We are still a so­ci­ety to hope for, work for

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

MIKE van Graan’s new re­vue, State Frac­ture has its ac­tor/ pre­sen­ter Daniel Mpilo Richards rid­ing that well-known metaphor, the roller­coaster of South African life.

It’s a won­der­ful ride, gym­nas­ti­cally. Your eye­ball sees Daniel con­quer­ing grav­ity. Your soul swings into the peaks and troughs of Sef­frican­ism.

Which was right for me af­ter a day of solid trough. I’d been with farm-at­tack people. Not people who do it; people who cope with it. A deep grim tun­nel for the spirit.

For the terms “city slicker” and “coun­try bump­kin”, Afrikaans has a nice egal­i­tar­i­an­ism – “stad­s­japie” and “plaas­japie”. We stad­s­japies are apt to ex­pe­ri­ence a bit of mis­ery-fa­tigue at the plaas­japies go­ing on about farm at­tacks. We tend to think, I dare­say, that (a) that’s some­where dis­tant, and (b) farm­ers com­plain, that’s their thing.

Ac­tual ex­po­sure – mer­ci­fully sec­ond­hand – changes that pic­ture. It’s not only that the ris­ing sta­tis­tics become tan­gi­ble. It’s not only that the ex­treme hor­rors are the ones that get the air­time. (On this trip it struck me that it’s pos­si­ble to not-look at the grue­some pic­tures you are of­fered. But you can’t not-hear the grue­some de­tails as­sail­ing your ear. Those pol­lute your hard-drive.)

The most de­press­ing bit is the air of in­evitabil­ity. It’s taken as ob­vi­ous that things get worse, de­cline is or­dained. More col­lapse means less wealth, there­fore more des­per­a­tion, there­fore more hor­ror and more hate, on and on in an end­less down­ward cy­cle.

The way of think­ing is of an almighty trap, deep by cir­cum­stance and deep­ened by hu­man frailty and low sights.

For in­stance, your first line of defence is a loyal staff, but the fo­cal ways of en­sur­ing their loy­alty are me­chan­i­cal –dig­i­tal fin­ger­print­ing, psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing, multi-an­gle pho­tograph­ing, com­pre­hen­sive de­tails of home and fam­ily… Giv­ing them grounds to be loyal in heart and mind is in the dim back­ground.

Any­way, even the me­chan­i­cal fix doesn’t hap­pen, our in­for­mants tell us. Re­al­ity is that farm­ers, also des­per­ate, go like flies at honey for il­le­gal Malaw­ians. They brag that the Malaw­ians work more, for less pay, un­til sud­denly a for­tune’s worth of portable gear has van­ished and so have the il­le­gals. Now the farmer is scream­ing at ev­ery­body from the rot­ten il­le­gals who never even gave him their pa­pers to the rot­ten govern­ment who should have never al­lowed them in.

Then there’s equip­ment. The “im­per­a­tives” for pro­tec­tion in­clude alarm beams, camera mon­i­tor­ing, dogs, bur­glar bars, in­ter­nal alarms and safe­r­ooms. I want to do some scream­ing at my own. I pic­ture idyl­lic ru­ral hol­i­days as times you for­get to lock your door, you leave your car key in the ignition. I want those times back. I want those times in the cities too. The no­tion of farms as fortresses is anath­ema.

We get more anath­ema – your in­for­mant net­work is im­per­a­tive too. You must pay, and pay well, re­mem­ber­ing that ev­ery­one in the “in­tel game” will do you down when it suits them. Plus you must or­gan­ise your com­mu­nity, and stick to it, not like most, which are ter­rif­i­cally or­gan­ised for six weeks af­ter the last at­tack and then crum­ble un­til the next one.

All this is a pretty sharp kick in the learn­ing curve, say­ing loudly that we as a nation are sleep­walk­ing. We need restart, not ban­dage.

By night­fall I’m home and soon af­ter­ward at The­atre on the Square with State Frac­ture, and the world has changed. The roller­coaster is sky­high. A so­ci­ety that can look into its mir­ror and pro­duce this much thought, hi­lar­ity, all­round ir­rev­er­ence, the­atri­cal ex­cel­lence and som­bre se­vere clar­ity, is a so­ci­ety to be proud of. A so­ci­ety to have hope for. A so­ci­ety to work for.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.