On your marks, get set…

Ag man, it’s all bloody doom and gloom, wherever you look. Rates are up and the rand is down. Fuel, food, foreigners; it’s all a big F-up. And you know what? I’m done. I know I should be concerned, and people are suffering, and the planet’s about to destroy itself. But I can’t take it anymore. I’ve become numb. I’ve switched off.

It’s a purely defensive mechanism, I assure you. I’m normally an involved, concerned and committed citizen of SA and the global community, but there’s only so much bad news you can take before you go mad. And it’s even worse in South Africa. I mean, every time there’s a little crisis, we all put on our running shoes and prepare to leave the country.

I understand that our nation has a long history of histrionics, probably because of all that fear-mongering that the Nats sowed to stay in power for so many years. So, I expect a certain amount of alarmist bleating every time something goes pear-shaped. But the chorus of nay-sayers has now become so cacophonous that even I am starting to lose faith.

It’s interesting, because other beleaguered communities in other parts of the world are not as apocalyptic about their fates. You don’t hear about hoards of Americans threatening to leave the States because their economy has tanked, property prices have collapsed and they’ve elected a certifiable idiot as their president, twice.

Oh no, the Yanks aren’t emigrating to Canada, Australia or London. When they go on holiday, they aren’t having a ‘look see’. Come what may, they are going to stick it out in the good old US of A; the greatest God-damn country in the whole God-damn world. And if things are a bit screwed at the moment, they’ll make it right again. Because that what America is all about.

That’s one thing you’ve got to admire about the Americans. They are the greatest because they say they are the greatest. In other words, they believe their own hype. It’s this unquestioning conviction in their own inherent superiority that has allowed them to conquer the planet with their bizarre, toothy, self-congratulatory worldview.

But South African’s are not optimistic and self-assured. Quite the opposite. The only thing we embody is the conviction that everything is about to go belly up. We are all headless chickens, running around expecting the sky to fall on our heads. It’s like my uncle says, “I always expect the worst, and I’m never disappointed.”

And there’s plenty of grist for that particular mill in our rather battered rainbow nation. But here’s the thing about South Africa, and Africa as a whole; stuff happens, all the time. Our lives are always going to be full of ups and downs, like a runaway roller-coaster. Is the country going to skip the tracks and go plunging into the abyss? I don’t know. But, whatever happens, the ride is not going to be nice and gentle. So, if you can’t handle the excitement, maybe you should move across to a safe and stable carousel that just goes round and round, like Canada.

Personally speaking, I’ve decided that uncertainty and doubt are the real dangers. Our constant harping on the negative is not doing anyone any good. So, I’m making a stand. I’ll no longer play the ‘So Where To’ game. I don’t want to talk about how bad things are getting or bemoan the collapse of the New South Africa. The whole world’s up the same dark-brown creek and similarly unencumbered by a paddle, or any other form of propellant.

That’s why I’m sticking it out here, where I live, where I belong. Sure, the news is dire, but there are also glimpses of hope out there, if you look hard enough.  And I think that we should all become a bit more American in our outlook, George W Bush notwithstanding. IMHO.

[Originally posted 13/06/2008]

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