Thursday, June 03, 2010

It's Cool by the Pool, Right [COLUMN]

The dream is dead, sorry - by Nick van der Leek

It’s been a time of great negativity, the last few months. If it wasn’t potholes or broken sewerage works, it was Julius Malema’s runaway mouth, violent service delivery protests, militant trade union strikes, Eugene Terre’Blanche’s murder and an apparent growth in right wing organisations preparing for Armageddon. - Max du Preez

Max goes on to write about how the Bulls victory in Soweto changed the mood of the nation blah blah blah. It reminds me of the current Fruit & Veg City ad flighted on TV at the moment. It asks, What makes you proud to be a South African? It then goes on to gush over our country's beautiful scenery, about the big five about biltong and braaivleis. It's not so easy to gush about the people here though. And unfortunately, being a realist, I have to ask the same question the other way round in order to probe for the truth, a more wholesome, complete truth:

What makes you ashamed to be a South African? Unfortunately I think the answer to this question springs to mind a lot faster. We are a nation of disseminators and deceivers, South Africans are talented, above all for lying to ourselves. We can rehash the stats that are so shocking but now are hackneyed cliches. The half a million AIDS deaths a year. 5000 murders every 100 days. 5000 dead in traffic accidents over the same period. More telling of course is the most recent news. Stuff like this:

 Sorry if that is too much to take in at one gulp, but it's all the news current to within the last month at most.  Any one of the crises facing South Africa is significant.  Corruption of the police on its own is huge.  The border crossings on their own have vast implications for South Africa.  Corruption, human trafficking, ordinary crime - these are rampant issues.  Yet if you examine the news you'll notice that nothing is happening other than one thing.  People are putting money in their pockets.  Things that need to get done, don't.  This is exactly the scenario the 70% of whites in 1992 feared but voted YES to democracy anyway.

I want to share something as briefly as I can.  Last night I had a dream.  I was with an old schoolfriend, we had not been in touch for a while and we were walking.  Suddenly we came across a Cheetah, perhaps  two to three hundred metres away.  Suddenly aware that we had forgotten we were in a wild area with wild animals, we clambered up some rock for their relative safety.  It afforded us a view of a few Wildebeest grazing a short distance away.  But the next moment the Cheetah we thought we saw revealed itself as a juvenile male lion.  Paralyzed with fear, the lion stepped over my arm as it wandered over the rock, more interested in us than in the Wildebeest nearby.  Then the lion circled around to my friend, and sniffed something on the bare skin of his neck.  I remembered we had braaied earlier and he had touched his neck there and left a whiff of meat.  The lion gave his neck a lick, and followed this with a crunching bite.  I saw the light in my friend's go out as he died instantly.

When I woke up I realised the dream is heavily pregnant with metaphor.  The old friend whom I had lost touch with represents South Africa.  The Cheetah that changes its spots and becomes a man-eating lion is the symbol for that dark, iconic destructiveness that is quintessentially African.  And the italicised text above is important because it represents the failure to compute - on a countrywidescale - the context one is actually in.  The failure to be alert or responsive in nature traditionally costs you your life. You may not know what to predict when it comes to Africa, but one thing - in terms of this dreams metaphorical construct, is certain - destruction, decay, dysfunction.  It is this that eats and eventually kills South Africa, and you, like me, are a helpless observer in this process.

An alternative interpretation is that the Cheetah represents South Africa.  It becomes something else, a monster that begins to prey unnaturally in what amounts to an abomination of nature, something that amounts to crimes or mass slaughter of humanity.

I also disagree with this sentiment from Max Du Preez:
I wished those losers who predict that whites are going to be slaughtered at the “Night of the Long Knives” the day after Nelson Mandela dies, could also be in Soweto to watch the rugby and the people and realise what fools they are.

It was Siener van Rensberg who predicted this Night of the Long Knives.  I don't know about you, but this inevitable slaughter resonates with me.  I think the tragic joke is that we are living through the long Night of the Long Knives right now. The evidence for this is everywhere, it is in each and every headline quoted above. We are waiting for a definitive signal, but instead it is the slow insidious 50 murders a day that is whittling our nation down to a group of cowering cowards and another group of increasingly confident and corrupt attackers.  

I'm sure the vibe will improve as the country turns its attention to sport.  I don't know if this happiness will last very long. There are people - including Parreira - who think our national soccer team have a chance in this tournament.  I find that sort of hubris troubling.  It's not about being positive or negative, it's a question of common sense, and being sensible.

I am less certain than du Preez that this country will emerge in two months without a number of incidents occurring.  By incidents I mean acts of terror, foreign and domestic.  By incidents I mean I wonder whether we can be confident that the lights will be on as we go through mid-winter.  And I ponder the PR potential of criminals kidnapping tourists, murdering, robbing them on a higher scale than we may have anticipated.

What is disturbing of course is that if incidents in SA aren't bad enough to depress you, what is happening outside is not encouraging either.  We are entering a phase of global economic contraction and no one is ready to go into that good night.  The world is changed, and South Africa is a country fast approaching its own collapse.

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