Friday, April 9, 2010

At what point does one panic?

Signs of the times
I have a propensity to panic. I have been known to force doctors to run expensive blood tests on me for my self-diagnosed mortal tragedies that turned out to be nothing more than pulled muscles. I have to drug myself so heavily when I fly than I cannot speak. And I’ve gotten off the tube many times long before my station because I thought it was about to be bombed by those who were selfish enough to wear puffy jackets in summer.

But one thing I have never panicked about is “where the country is going”, to use the term of so many opinionated expats (and would-be expats). It’s always seemed like a bizarre and tedious thing to discuss when the evidence has always pointed to us growing wealthier, more stable, more democratic and safer. It’s the kind of thing you listen to your friends’ parents go on about and politely wait for them to finish before changing the subject: it’s lazy, slightly bigoted and irrelevant. If you want to talk politics, talk about real issues, like health reform or why the World Bank approved Eskom’s filthy coal-loan. Don’t come out with archaic knee-jerk statements like “we’re going the way of Zimbabwe” because we quite obviously are not.

But this Malema thing has made me uneasy. For the first time in my life, I’m a bit anxious about the state of the nation. Is there in fact an underground movement swelling, to kill the boers? My Afrikaans colleagues were certainly not too happy about their relatives who live on farms when we chatted about this today. I remember reading about the Rwandan genocide at university and thinking, how the hell could these people not see it coming? The incitements to violence are so obvious in the media. But they just thought it wasn’t real.
And how do we know whether what we see in the media is worthy of panic or not? Is this a tide sweeping the country, or a lunatic fringe? And does all the publicity Malema receives in the media, though it’s negative, not just give him more power?

It makes me sad that organisations like the AWB even exist. And it makes me sad to hear the angry tirades of the ANCYL. I think of all the great leaders who built this country, from Nelson Mandela to Desmond Tutu and all the artists and fashion designers and musicians who brought us integrated normality. But am I living in a bubble, in the dream they created? Whose reality has critical mass, I guess, is the real question? And is it time to panic?


  1. It is sad that something has to hit so close to home before I feel passionate enough to get involved. By no means am I discounting the violence and needless murders going on everywhere else in SA every day, but when people are encouraged to hack the boers to death - my family, including innocent 6 & 4 yr old children - you start to feel angry and protective.
    Why are we urged to stay calm while Malema gets away with everything? I have to ask myself what is his goal? Is he leading the youth or trying to divide a nation? He is doing a pretty darn bad job of the first part and a heck of a good one in dividing us. Spreading negativity and hatred is like the flu, the more people catch it, the more they infect other people - unless preventative measures are put in place. The leadership of our country refuse to put those measures in place, so what are we to do? Hope for the best, turn a blind eye or be our own solution?
    I don't believe that anything gets solved by lowering standards to those of Malema or Visagie. Only by rising above this will we be able to turn this negative loop from triggering chaos. The future is created by what we do now. Now is the only time in which we can act. So much time is currently spent in worrying about the future that the present is allowed to go to hell.
    So I have to ask, is it time to feel the fear but do something anyway?

  2. It's an interesting question - at what point should one panic? Do we have dangerous people in this country, and what are they? Let's take the extremists to start off with. The AWB might be loud (and let's be honest, they're only getting air time because someone touched ET on his studio), but has fuckall support. They couldn't even conquer Bophutuswana for goodness sake, and haven't done a meaningful thing since... well, ever, really.

    From the far right to the far left, the ANCYL has espoused every single goddam thing that there is to espouse, and what has happened? The mines ain't nationalised, the boer ain't shot any more than he already was (and perhaps if farm workers were treated with a modicum of respect, farmers might get shot less), Helen Zille hasn't reportedly sacrificed anyone to Satan, Patricial de Lille is still married, the media is still free...

    Ooh, the media. I think you're right to bring them up in this whole non-existent panicky fiasco. Read the comments under news24 articles to see how white folks feel about anything, and it's horrific. Die Burgher and The Citizen and such have done far more damage to "educated" white people than the ANCYL has done to the "primitive" black folks. White folks believe all that shite. If black folks did then the PAC and Azapo would have won the election long ago.

    The bubble we live in is not the dream created by the Mandela's (both of 'em) and Tutus of this world. The bubble we live in is our defensive white existence while more than half the country goes hungry. And if there's anything to panic about, it's a swelling of unemployed angry people whose lives have not changed one iota since Apartheid was killed off, bar the fact that passes could be tossed. We can blame whoever we want, but until that's fixed there is a ticking time bomb.

    When that blows, then we can panic.

  3. Interesting and heartfelt post.

    You wrote it last Friday - do you feel more of less concerned after the events since then?

  4. Here's somethig worth reading, written by one of the smartest people I have come across online:

  5. Thanks 6000 - I still feel unsure of how I feel. Is there any way of knowing if your worldview is a bubble or not? Because of course I still predominantly see what's great about this place - but Cape Town is notoriously cut off from the nitty gritty. I think the whole thing may actually be uniting the country in common mirth at the ridiculousness of the fundamentalists, at least

    And Simon, I don't live in a defensive white bubble! I'm a socialist greenie and have never for one second thought I was the demographic with any issues - hence why I just roll my eyes when people normally talk about this kind of thing and wish politics was actually about making a difference to those who need it. But genocidal incitements to violence are a little disturbing... thanks for the link though. Helps put it all in perspective

  6. Just for interest there is a new initiative that has strung up out of this whole insane debacle. Its called the Green Skin Initiative and it is aimed at South Africans who "believe in working together for a bright future, to speak out against vocal minorities that spread racial hatred and fear". I think its a worthy cause. Or at the very least a way for everyone to indicate their oppisition to the craziness and spiralling insanity of the last couple of weeks. Here's the facebook link if anyone is interested in checking it out:!/pages/The-Green-Skin-Initiative/116023658414082?v=info&ref=ts

  7. Nice one Michael - thanks for the heads up. Signed up and ready to go for the first event :)

  8. Hmmm, I came across that Green Skin thing. It does indeed seem decent. Here's hoping.