When the world burns

A week ago we watched as a political protest turned violent and erupted into rioting and looting. We stared in horror as images of burned out shopping centres, factories,and medical centres and mobs of angry people flashed across our screens. My kids asked if they could sleep in my room cause they were scared of the sounds of gunshots, sirens, and screaming coming from our usually quiet little suburb.

Then the fear mongering started. The endless messages and voice notes about how the violence was race related. How we would be murdered in our beds. How the government is trying to kill all of their “enemies”. And then it got worse. We started running out of food and fuel. People queued for hours only to be sent away empty handed. You could smell the fear and desperation in the air. It smelt like burning rubber.

Then out of the ashes came hope. Ordinary people banded together to protect their homes and businesses. The community came together to clean up after the devastating fires. They shared food and resources with each other.

But the feel good insta posts didn’t help my anxiety at all. I had to take a break from all social media because I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t function because I had to know if we would be safe. I had to be ready. I packed “go bags”. I don’t know why. We had no where to go. All the major roads had been closed. The fear and anxiety pushed me to a place where I no longer had feelings. I just felt numb all the time. And it didn’t scare me. I was perfectly functional but not ok.

It’s not over. Sporadic violence is still breaking out all over the place. I’m starting to feel like more like a person again, which is good. I hope I can keep it together enough to get through the next week.

Freedom Day

Today we celebrate Freedom Day here in sunny South Africa. The problem is, we may have Freedom but we do not have peace. Every day my Facebook and Twitter feeds are packed with stories about xenophobia, criminality, hi-jacking, rape, murder… the list goes on and on. I no longer watch the news on television, I prefer to read it online where I can skim the headlines and choose what I want to read.

The problem with being South African is that we “make a plan” and get on with our lives. Hi-jacking? no problem! we simply install smash-and-grab windows into our cars, stop driving at night and plan our routes carefully so that we avoid dark/lonely/unsafe areas. Our kids don’t play outside anymore, we build huge walls around our properties and pay security companies to keep us safe. We install apps on our smartphones that track our moves and that can send distress signals to our loved ones if we are in danger. So instead of solving the problem, we simply work around it and allow the rot to spread.

Is this what the Struggle was about? To prevent oppression by the white minority and instead hand over power to a criminal and corrupt minority? (and no, I am not referring to the Government, I mean the actual criminals in this country).

Is there hope for South Africa? If the media, ex-pats, and my Facebook feed are to be believed, then no. We are doomed. I cannot accept that. We survived the Anglo-Boer wars, concentration camps (The British rounded up men, women and children and shoved them into concentration camps. Look it up, it happened right here in this country),and Apartheid. How is it that we cannot overcome this dark cloud of depression that has enveloped this country? If I didn’t know any better I would swear that there was a swarm of Dementors about.

The saddest part is that we are doomed to repeat the past. We are so distrustful of one another that we would rather attack first than wait to see if they mean us harm at all. The current xenophobia sweeping the country is a prime example of that. It is sad that people have to hide in refugee camps in order to remain safe. I spoke about our home-grown concentration camps earlier in this blog. Sound familiar? People who are on the wrong side of popular opinion get shoved into camps. History seems to have a nasty way of repeating itself in South Africa.

So what do we do now? I know what I will be doing, I am going to teach my kids the difference between right and wrong, to be respectful, honest and truthful at all times, and to be law-abiding citizens. And I am going to to try to make a difference, no matter how small, cause every journey starts with a single step.

Too close for comfort

A little while ago I became just another South African crime statistic.  While driving home from work I was involved in a smash and grab.  And before anyone tells me that I should never drive with my handbag on the front passenger seat, it wasn’t.  It was underneath the front passenger seat and not visible at all.  The opportunistic young fellow smashed the window to get to the jacket that I had chucked on the seat, had a good look around and then moved the passenger seat and grabbed my bag. My wallet, cell phones, make up, diary and assorted odds and ends gone. So I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to replace my stolen stuff. It’s not that I have to replace so many things that bothers me, it’s that this person felt that he had the right to take something that doesn’t belong to him.

Is that how we are raising our kids? If you want something, just go out and take it even if you break the law to get it? And it doesn’t matter if anyone gets hurt in the process, it’s all about you after all. Society does not help either. We have become so used to crime that as long as there was no (or little) violence involved we are ok with it. I can not even begin to count how many times I have heard

We’ll at least you were not hurt

So just cause I was not physically harmed it’s all ok? And it’s scary how often we break the law without even thinking about it, driving over the speed limit and bribing a traffic officer; buying dvd’s and “brand name” items from the guy at the side of the road and illegally downloading a movie or song. Most people don’t even consider those minor things as being illegal. But they are. Those little things help to fund bigger things like drugs, guns and slavery. Those little things live in the grey area between being a model citizen and being a crime lord.  The next time you hear a story about a horrific crime, do me a favour and keep your opinion about the corrupt state of this country to yourself.   Cause I’m pretty sure that you are not blameless, that you have dabbled in the grey area without a second thought about the consequences of your actions.

 

Making your mark

It has been interesting watching ordinary South African’s react to the National Elections.  Especially the #thumbselfies that popped up on Facebook and Twitter during the course of 7 May 2014.  So much excitement and hope for change.  It was awesome to see so many people celebrate being South African.

Making our mark

 

I guess this post is aimed at people who did not vote.  The next time we are at a braai and start discussing the future of this awesome, amazing and beautiful country, please keep quiet and go and play with the children.  I do not need to hear your negative opinions seeing as you could not be adult enough to do your civic duty and go and vote.  If you have something to say about the country, then you should have taken the time to go and make your mark.  We were given a whole public holiday to go and vote, you could have taken an hour out of your day and gone down to the voting station.  Instead you have lost the right to comment about the state of the country.  In fact, in my opinion you should not be allowed to support any of our sporting teams either.

I am not blind to the problems in SA, I know that there is crime, corruption and bloody rude people here.  There are just so many good, amazing people that quietly go about their daily business and make this country special.  My ancestors fled Europe many, many moons ago to make a new home here at the Southern most tip of Africa.  They suffered through unspeakable hardships and had to overcome unimaginable horrors (war, persecution, the “Great Trek”, concentration camps), but they stayed and made this their home.  I am not diminishing any of this country’s dark history, too much blood has stained the ground already.  It is time that we acknowledge the past, learn from our mistakes and vow to never repeat them. And build a country that we can all be proud of, not only when our rugby team is doing well.

It doesn’t matter who wins the election, what matters is that more and more ordinary South African’s have stood up and spoke up.  I think it means that we are finally learning that we decide who runs the country, so we get to decide how they run it.