I have spent three years away from South Africa. On my return I find myself surrounded by high levels of negative attitudes, those of anger, animosity and even apathy. It is saddening to realise that while man searches for happiness and fulfilment, the attitudes reflected in South Africa are hardly conducive to achieving these goals. Every day these negative attitudes are reflected on our roads. An incident I witnessed yesterday on these very same roads troubled me greatly and it is one which I would like to share my thoughts on.
During peak hour traffic I waited at a busy T Junction. A taxi came past and stopped about ten metres after the T Junction, pulled up on the pavement and proceeded to allow three passengers to disembark. The taxi's actions created more congestion and an accident occurred involving a passenger vehicle and a motorcyclist. I am sure that if it were not for the taxi stopping where it did the accident would not have occurred. Fortunately the motorcyclist appeared to be unhurt, but the anguish on his face was very apparent as he looked down on his shattered bike, a bike that by appearance must have been very well looked after. The driver and the occupants of the taxi drove off, while the the motorcyclist and driver were left to pick up the pieces.
What troubled me the most about this incident was not the actions of the taxi driver. Taxis and taxi drivers are source of much anger and animosity and there is much to be done to tackle this, but it was the attitude of one of the passengers that disembarked that concerned me. You see, while the taxi is at fault for stopping in such a poorly picked place, the passengers would have asked the driver to stop where he did. The passengers could have chosen to be dropped at a Bus stop three hundred metres further down the road. By saving themselves the extra three hundred metre walk every day who knows how much anger and animosity their decision has created through the years.
Of the three passengers that disembarked, only one seemed to be concerned about the motorcyclist predicament. He seemed unsure what to do and flitted between going to help and keeping a safe distance. The other two passengers walked towards me and away from the accident scene. The drivers of the cars in front of me and around the accident scene had a verbal go at these two passengers. One of the passenger's demeanour appeared nonchalant, she shouted back and argued as she continued to walk away. As she approached me I wound down my window and in an angry tone told her that what had happened was her fault. She walked on replying “Voetsak” and Racist”.
There was no need for her to mention race, as this was not a factor in the verbatim or the cause of the incident. I believe it was her excuse for the anger she received for clearly in her mind she was not at fault. I do not agree with this. I do believe that if these three passengers collectively made a decision to be dropped at the bus stop every day much anguish could be averted. And looking forward I see no indication that there is any thought given by that nonchalant passenger to take corrective action,and thus for the foreseeable future, around the same time and same place the same anger and animosity is going to be created. And I see this in most South Africans attitude every day.
We as South Africans always have an excuse. Be it the government, circumstance, those people or these people. Many of us are in a rut. We have given up and will proceed to create self inflicted damage in our lives. You see, while that woman seemed not to care, she walked away with anger and animosity towards others that could have been avoided. And by the same token we continue to take actions that create anger and animosity in our own lives.
The daily experiences on our road is a consequence of our state of being. People cut one another off, jump queues, don't give way, speed, and on and on. It is not everyone, but I believe it to be the majority. And all the while these same people are creating anger and animosity for themselves that one would like most to avoid.
We allow our experiences with other road uses; be it taxis, trucks, buses, passenger vehicles, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians , to create negative prejudices which full our lives. Coupled with this we are fed consistent negative news through media sources and our lives become encompassed by negative thought and thus as a consequence negative action.
We need to change. I need to change. To be sure I could have handled my self differently in those moments after the accident. I did not have to be angry. I did not have to carry that anger home and I do not have to harbour hate for any individuals. In these moments of self reflection I am reminded of Mother Theresa's words... “I'm a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world”.
I believe Mahatma Gandhi’s thoughts, “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do” should be our National Motto and taught in our schools.
I realise now that our roads will be better if we do change. And as South Africans I believe we are capable of much. Too many plaudits are handed to Nelson Mandela in South Africa's transformation. We tend forget it was not only his achievement, it was our achievement, and the greatness bestowed upon him, should really be handed to each South African, that the greatness we see in him is a greatness that exists in each and every one of us. To be sure if we realise this, we have already changed. Our attitudes brighten, our prospects lift and our future's brighten.
And now reflecting on the accident I realise that even though sometimes I feel like a passenger in life, as a passenger I have an opportunity to make a difference.