out to help the once-hegemonic party of Mandela might even astound it.
For the bemused, laughter remains the best medicine.
Khaas is an amateur hole-in-one golfer. Follow him via Twitter @tebogokhaas