It’s Enough!

45

July 29, 2020 by petrujviljoen

Early 2020: It’s a good few blocks to the grocery store. People made a shortcut through a stretch of veld which I often follow. At the entry to the narrow trail I halt to watch a woman walking a path I haven’t seen before. A black guy was coming down the much trodden path, saw me standing as if waiting for him to reach the tar road. I could see in his face he was upset; perhaps I was trying to avoid him because he was black. When he got closer he gave a thin, unsure greeting before I could. My answer prompted him to ask if I was okay, still hesitant in case he got swiped with a racial throwback. Engaging in conversation he realised I was just seeing what’s for what. My heart broke at his relief. His shoulders visibly relaxed. That’s the way it is for ordinary (one has to qualify) black people in this god-forsaken town. And everywhere else, I realise.

…………….

I forget the year, perhaps 2012 or 2013. Newish in town, here from Joburg, attending a meeting for the first time to see where, indeed if, I can fit in, hoping to find employment. Be of help? – blush. The racist jokes around the table were such I packed my notebooks, left and took the white people to the highest office of their political party, which claimed to be non-racial. These political types are so glib, so smooth, so good at side-stepping, so good at The Treatment. I was smeared, lied about, side-lined, my craftwares in the shops put away in cupboards and back storerooms.

Many blue-eyed blonds in this town. One of them, a high-to-do, really high in society, pointed his finger: you must be careful, previously having cited an instance of crime committed against a woman who lived by herself remote from the town … robbed by black people. In the company of two other men from his side – who kept quiet. It’s organised crime I said … a loaded silence. (It makes one wonder: all the farm murders in the country, escalated, prominent since 1994 … )
It took months to get all my wares back.

……

It’s the time of Covid. The town is in crisis. The local municipality, greedy, owes Escom (provider of electriity) hundreds of millions. Every household is equipped with a prepaid meter. Now slapping a crippling monthly surcharge on puchases which has to be paid before power for personal use can be bought. The poor, clawing their way from one pathetic income to the next is slammed into the ground hard. It’s a crime against humanity. The only local municipality in the country to do so. A slap in the face of National Treasury’s directive, no wage increases for municipal workers(in the time of Covid) they allowed themselves a salary increase. The only municipality in the country to do so. It’s criminal. Food parcels for the destitute disappeared. It’s shameful.

The people of the town draws together in protest. For the first time in its history. The chat groups ablaze with outrage. Eventually race creeping into the conversation. Most unfortunate.

A highly-to-do well-off black community leader, safe, protected, avoids the issues raised. He’s accused of many things; I’m witness to his smugness, his entitlement, his unwillingness to step up to the cause, to the crisis at hand. I’m devastated.

A high-to-do, well-off, historically entitled, blue-eyed blond earns himself the flack from the black community. ‘’We all suffered under Apartheid’’. Blatant, smug, smooth, well-rehearsed, in your face, bloody, hypocricy. I’m devastated.

race
in spite//in time
persists

…..

I’m still reeling from a public humiliation I received from yet another of the high-to-do, comfortable, blue-eyed blonds, back in January. The power of words, how it can devastate. I pointed out her racism, in the name of her God. A God so made in the image of so many of the blue-eyed blonds He’s actually avoiding me too, in shame I think. I know the Guy. His Mother too. He has taken on a tinge of ochres and browns lately but it doesn’t help very much. — as usual, I offer an apology to the sincere ones. You won’t be fazed I don’t think.

There’s so much more I would have wanted to say: theGeorge Floyd tragedy in America: locally a phrase in one of the many messages crossing my path – we have to keep our knee in their necks until the surcharge in electricity is reversed. Devastating stuff. Terrible! The Collins Khoza case in South Africa – the brutality of it all.

I have to withdraw. I have an appointment with the Mother of God. I think it’s clear She would like to meet with me my side of the rainbow. Since I stopped spitting fire I’m spitting blood. My feet slips around in my rubber garden shoes, a nervous sweat. I’m vulnerable, fragile, a wreck, at the edge of health, at the edge of time.

May there be peace, a cease of war, a cease of rumours of war.

Om shanti.

»

45 thoughts on “It’s Enough!

  1. Chris Hall says:

    Speak out and speak out again. Call out the corruption and hypocrisy and prejudice. Even from behind a keyboard, it still makes a difference. Such an interesting thread, Petru. South Africa and the rest of the world needs more like-minded people such as these.
    (From a guest in your/our country these past 10 years).

    • Hi Chris. Thanks for the clock in. There’s just so much of it and the kickback can be severe sometimes. Having a rest until the next round! 🙂
      Cape Town is a beautiful city. You must be happy here if it’s been ten years! Good for you.

  2. huzaifazoom says:

    Heartfelt piece that goes to show how everything that we humans think of as humane is under constant attack.

    Both patriarchy and slavery were instrumenting in birthing capitalism ~500 years ago. And now – along with so many various otherisms – structures of oppression are out to snuff out mother earth itself.

    To start by listening to her on what is demanded of us, organizing in various small ways in solidarity with all that is – and has been – care and do what we must.

    And hope.

  3. Jules says:

    I live in a fairly diverse neighborhood. I speak to all equally. I’m not so sure that in the city (only miles away) that has more diversity, that people show respect or fear? There is too much type casting and not enough ‘We’ as in ‘All’ the people.

    I lived in a town over 30 years ago where we had ‘closet Red-necks’… those who knew they were prejudice but kept tabs on how they spoke when they weren’t sure who was listening. Though not all ‘Red-necks’ (some Southerners) are deeply prejudice. It is unfortunate that how one is brought up to think weighs very heavy on how one proceeds with being social.

    People forget history and how so many were enslaved for thousands of years in other countries before more modern borders were established. Even before slavery was adopted in the Americas.

    I remember watching shows about religion and how the priests conned believers by making (rigged) statues cry and how people were charged for holy water. Leaves a very bad taste in my mouth for any organized religions. I find it difficult to believe in higher beings who allow human mistakes to continue to exasperate and separate rather than embrace and solidify.

    It annoys me that ‘men’ interpret things so that the holy beings that are in images are not correctly representational of the country or time of the supposed heroes. Why some faiths
    have people make rules about marriage when they aren’t allowed to wed – all due to greed. Even within the same faiths there are divisions – some of the more Orthodox snub their own in favor of those not of their faith because they think all those of their faith should be as devoted to their dogma as they are.

    I was just watching a show about language and class words. Like how farmers use cow or chicken as descriptive word, but those who don’t work with caring for and raising the animals and only consume them use fancier words like beef or poultry.

    Equality is a word that has become meaningless because so few have it. I hope you are staying safe and continue to write and be a voice of reason.

    • Your comment pulls together all aspects mentioned: race, economic equality, gender equality, organised religion rather beautifully. Thanks Jules. All issues are equally important and it will take serious activism to set things right. I’m older now … and tired.

      I realise slavery is older than American history, it’s from Biblical times! What I’m not sure of is if Capitalism isn’t a form of slavery in itself. I think workers are driven to serve and are exploited!

      Yes, I’m staying as safe as can be. I’m going to take for granted you and everyone else is doing the same.

    • The 15 years I spent in the inner city of Johannesburg was definitely based on respect, from which love grew. During the Zuma years my mind kept going to the women specifically who spend their days on the pavements selling anything and everything, proud of their micro-enterprise, proud of themselves – and their endeavours got *&^) on.

  4. K E Garland says:

    This is beautifully and painfully expressed.

  5. Misky says:

    Sometimes I look at my keyboard, and I don’t know what to say because I don’t know how to say it. This is one of those times when words just don’t cut it.

    • This is exactly what happened when I tried writing the post. One starts a ra-ra-ra and it turns to ashes.

    • I’ve also been asked, nicely this time, to be circumspect as my teeny little blog, which is read mostly by people outside South Africa, can influence the current situation in this little town. I should thank them for the compliment, I didn’t know I had that kind of influence! So a lot got chopped. As it is the post stands over 800 words anyway and I’ve hardly begun.

      • Misky says:

        Circumspection is quite different from self-censorship, and I would hope that one does not become the other. I’ll continue to read your posts with great interest, and concern. Above all, stay safe my friend.

  6. This is powerful and so sincere. I think your words show how much more it’s a question of wealth, affluence, economic ‘success’ that makes people what they are. The rich always either spit on the poor or look the other way. ‘Fraternity’ is between social equals not between members of the same culture/ethnic group.
    Such awful oppression you have to live with, such an ugly regime that won’t roll over and die, and the blacks who have made money and joined it rather than defend the poor just makes me despair for humanity. I would expect no better from the blond blue-eyed privileged, but I expected better from the black former oppressed.

    • I also did Jane. I so looked forward to live in a truly African country, a model showcase to the world. It’s just the same – power corrupts – and our hearts are broken.

      • Power corrupts and the wealthy have an understanding between them that transcends any other consideration.

        • I’d like to shrug it off as: it’s the way of the world and has never been different …

        • There have always been different ways of organising society, but the one constant has always been that the rich run the show and the poor serve them. Actually there are two constants, the place of women is always below that of men.

        • Yes, to all of it. In a meeting with three guys – so organised to intimidate me in the first place and when I wasn’t at first an anecdote of a single woman in danger gets trotted out. Two of the guys weren’t impressed, I could see by their reactions, but the thing is, they kept silent! They didn’t protest! And I finally was shocked by all three.

        • If there’s ever a question of a position in society, especially if votes are to be won or lost, they always suddenly change their principles, make exceptions, don’t speak out. It’s similar to an interview I listened to yesterday with a député for one of the Mediterranean départements involved in animal rights. He was fine when he was asked about changing the laws around abattoirs, about abandoning pets, about some of the hunting laws, but when he was asked about bullfighting (practised in his constituency) he went all coy and said he didn’t want to say he was against it, muttering about tradition and perception etc etc. Votes.

        • Our Minister of Finance put it well a few weeks ago. He used to be the Governor of the Reserve Bank and got roped into politics after the Des van Rooyen and Nene debacles. You’re so clued up in our politics I feel I don’t have to explain. He said, being a politician is like swallowing a rock! Especially with the two factions in the ANC, the Zuma crowd a real blot on the landscape.

        • You just have to look at all the ‘positions’ these people hold, the heads of companies, directorships, the amount of money rolling into their bank accounts to know that they are corrupt, no matter what their skin colour. Both the ANC and Zuma’s lot have proved themselves unfit to lead anybody. Swallowing a rock is right! And it can kill you.

        • I bet he knows. The Reserve Bank is a state entity but separate from government. The Zuma faction and of course the Guptas on top, tried getting their disgusting hands on it, so far it’s staying soveteign.

        • The moment they get their hands on the money…

        • … there goes the morals.

        • 😂 wish it was funny.

        • Humanity doesn’t come out of it very well.

        • I get very tired of hearing about ‘we’ this and ‘they’ the other, as if there are goodies and baddies and you can pick them out by their physical characteristics. Stupid and lazy thinking.

        • That the three guys represented the colour spectrum of this town didn’t and doesn’t help.

        • I noticed that Morgan Freeman from being a darling of black America because…he’s black, came in for a lot of flack from the BLM people because he dared to say skin colour does not make a person what he/she is and the only way to stop racism is to stop making colour an issue. I know, it’s easier for him to say that being as how he has a bit of money in the bank, but he’s right. Integration in a country like the US that worships money means being rich. If you’re poor you’re despised, whether you’re black or white. Money is what matters in most societies, and as you say, it doesn’t make it any better than blacks can be as lacking in compassion and humanity as their white counterparts.

  7. In condo-burbia west of Chicago: “Safe” but always these days plus “for now.” Reminds me of ‘68. Trumpists, evangelicals and other opportunists all around, they are not neighbors but near-bys. W/masks and social distancing hard to tell who could be a friend.
    Do find peace if only in solitude and art.

  8. memadtwo says:

    The tension in your words is palpable. I’m so sorry for this situation you are faced with on an intimate day-to-day basis. The racism here in the city is much more general, less personal. But that makes it no easier to have skin that is not white or a religion that is not Christian. What is this world we have made? (K)

  9. ShiraDest says:

    Wow, this is very sad to hear so long after the end of apartheid. Be safe, and thank you for sharing.

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