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To Live and not Just Exist

Choosing life, happiness, peace and joy. Oh and weight loss too

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South Africa

Humanity

I work very hard for the money I earn, to pay the bills I have, to eat the food I eat, to have pets, to live on a smallholding.

I work very hard every day to afford uncapped Wi-Fi, a Telkom line, a Vodacom contract, a washing machine.

My middle class family worked very hard every day to send me to a middle class High School, where I mingled and learnt the way of other middle class children from middle class families.

I succeeded, in spite of my best efforts not to. Despite being a black sheep. Despite being ‘the emotional’ one.

I work very hard every day to live the life I live. I don’t have millions in the bank. Don’t even really have thousands. Most end of the month, I don’t even have hundreds.

I don’t drive a fancy car. I don’t own a house or property. I grew up into the very middle class I grew up in, with very middle class views. Views on whether or not our country is functioning. Whether or not it is safe. Whether or not I should stay or flee. Whether or not our President is corrupt. Very middle class.

With the privilege that comes with it. Having a job at all, a stable one that affords me 3 warm meals a day, a roof over my head, a dog, a house with an indoor toilet, a phone, a cell phone, a car….

Let’s say that all vanishes today. Let’s say I get fired or retrenched. Let’s say I am suddenly brain damaged or deaf or blind or poor. So poor, that R150 a day becomes something you are willing to die for.

Let’s say your life condenses into a moment where the hope of earning R150 a day for a very long day of work, is something you will die for. Because that hope for R150 a day, is what will feed you.

That hope of earning R150 a day – which you get up at 4 in the morning to get ready for.

That hope of earning R150 a day – that you use your last R10 to catch a taxi to.

That hope of earning R150 a day – on an empty stomach, because the hope of R150 a day from yesterday was in vain.

Let’s say your whole life condenses into that moment. Where you and the thousands like you, in that moment, are not middle class.

You are not well off. You are not rich. You are not even really poor. Because in my mind poor equates to at least having something, even if it is not enough.

You literally have nothing.

Then who cares if our country is functioning? Who cares if it is safe? Leaving is not even the beginning of a thought you may have. What your president does or doesn’t do is of little concern.

What happens on the day you wake up, and your first thought is “Where am I going to find money for food today.”

Do you perhaps lose hope?

Do you perhaps turn to crime?

What do you do?

Where do you go when your country, your people, your government fails?

I grew up into the very middle class I grew up in. With all the opportunities it affords me by default.

The next time you judge the hell out of a government that is failing you, just for one moment consider what you have.

As of last year, 22% of the people in my country live on R11 a day.

When last did you spend R11? What did you spend it on?

The next time you sit in judgement from your very middle class dining room suite, in your very middle class house, in the middle class suburb you live in:

Consider for one moment whether or not you can survive on R11 a day.

Rethink your life.

Find your humanity.

Donate something if you can.

Support someone if you can.

Be more than some middle class douche.

Be someone’s Hope.

** The featured image is a photo I took of a young boy and his brother (I assume) while travelling on the train home from work one day. Just two little souls, with their parent, trying to live any kind of life in our country. Be their Hope.
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A rant at anarchy

So…

The 4 biggest cities in South Africa just made it onto the list of the 50 Most Dangerous Cities in the World.
9. Cape Town
41. Durban
42. Nelson Mandela Bay
47. Johannesburg.

I am completely and utterly horrified that even one of our fabulous cities makes the list, never mind 4.

It caused a little chain reaction in my brain. And something that has been bothering me for a long time now, decided it needed to be written about. Because they relate on a fundamental level.

I drive into Cape Town at about 05h30 every week day morning. That is the only way to miss the chaos that is N1 traffic.

There is a little bit of highway, at the off-ramp to the M5, that suddenly drops from 120km/h to 80km/h. It doesn’t matter why. Or who decided it. Or whether I agree or not. It is what it is. This little stretch of road is notoriously well known as being a trapping hotspot.

Except at 05h30 in the morning obviously.

So I should put a little context in here. I have car insurance with Discovery Health. In order for me to maximize the cash back I get every month, I trend to drive as well as I possibly can. Obeying all the rules of speeding, harsh acceleration, cornering.

I like money. And smoothies (new driving reward). So I drive appropriately.

Another little bit of essential information. I suspect that quite a few traffic officers report for duty at 06h00, or thereabouts, at a traffic department in Town. Because every morning I see at least 2 traffic officers on the N1, heading into Town.

I have yet to ever (and I really do mean ever – in all the time I have been driving to work in Town) see one drop his speed to 80 in the 80 zone. They all merrily maintain their speed, whatever it may be.

Perhaps I am being petty. Perhaps I too would not drop my speed if I didn’t get money back. Perhaps. Perhaps.

All I know is this.

When did we stop holding those tasked with upholding our laws accountable?

Is the message being sent not one of:

‘If I know I am not going to get caught, it is ok to break the law?’

‘If I am not yet on duty, I don’t have to follow or enforce the law?’

‘I am a traffic officer, so I am above the law?’

All I know is that our country is bleeding. There is no accountability anymore. There is no morality anymore. There is something very close to situational anarchy. I will do as I please because I probably won’t get caught.

This is beyond race. Beyond colour. Beyond economics. Beyond it all.

It is fundamentally about right and wrong.

It is a traffic officer speeding with impunity at 05h30 in the morning, on a stretch of highway he will probably set up a speed trap on in a few hours. After his coffee. And breakfast.

But what has he taught every single person who sees him in the morning. Consciously or not.

That it is okay to break the law when it suits you.

And I am also in no way trying to excuse the folks who do chose to break the law. Whichever law it may be. Small, or big.

You have to live with your own conscience and at the end of the day, you and your conscience have to be okay with the choices you make.

Whether you stand in a uniform and are supposed to uphold, and by default obey, a law, or in civilian clothing and chose to ignore a law.

Part of why South Africa has 4 cities on the list of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world?

Because no one gives a fuck anymore.

Until it suits them.

For all things, there is a time…

This is by far one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible.

At various times in my life I have gone back to it and reflected on the pain, loss, joy, hope that is inherent in it.

Today is one such day. A time for goodbyes. A time to leave. A time of loss. A time of hope. A time for new things and new beginnings.

A time to let go.

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3

 

So I shall let go. Look up. Look to the light. Wipe the tears. And find my new way of being. A new way of strong. A new kind of family. A new place to be me.

I shall look up. And look to the Light.

Because the Light has ever carried me.

I saw Grace today.

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I have learnt to Mission when I am walking through Town. Head down, don’t look around, don’t look like a tourist.

The faces I pass very much a blur. Then again they are meant to be. I try my utmost to miss the long desperate stares of the homeless, the destitute, the beggars and the hopeless. This is not something I do with any kind of conscious thought. It is just the reality involved with moving around a city or town in the age and time we live.

Many of them with an out of control drug problem. Most of them with some serious mental illness issues. Too few of them completely harmless.

Today I passed a homeless soul early in the cold sunlight, wrapped in a blanket rocking back and forth.

I didn’t really register him. Or her. I don’t know. I Missioned.

Today I passed a vaguely homeless looking man, older, face lined.

Today, for some reason, I Missioned and then I stopped and turned around.

I registered the pipe, the satchel, the old but clean clothing. I realized that the older man was probably one of the many low income workers making their way to work. Or perhaps he was one of those folk that travel to Town and pass their day watching and walking before heading home.

Today, I saw something that profoundly touched me on a level that I don’t quite understand. Or perhaps I do. It reminded me of what it is to be Human.

It was the oddest thing that I have seen in so long that for a moment sound faded away into nothing and time slowed just a little.

Reaching out and in, this clearly poor but gentle gentleman laid his hand on the shoulder of the all too faceless beggar.

Said a few words.

Reached into his satchel and offered an orange.

And sat next to him.

I don’t think I have ever seen more of God than at that moment. When a stranger touched that filthy, forgotten, helpless, cold soul. When he touched the untouchable. When he reached out to someone I don’t even register on most days.

When all the compassion of one Soul reached out to another, and didn’t see filth, dirt, madness. He saw a Soul worthy of his time. His love.

Compassion, Love, Humanity, Empathy – it is all free. But so many of us find them an expense we are not willing to shoulder.

In reality, all we have in this world is the gift of human contact, sometimes in the midst of desperation.

I know I saw the gift of Grace today – in the face of a stranger.

It is perhaps the most important thing we come into this world with.

And I hope it is what I take out with me.

I think I saw God today.

Bloodlust

This man had a mother. A father. He was perhaps a brother, a friend, a lover. This man had a purpose. He had a dream. He had a life. He had laughter and love and hope waiting for him.

Capture

Mozambican Emmanuel Sithole died because he was Mozambican. He died because of a bloodlust that is festering in my immoral and amoral society. In my country that I love.

My country that is at war with itself. With its compass. With its conscience.

He died senselessly and stupidly and I have cried for him.

Because he is me. And I am him. And he had as much right to be as I do. As any of us do.

I have dreams and a life and laughter and love and hope waiting for me.

I am African. But more than that. I am Human.

In a place that has lost its humanity.

RIP Emmanuel.

I am so very sorry my people killed you. You deserved more. Better. Peace.

I am so sorry.

 

Photograph by James Oatway.

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