Yeoville wake-up, not just for whitey

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

ABLEND of chance and ac­ci­dent gave me a strange Satur­day night, criss-cross­ing town and climb­ing the learn­ing curve of life. At night­fall, Green­side was crowded. Mostly young, bois­ter­ous, no dra­mas. Co-op­er­a­tive road, cars al­low­ing others to en­ter the stream or off­load pas­sen­gers. Peo­ple-wise, a min­gled range of faces, ev­ery hue. Nice vibe.

Thence to Yeoville. First com­pelling thing to no­tice is crush, peo­ple packed like cig­a­rettes in a box.

Then: traf­fic. Half the ro­bots are bro­ken, which is mer­ci­ful. Bro­ken ones don’t lull you into false se­cu­rity, like the work­ing one on Hunter and Ken­mere. A car with no lights hur­tles through the red and car­omsmy heart rate into the strato­sphere

Jammed in­ter­sec­tions are ex­tra­jammed by mo­rons en­ter­ing when there is no exit. Each one de­lays him­self along with ev­ery­one else. But – hooray! – he has stopped a driver from the crossstreet get­ting in front. At one point, a knot of an­gry hoot­ers wake the sub­urb in protest at a rude black BMW block­ing the road while it wages a shouted war with the pave­ment.

The next most no­table thing is com­plex­ions. I can re­mem­ber Yeoville as a mod­est Jewish sub­urb, part of a fa­mous def­i­ni­tion of chutz­pah – “go­ing from Yeoville to Bryanston with­out passing through Em­mar­en­tia on the way”. Now, no pale faces in sight.

Third thing: mess. The ran­dom junk, pack­ets and tins and dis­em­bod­ied news­pa­per pages al­ready look and feel slap­gat. The piles of builder’s rub­ble and half-dug paving stones make it worse.

Three hours later, I do the same cir­cuit a sec­ond time. Green­side is much as it was be­fore. The peo­ple look the same, the streets look the same, there’s been a bit of thin­ning out. Is there a higher rate of cow­boy­ism be­hind the steer­ing wheel? It’s ar­guable.

Thence to Yeoville, and three com­pelling things to no­tice: (a), ev­ery­one in sight is patently drunk; (b) hardly any­one is in sight. Aside from one pump­ing noisy square the place is Ghost Town; (c) it’s filthy. In fact, filthy in bold italic cap­i­tals: FILTHY.

The gen­tle scruffi­ness of ear­lier has turned into world-beat­ing cham­pion shambolic filth. Waste­bin Street, the skill and sci­ence of mak­ing your en­vi­ron­ment a rub­bish tip. I feel bile rise. What a sym­bol of slith­er­ing into ruin. How can any­one do this to them­selves and their city? Which is also my city. Which presents some ques­tions. Like: how do re­spon­si­ble Joburg­ers ex­er­cise good cit­i­zen­ship in our chang­ing so­ci­ety? We know the stan­dard way. The pale ones say, “this is Africa, I’m only white, I must shut up or some­one will call me a racist. I wish I qual­i­fied for Aus­tralia”. The dark ones say, “I’m dis­graced. I must shut up or I’ll be ac­cused of try­ing to be white. I wish I qual­i­fied for Aus­tralia.”

These re­sponses, good reader, are junk. There is a fine tech­ni­cal term but if I used it here The Star would ap­ply lit­tle twee as­ter­isks. It re­lates to bovine or­ganic waste.

I have mut­tered be­fore about the lu­nacy of the whiteys switch­ing off and tun­ing out. It’s our coun­try too, white peo­ple. You, each as one South African, have no whit less a right, a voice, a view, than any other South African.

And black peo­ple who stand for progress, de­cency, or­der, for hu­man­ness be­fore race ob­ses­sion? It’s get­ting ur­gent for you to stake your claim, too.

We go for­ward not by finding a “them” to blame. We go for­ward by think­ing and act­ing “our”. When our so­ci­ety is go­ing wrong we do our bit to steer it right.

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