South Africa, it sometimes seems to me, is a bit of a proving ground for human compassion. If you can live in this country – with its extreme poverty, misery, concomitant rage and violence – and not get yourself either opened up to compassion or torn apart by pity, then you have more than one lifetime’s worth of schooling still to go.
Seems to me there will be an awful lot of South Africans among future re-incarnates.
But maybe I’m just bitter.
South Africa is widely seen as the wealthiest African country, and so our pitiful squatter camps are teeming with “illegal aliens” – people who are not allowed to work in the formal sector, and so must beg on the street corner, or wander from door to door pleading for paid labour, or take to crime to survive.
In this country, we have an unusually intense emphasis on material wealth being equated with self worth. I’ve never seen quite this level of rank materialism in any country I’ve lived in. And it has a lot of heartbreak to answer for.
It also has a lot of increasingly violent crime to answer for, stemming from a driven desperation to acquire money – with barely a nod from the incredibly self-absorbed power elites whose distance from the hardscrabble poor is a chasm, a gulf, a canyon whose sides are moving apart daily.
And I feel so damned inadequate amongst this soul-less hard materialism. Me with my good job and more-than-comfortable income, me with a roof over my head, clothes on my back and more food than I need in the fridge.
My heart regularly creaks with the strain of pity, that most awful of emotions, and yet I feel bound.
The only way I can see out of this misery is to raze the damned culture to the ground. Everywhere. And, to that end, I continue to provoke in all the ways I can find.
To pinch, and punch, and needle this abominable industrial civilization through the people who live in it, who should hopefully begin to feel the accumulation of mosquito-bite attacks, and turn to face the monster, together.
Pic: from Deep Green Philly