A few weeks ago, the autocorrect feature on my phone lost its mind. I am aware that most smartphone owners have experienced this at some point or other, so my initial reaction was one of irritation. However, on closer inspection, I realised that perhaps, my phone was telling me something. There, in my Whatsapp conversation, whilst I was busy lecturing a friend about needing to be more excited about the upcoming elections, autocorrect had changed the word “Autonomous” to Autonomouse.
As a BA student, I am acutely aware that I am over analytical about everything. However, the slight spelling mistake in my text made me think about what exactly an Autonomouse might be. Could it be a reference to the growing disinterest in politics in people of all ages? On the other hand, could it be related to a new fear of what happens when a South African showcases their autonomy?
In May this year, the SABC announced that it would no longer broadcast footage of violent protests. This did not sit well with most South Africans, and several SABC journalists were fired because of their refusal to accept this decision. If ever there has ever been need for indication of the state undermining our autonomy as South Africans, this has been it.
Looking at a situation like this one, it is easy to draw comparisons between our current situation and Orwell’s “fictional” premonition, Animal Farm. Although this comparison is highly applicable, it has become increasingly clichéd to use this trusty (and terrifyingly accurate) “Totalitarianism for Idiots” guide. While it is impossible not to see a clear parallel between the words of Orwell and the SABC’s new stance as an organ of propaganda, using the mental image of an Autonomouse creates a similar image to what we currently see. Just picture the cat-and-mouse game most of us played in preschool; the only difference now is that if we get caught in this situation, we won’t be out of the game until playtime ends. In this case, it means that playtime is over indefinitely.
Of course, there are always the classic cartoons like Tom and Jerry, where the mouse gets the upper hand in most episodes. I can’t help but wonder if we should use our autonomy in these elections to become more like Jerry, by refusing to allow the bigger, more powerful Tom to call the shots. We may be facing an attack on our individual autonomy at the moment, but we have the opportunity to change that at the polls. I may have read a touch too deeply into autocorrect, but the more I think about being an Autonomouse, the more I realise how important these elections are. The idea of being an Autonomouse can carry negative perceptions, but all we have to do is remember that we have the opportunity to change what we don’t agree with this Wednesday. Autonomouse: it may be a mistake in a typed-out Whatsapp conversation. On the other hand, it could be something that reminds us of the cat-and-mouse game we call politics.