Rocking the popularity contest

10 Nov
I'm going to admit two things upfront: this post has very little to do with theatre or writing, it is firmly in the 'and stuff' category; and this post is undeniably a rant - not an attempt at a well-constructed argument.

So, if you're still with me, here goes. I have gone from being bewildered to being pissed off about this whole "vote 4 Table Mountain" business.

Here’s a quick trip down memory lane. The original “Seven Wonders of the World” was a marketing campaign to Hellenic tourists traveling around the Meditteranean. They chose seven because it was considered a lucky number. There were several different lists, but consensus seems to have the seven wonders as: the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

During the Middle Ages people made more lists. Lots of lists. One thing these lists all have in common, is that they were lists of Things Humans Made. We were expressing our wonderment at our own skill, essentially. Such a very human thing to do.

It comes as no wonder then that modern minds have sought to exploit this idea. There are even more lists of wonders now, ranging from the opinions of individuals to the contest currently underway.

So. Let’s assume, for a second, that it’s worth making another list of wonders. I can accept that – most of the ancient wonders don’t exist, why should we trust the Greeks, tastes change, new things have come to be, people are traveling more and more widely now than then.

We then have to assume that none of the current lists are good enough. That’s a pretty large slap in the face to the people who curate them, but we can understand the human urge to “do it better”.

And let’s go with the callous disregard for the fact that Wonder with a capital W is defined as a human made marvel, regarded with awe. Let’s ditch all that, keep the name, and make an entirely new list. Because, clearly, your list is going to be the one that makes people leap out of their seats and scream “I was going to go to Paris, but now that it’s number five on the list I’m going to honeymoon at the Dead Sea instead!”

I’ll take those as read. Now, here are my questions:

1. WHY THE POPULARITY CONTEST? I know people whine about this for shows like Idols, but at least an argument can be made that part of being a popstar (the clue is in the name) is being popular. When did it become part of the job description of a mountain to be popular? And Table Mountain is just the tip of the iceberg. Can we take  a second to marvel at the conceptual complexity of the campaign currently underway called “Vote Dead Sea!”?

2. WHY ALL THE EXPENSE? Where is all the money going? Why the emphasis on voting via sms? Why did the organisers have to come and physically see the mountain? And then there is this article, detailing the millions spent and the millions potentially still to be spent on this lunacy. Do we need to be spending so much on this? Honestly, Table Mountain is already fairly famous. Since they openly admit that their contest is completely non-scientific, I non-scientifcally asked a bunch of people on Twitter and they’d all heard of Table Mountain.

3. Why is Cape Town so all over this? As @tarrynsaunders pointed out, we could be using all those R2s towards making the mountain safer for people who visit there. Or putting it into an environmental trust, maybe? What would it actually MEAN to us? What difference would it actually make? Really?

4. Why, WHY, do we have to vote “4” Table Mountain? You’re too lazy to type THREE DAMN LETTERS? Yeah, that’s how much you care.

5. Please, let’s not nominate Cape Town for the New7Wonders Cities contest. Please.

So here it is folks. One of the most iconic pieces of rock in the world. The mountain my kids call “ours”. The mountain by which I navigate. The mountain which marks out home. And no. I am not voting for it.


5 Responses to “Rocking the popularity contest”

  1. Dave November 10, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    Guess you’re not gonna like my mixed tape either then.

  2. meganshead November 10, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    I am so happy. I have been quietly seething on my own. Thank you for writing this. What a crock this Vote for the Mountain is. And the pressure they have put us under. And the threats of what would happen if we didn’t vote.

    • non9 November 10, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

      Seriously? You’ve been “threatened”?
      Don’t be such a drama queen.

      If this results in more exposure for Cape Town while we’re in the economic doldrums, well then it’s worth it. How much was spent on the WDC 2014 bid – how much will that help?
      We have to try to make every difference we can. Every little helps.

      Not that we’re going to win anyway, because we only started thinking about it properly about 3 weeks ago. Slow down, it’s Cape Town.

  3. khwaza tshisela (@khwazatshisela) November 10, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    Interesting take.

  4. Robert November 14, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    ” Do we need to be spending so much on this? Honestly, Table Mountain is already fairly famous”

    You are soon to be famous, as you have stumbled on a piece of genius insight that will transform industries and save the global economy trillions. According to your logic, since Pick n Pay are already very well known, they can simply stop spending millions on advertising each year! Think how much they can save! And everyone in SA knows who Vodacom are, so Vodacom can also save half a billion Rand a year by ceasing all marketing operations! All these stupid companies wasting so much money on “marketing”. Think how much money our banks can save – and pass those savings onto us – since we all know the big four banks, they can all stop advertising! Imagine this new genius insight applied to all revenue-generating endeavours globally. Goods will all become cheaper. Companies like Toyota and Ford can drop the price of their cars and stop marketing, as they are already “fairly famous”. This is most excellent news. A new piece of insight into how marketing works on human psychology. We can simply stop marketing Table Mountain as a tourist destination, because the budget-conscious tourists who are trying to choose between us and the many other attractive and affordable options there are out there (e.g. Bali), will automatically pick us as Table Mountain is “already fairly famous”.

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