gloom in Jozi

Two deaths today, and one death threat. And the cloud is so low, and so thick and grey. The remains of the gold-mine dumps, like mini manufactured Table Mountains with billboards advertising life insurance on top. The best ad in Johannesburg: Jumping off this building could harm your baby, so why do you keep smoking? They’re thinking of introducing metal detectors in South African schools. Kids carrying knives here – and there, back home, in London (the only place I’ve had a knife held to my throat was in London, on the Victorian line from Seven Sisters to Vauxhall, a teenage girl who hated the colour of my skin). Lots of kids walking around with knives shoved in their pants, and old men with firearms. All over the world. And the only jobs available numb your brain into believing the managerialised world in which we live. I’d rather be a dustbin man than work in an office ever again: at least it won’t rot my brain. The project now is to make sure we all stop thinking, then it will be fine. And people here are offended if you use the f-word, never mind the fucking k-word. I’ve heard it used here, and I’ve heard people who’ve heard it used here. And they’ve got a problem with the f-word! That’s seems to sum up at least some of this place. Never mind that The Star, this weekend, ran with the headline: HEART OF DARKNESS – WEEK JOBURG PLUNGED INTO DARK AGES. There followed residents’ power-cut woes (a pet-shop owner watched his exotic fish die, a hairdresser had to let client’s hair dry in the sun, and a lady who was hijacked when her gates failed to open). There was also the doctor who was doing heart surgery at the point of power cut. That’s bad. But don’t stop thinking about that line, heart of darkness, running today in a country that was ruled by lunatic white separatists for decades. (And no, there are no prizes for guessing where The Star’s heart lies). I’m amazed it’s allowed to carry on printing, whatever John Carlin’s claims about the rag he defends. It says nothing of the pool pumps that run for hours and hours each day across South Africa’s grassy suburbs – where few ever actually get into their swimming pools. It says nothing of the geysers that are left on twenty-four/seven by nearly every mildly wealthy and wealthy household in the country (I know no-one in the UK who would leave their immersion heater on all the time – as a child, my mother limited us to 20 minutes max). So the debate of load-shedding in this country goes: no questions about consumption are raised. How much power do miles and miles of electric fencing consume? How many houses in a single townships could be powered on the pool pumping power of, say, Sandton homes, alone? There is no discourse about saving energy. Just a wink and a pointed-finger at the black (sorry, New) government, allegedly plunging the country into darkness and the dark ages. So the cloud comes down, lower and lower, over South Africa. So the fences will go up, the walls will be raised, the knives will keep flicking, and the guns firing. Today, I see no hope.

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2 thoughts on “gloom in Jozi

  1. hey unstrung–I’ve been reading you from NYC-the land of all words out on the air, leaping off the tongue…so what is the “K” word?

  2. Oh Mia, I am delighted to learn that you read this blog. Delighted. Thank you. As for the K word: are you sure you want to hear it? It is, of course, kaffir. And it is the truth that there are those in this country who insist they aren’t racist, but occasionally can’t help themselves, or their tongues, from slipping into the happy slappy racist culture. My point was: how can you have a problem with ‘fuck’ (most inoffensive, I believe) if you are happy to use the word ‘kaffir’? Some South Africans will tell you that they aren’t hung up with the Western obsession with political correctness, that they talk about race and colour with an ease ‘we’ allegedly lack. But I wonder if, in part anyway, this is just an excuse to be brutally racist. PC may have its limitations – but it was no bad thing to get people to think about the language they use. No bad thing at all.

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