Bloodshed at Christmas

2008-12-24 00:00

As anyone who has visited Pietermaritzburg’s malls and shopping centres in recent days will know, preparations for the festive season have appeared to be as feverish as usual, culminating in a final shopping frenzy this week.

But Christmas 2008 isn’t a “usual” one. Although some people would like to believe the global financial downturn hasn’t affected us at all, the fact is that it has impinged — and will continue to impinge — on every country everywhere, including South Africa. Every community is affected. Before long it will be felt in every home and already many have realised that it’s necessary to restrict what we give and hope to receive at this gift-giving time.

Those first to feel the effects of the economic crunch — people already living below the breadline and the unemployed — may react either by descending into despair and inertia, or by turning to violence. Crime figures for this province show that numbers of armed assaults (including shootings and stabbings) and rapes (with children the preferred victims) have risen inordinately in recent weeks, this presumably indicating that for many bloodshed and cruelty are regarded as legitimate ways of expressing anger and frustration — or, quite simply, as cheap and easy ways of getting a thrill and having a good time during the holiday season.

How sad it is to see a society turning on itself in this way. One would have hoped that as opportunities for material gratification at Christmas time are reduced, people might instead seek the comfort of the company and support of family and friends, might look for practical ways of making life easier for those in need, might turn back to the values traditionally associated with Christmas: the giving and receiving of love and kindness, and the spreading of peace and goodwill to all. These are priceless gifts. May your Christmas be replete with them.

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