I write this letter as one who in the "not-so-new South Africa" is classified as a PDI, as if this acronym is supposed to bring me some recognition in society. The truth is these terms like many others like BEE, EEA, AA have come to being used conveniently for gaining patronage by the very people who imported them from the deep roots of philosophical romanticism and dialectics, all in the so called interests of African nation building(ubuntu), reconciliation(guilt defrayal) and gratification(social reparation).
For the purpose of this letter of I’m going to shy away from these ideological pipe-dreams because as a PDI who is also a CDI(currently disadvantage individual) I cannot afford to waste my time and effort on analysing the ‘-isms’ and ‘schism’ when my stomach is growling hard , but since we all know that there are no obvious quick-fixes to our troubles my letter will simply give and empirical account of why I think that ALL HOPE LIES IS OUR INTERACTION as South Africans.
I recently spoke to a woman who shared an interesting perspective about domestic violence. Frankly, I am very confrontational and less sympathetic to anyone who persists to remain under conditions that are harmful to themselves and others around them. I had never intended to speak to her but I just could not help myself when I saw her swollen blue-face, black-eye, and some strangulation marks around her neck….she just turned at me said “it’s that obvious hah....well what’s the use of always wearing a scarf, make-up and sunglasses?”.
I asked her if she had reported him but she told me they have been together for over 20 years and further gave the usual excuses, and after a pause followed by a sigh –“the problem is my husband is very insecure, maybe it’s the way he was raised…but because we both don’t believe in divorce he will have to tolerate me for embarrassing him in public with my blue-face and I will also tolerate his abuse…just so we honour our vows” said the withdrawn woman. Her perspective really got me thinking about our very socio-political interactions in South Africa and also made me to recall Trevor Noah’s candid description of basic behavior of individual races in our beloved called Mzanzi.
As the ‘Day Walker” puts it, he says that Indians are very meek, Coulereds are not; Whites hate being embarrassed in public and Blacks thrive in embarrassment and for one to relate with the other one just has to know which buttons to press or not. Although this analogy maybe stereotypical in nature but like this poor woman, South Africa today finds itself in a situation where all who live in it know that we cannot exist without the other, regardless of class or association, it’s only a matter of how we master the art of interaction that will ensure a forged harmonious ‘rainbow nation’.
I did not mean to say that South Africans are programmed in a certain way, but rather there are particular and peculiar patterns that emanate from our historical interaction as a people. We see this everyday at our workplaces in instances where black employees show lesser respect to a senior but would go to all extends to impress a less-senior white boss. Perhaps one might also observe how some young Afrikaner women look at other young non-Afrikaner males with either contempt or pity; or simply how some people (black and white) are just so full of themselves.
I was in a taxi when suddenly this ‘dude’ stopped us and asked the driver if he could pay half of the fare since he is not travelling the full distance (the rule-of-thumb is that everybody pays the full fee indiscriminately)...there were a few silent murmurs in the mini-bus when the driver obliged….then further down the road a ‘mojita’ stopped us, climbed in and while reaching into his wallet…this ‘mama’ told her to pay only half of the fee. Surprised as he was he obliged but when the driver told him that his fare was short…needless to say all-hell-broke-loose.
The poor ‘mageza’ was accused of acting like a typical ‘kaffer’ and then most passengers, myself included, protested and demanded that either the ‘dude’ and ‘mojita’ must pay the usual fee or he gives everybody their money back so that we can catch another taxi. In his own justification the driver told us that he just could not leave the ‘dude’ on the road for safety reasons because his pale completion sets him out as an invitation for robbery…blah blah blah…but the real salt was rubbed into all our wounds when that ‘dude’ was paying for his fare he pulled out a R100 note from amongst many others and said…”hey I always negotiate with the drivers, I do this all the time…take it or leave it…I always get value for my money on everything”…the poor driver felt really foolish and used by that ‘dude’ when he finally got off.
When I actually think about it, he was right to use what he had at his disposal to the best of his advantage, after all is that not what we ought to do in our interaction. What I also admired from that ‘dude’ is that he is a true South African groundbreaker because he understood his place within an integrated society, and he was just not willing to compromise his doctrine of standards by knowingly paying more for less.
Our country today is affected by increasing apathy and diminishing-optimism from people who just feel that ‘maybe it’s not worth the fight anymore’; or perhaps it is affected by the unpalatable-enthusiasm from capable people who might as well feel ‘if it’s not in personal interest I’m not going to be bothered’; or perhaps the irrational-zealots who just feel ‘I’ll make noise about it, since there’s nothing else to do”. However, with the observations of interactions between the diminishing-optimists (the abused mama); the unpalatable-enthusiast (the dude in the taxi); and the irrational-zealots (youth of SA) South Africa has given birth to what is called ‘the demise of our deafening interactions’ where those who used to act don’t act anymore, those who can act won’t act, and those who act their actions are misguided…having said this I’m convinced that for an idealistic prosperous South Africa to be possible ALL HOPE LIES IN OUR INTERACTION.
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