Thursday, August 24, 2006

Crime, grime and chickens

An interesting column by Georgina Guedes was posted on today (scroll down for excerpt and link). I agree with her, you see and experience as much as you choose to - unless you live in squalor in which case your choices are severely limited...

Furthermore, how you experience things are influenced by previous exposure to crime and grime - the effect thereof depending on whether you allow this exposure to enrich and deepen your insight or simply to irritate. Middle- and upper class South Africans, who choose to, are exposed to a lot of third world realities in their own back yard and are thus mostly well prepared for what awaits them in third world countries. That is if you define South Africa as a 'developing country' and not third world per se - which is not really in dispute. Most developing countries are home to the first and third world at once - which is definitely true of South Africa.

Yet there are many wealthy white South Africans who have never set foot in a township, never mind a 'squatter camp' - of which there are many. Most have however been affected by crime in one way or another. In the context of mass poverty in our society, 'wealthy' (whites) include middle-class white South Africans. Those black South Africans that escape a life of poverty, thankfully an increasing number, are still linked by family and friends to the townships and are thus well informed of the realities of poverty.

Strangely, from the perspective of someone who grew up in middle-class white South Africa..., many buppies (black up-and-coming professionals) seem to be involved in a new struggle - this time not against apartheid but a struggle to acquire material wealth. In the ten years of democracy since 1994, most economists agree, this spending spree by buppies has been a major contributor to South Africa's economic growth (building up scary levels of credit along the way). In that respect the spending spree helps to create jobs for the unemployed.

But in an ideal world, newly gained wealth would have flowed from buppies back to their extended families in the townships. In the process society at large would benefit - albeit slowly. According to the conservative (cynical) view of African culture, this would in fact hamper the progress of 'good blacks' (sic) who could prosper if not for the poor masses pulling them down - claiming their share of the loot... The irony and somewhat worrying fact is that many buppies, probably the majority, are proving very much adept at gaining personal wealth and looking after their own needs - rather than spreading the love around...

Anyways, I'm drifting away from the topic. An extract from the Georgina Guedes column follows below, click on the link for the complete version.

Crime, grime and chickens: "While travelling in South East Asia, my boyfriend Ter and I befriended a really nice Canadian couple.

They were clever, had senses of humour and even though they had come from somewhere as advanced, both in technology and social infrastructure, as Canada, they were having a wonderful time in the Third World.

One evening, we ended up discussing the differences between our expectations of the places that we had come to and what we had actually ended up experiencing.

The Canadian girl's mother, in particular, had been horrified by her daughter setting off for exactly the kind of environs that good Canadians had worked so hard to advance beyond.

She was further flummoxed by her daughter's seeming unwillingness to buckle up and speed along the career path that lay dazzling before her. But in the end, she was forced to acknowledge that however incomprehensible her daughter's wishes were, the adventure was going to be had, and there was very little she could do about it.

She managed to distil all her fears into one neurosis, and instructed her daughter to 'avoid all areas where birds might have been', in an attempt to thwart the bird flu virus that, in her mind, threatens to infect with every breath drawn in Asia. "