Jax in Jozi – the fourth installment of my column for Vuvuzela Online

22 Oct

I do believe that South Africans, on a whole, have a very warped mentality about certain things. Maybe it’s because of our fractured past – or maybe it’s because we’re so scared of the future. Either way, we understand things and events in a (usually) interesting way, because our paradigms, or ways of seeing the world are slightly (how can I say this nicely?) off centre.

Take, for example, the phenomenon of road rage. It’s a very common activity on our roads to be thoroughly aggressive, shout at people and make rude gestures. This kind of behaviour can be provoked by even the slightest of traffic misdemeanour’s; such as driving 50km per hour in a 60 zone, or not getting out of the fast lane quick enough when someone is driving on your bum.

Road rage is so much a part of the South African psyche that imagining our highway’s without it is like, well, imagining a horror film without the scary soundtrack. The angriness that spills out of people on the roads is often background music to our drive home!

There are people on the roads who are consumed by unholy rage and find themselves incapable of calming down and behaving more rationally. Others find themselves getting incredibly angry but manage to keep a check on their emotions. And here’s where the off centre thinking usually comes in. For those of us whose manage to quell our road rage, it’s usually not because we’re especially nice people, or particularly polite. Nor are we trying to make our roads a better place, or believe we are mature adults who should behave better. Instead, it’s usually because we are so scared of the other person pulling a gun out on us and shooting us dead, as has been known to happen, that we shut up and drive off instead of hooting or shouting furiously.

This is, to my mind, quite bizarre thinking. But it’s probably a result of living in a society characterised by anger, bitterness and general downright rudeness.

The same kind of warped thinking that is behind road rage is often behind our reactions to crime. This is especially true when you think of the way we have adapted our thinking to try protect ourselves against crime. Some people have become vigilantes, some incredibly paranoid. We isolate ourselves or we go out seeking vengeance. Either way, crime and its perpetrators have the upper hand, as we’re usually not very rational about the whole thing anyway.

It’s probably because the very nature of crime goes against natural ways of thinking. To try and understand someone violating your personal (and sometimes physical) space, and taking something away from you – that you own / worked for / love / hold precious – is usually not possible.

Take for example, my recent experience with crime. Last week Friday my boyfriend and I walked to our cars to go to work (earn money, be decent members of society, feel good kind of stuff). We discovered both our cars had been broken into, and that our radios, as well as my speakers and a pair of shoes (the bastards!) and his sunglasses were taken.

My thought process went as such. First, confusion – my immediate reaction being, what the f**k?, as I saw my back seat had been pulled down and my speakers were gone. Secondly, panic as I realised that something had been taken from me. Then respect – seriously, I actually stopped and thought that the burglars had really done a nice, clean job. They had broken both our back left hand windows – the small ones – something that was reasonably cheap and easy to fix, and they hadn’t left a mess. And my last emotion was relief. Relief that it was something easily (but inconveniently) replaceable. And also that the burglars had not taken the cars, not eentred the house, not stolen more valuables, and not hurt either myself or my boyfriend.

Although I felt all these things, and was frustrated and annoyed, I never felt angry. It is a sign of serious apathy and numbness when you can no longer be angered by someone stealing something from you. It’s OK, because they didn’t hurt us. It’s OK, because I have insurance. It’s OK, because this is South Africa and that’s what happens.

No, actually, it’s not OK!

When on earth did I start seeing crime in terms of degrees of acceptability?

I hate to say this is the symptom of our society. But it is. The concept of freedom – of true personal freedom has become warped. Either we give it away to easily (by giving criminals excuses such as, oh it was my fault I was driving through a dangerous area) or we guard it too violently (this is my car, and don’t you dare cut me off), without due consideration for others.

Either way, it’s freaking me out that I’ve become another symptom of an embittered society. But then again, it was just a radio.

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