Communities Fearful to Love

My childhood has been filled with uncles, aunties, grandparents and the extended family. Technically everyone was considered family – the butcher, the baker and even the candlestick maker – everyone was to be addressed as an uncle or an aunt. If we were to be found misbehaving in public – it was the community’s ‘right’ to discipline us.

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My childhood has been filled with uncles, aunties, grandparents and the extended family. Technically everyone was considered family – the butcher, the baker and even the candlestick maker – everyone was to be addressed as an uncle or an aunt. If we were to be found misbehaving in public – it was the community’s ‘right’ to discipline us.

How much has changed in the 40 years since my existence on this planet. For today we are now encouraged to an isolated way of life. A life of social distancing, a life which encourages that small, tight-knit communities are harmful to the pandemic.

Naturally we are to expect the rising levels of depression, anxiety, PTSD and segregation. For now, speaking to strangers and opening up to welcoming friendships have been covered by masks that hide the beautiful smiles God has given us to what look like an emotionless engagement of guessing the once all-important body language.

Now if loneliness is a feeling of sadness or distress about being by yourself or feeling disconnected from the world around you, what other options are out there as an alternative for an embrace, smile or merely the visit of a loved one?

Community life and engagement can have a positive influence on mental health and emotional wellbeing. Community participation provides a sense of belonging and social connectedness. It can also offer extra meaning and purpose to everyday life.

Although there are many social groups on Facebook etc… if it does not have the genuine consideration for its member it merely becomes a marketing tool for business marketing and advertisement. Take for example, yesterday a lady on the “I Love Houghton” facebook group was requesting someone to adopt her baby… instead of the admin or its members seeing this as a red flag to assist the lady and reach out – the members seemed to have offered lists of NGOs/adoption agencies whilst a good great many merely ignored her.

We are concerned by what our community is becoming… we are concerned that people’s welfare and mental stability at this time would cause for decisions not usually of character. Hence we have opened a true community page for the people to become a support group, “Houghton Estate Residents”. We should discourage members who use community pages for business motives and those who do not live in the area.

People are Panicking 🤷🏾‍♂️🙆🏾‍♂️

Should we be panicking, stockpiling and confessing our sins so to prepare for the “Corona”? Whatever one’s perspective of the afterlife – one can’t hide the high-emotions of dying. Twenty-one days of being at home would prove much, for these are times when we are demanded to behave for the greater good. So whether you are naughty or nice – one now has to conform as subordinates.

Despite the reassurance from the South African government, citizens are panicking in the frantic mode of stockpiling and preparing for what looks like a doomsday movie. The shopping centres are packed and it appears business as usual – but for retailers it’s Christmas comes early.

Should we be panicking, stockpiling and confessing our sins so to prepare for the “Corona”? Whatever one’s perspective of the afterlife – one can’t hide the high-emotions of dying. Twenty-one days of being at home would prove too much, for these are times when we are demanded to behave, behave for the greater good. So whether you are naughty or nice – we all have to adhere to the notices. We can’t jump the queue or request special privileges.

For those “born-free” without the need for anyone guiding as they chart their own course are now demanded to do as they are told. How is this all going to play-out? How would the many who are on temporary jobs survive this pandemic? Which has not just affected their livelihoods, where in fact now the effects may cause higher crime as people become desperate.

On Surviving the Madness of South Africa

Originally posted on The Disco Pants Blog:
Yoh, masekinders – even the most patriotic and loved-up among us would have a hard time denying that living in this country can be a bit like living with an abusive parent; you know, those really bemal ones you see in Eminem videos where the children hide in…

Yoh, masekinders – even the most patriotic and loved-up among us would have a hard time denying that living in this country can be a bit like living with an abusive parent; you know, those really bemal ones you see in Eminem videos where the children hide in cupboards and then turn out a bit funny. And when you mention the word apartheid to the white people and hear what they say back you realise they have definitely been living in a cupboard for most of their lives. A huge one. More like a walk-in closet with a chandelier and vending machines and a cocktail bar so they’ve never had any reason to step out of it.

And all of us, even the ones who do come out of our metaphorical walk-in closets now and again and go to Shoprite to remind ourselves that we are not, in fact, living in San Fransisco, have turned out a bit funny. And you can’t blame us. It’s mad here. One minute you’re sitting at the Grand on the Beach having a lovely pomegranate daiquiri and some tuna ceviche because #paleo and wondering if that jacket will still be at the Waterfront tomorrow, and next you’ve got a rock coming through your windscreen because somebody is properly annoyed at having to spend another winter in a corrugated iron box and there goes your Woollies handbag and Marc Jacobs sunglasses and your iPhone that still has a picture of your boobs in black and white because #art.

No wonder we’re all bedondered, and that when we hear of another person emigrating to Queensland it makes us reach for the Alzam. Because, what do they know that we don’t? Are we going to be dead in our beds by next Thursday? Sometimes I have delusional episodes where I think to myself, but Europe’s not that grey, and California does look quite nice on Facebook. I have these episodes especially when I read letters to Max du Preez from President Zuma’s son calling him a ‘lier’. At those times I even manage to convince myself that living in Europe was fun, which shows you how hysterical one can get.

But then I pour myself a stiff (Inveroche) gin and come to my senses. Somewhat. As much as one who is a South African is capable of coming to their senses. And I have thoughts like this: nothing really matters, and even the things that do matter don’t matter all that much. And: life is, after all, less a complete thing than a series of moments held together in sequence, so the ‘bigger picture’ must remain remote and always a bit more conceptual than real, if you get my meaning. And for the Queensland situation, I have to say that my moments in South Africa – even given the odd rock episode – are moments that feel more like real life than the ones I’ve spent in other parts of the world. There is more humanity, more connectedness, more something that – even in my darkest hours of uncertainty and fear for the future – won’t allow itself to be ignored.

So many examples scattered over the days and the years, but two that spring to mind as I write this: finding myself at the end of my grocery shop (at Shoprite) with four bags and two hands, and the woman who packed my stuff automatically picking up two of my packets and saying she’ll carry them for me. She has no idea where my car is and doesn’t ask. I could have parked in Roggebaai for all she knows. All she sees is that I need help and that she can provide it. My car battery dying while I’m on the school run and my husband is overseas. Managing to get us all to the service station and telling the mechanic what had happened and that I was grateful to have made it. And him, without thinking, writing his cell phone number down for me and telling me if I ever get stuck again to give him a call, no problem. And I have not a moment’s doubt in my mind that he meant it. I know for sure that these things don’t happen everywhere on the planet.

One day a week I’ve been teaching at a university for bright kids who didn’t get bursaries. I don’t know how to say this without lapsing into cliché, but they’re great people, and the best antidote ever when I’m feeling suicidal after reading the paper is to go to my classroom and hang out with them. Just talk to them, hear what they think, listen to their views. Some of them are poor as hell but they’re switched-on and sharp and determined to change their worlds. And then I drive home in my nice car and think, if they can be positive, what excuse do I have? And I consider the fact that maybe the biggest challenge of all about living in South Africa is accepting the ambiguity; the fact that you’re never going to know for sure what the future, or even tomorrow, holds. This country has been on the verge of disaster for 400 years, if not more, but somehow we still manage to pop a Kaapse Vonkel and get on with life.

It would be nice to be able to navigate the world without the constant fear of that snotklap coming out of nowhere and taking you down just when you least expected it. But that’s not the deal here, and you can’t have everything. Here, you live on your toes. You bop and weave and skei for the gangster and keep your windows locked and tell the car guard he’s getting fuckall because he wasn’t here when you parked and the petrol attendant greets you like you’re his long-lost best friend and you donate your savings to your cleaner’s child so she can go to tech. Then you crap on the guy trying to mug you because does he even actually know how much you just spent on your sushi dinner and he says sorry and slinks away (true story). None of it makes sense; none of it ever will. It’s not America or Australia because it’s better and madder and richer. It’s real and broken and deluded and the only place I’ll ever call home.

We’ve been living back in South Africa for seven years now. In that time I’ve lost a measure of naiveté, gone mad with frustration, gained hope in humankind and felt more warmth and love than I know how to quantify. I have never, for a second, looked back; just been affirmed that we made the right choice. Maybe the harsh circumstances with which life presents itself here brings out the kindness in people, but there is something inside me that opens up. It makes me want to be nicer and  more switched on to the world around me. It elicits something gentle and good which I didn’t find in myself much when I lived overseas and never had to be anything but white and middle class. It’s hard to explain, but there is a part of me that becomes more of who I am here amidst the craziness of this struggling country. Unforgivably sentimental, but also true and real.

At my local Spar I’m regularly assisted by a cashier called Moreblessings. Her name is engraved on a piece of plastic pinned to her lapel. It makes me happy every time I see it, maybe because it sums up what I feel about life in SA. It will never follow the rules of logic. It will always feel wild and slightly out of control, but also beautiful and authentic and extraordinary and free. Like life is supposed to be. And I walk back to my car thinking, where else in the world are you going to find a cashier called Moreblessings? Nowhere, folks. Just, nowhere. And I thank my lucky stars.

The Disco Pants Blog

south africa flag

Yoh, masekinders – even the most patriotic and loved-up among us would have a hard time denying that living in this country can be a bit like living with an abusive parent; you know, those really bemal ones you see in Eminem videos where the children hide in cupboards and then turn out a bit funny. And when you mention the word apartheid to the white people and hear what they say back you realise they have definitely been living in a cupboard for most of their lives. A huge one. More like a walk-in closet with a chandelier and vending machines and a cocktail bar so they’ve never had any reason to step out of it.

And all of us, even the ones who do come out of our metaphorical walk-in closets now and again and go to Shoprite to remind ourselves that we are not, in fact, living…

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