Why is it that South Africans don't take responsibility for their actions? I was reminded of this last Sunday, having just completed the Argus Cycle Tour, in what I would love to say was a winning time. Age has unfortunately robbed that possibility from me, but nevertheless, it was not a bad time, by any account.
It is common knowledge (or it should be), that raising ones arms in triumphant celebration is reserved for the person that is deserving of it, in other words, the person who wins. The reason for this, as anyone who had actually read the Argus Cycle Tour Magazine, would know, is that it might result in harm, given that cyclists ride in such proximity to one another. The person next to me, whilst crossing the finishing line, first raised her hands upwards. I'm used to such gesticulations, but am used to seeing them in the "Jumping for Jesus" church that I walk by when exercising my dog. I can understand her need to reach out to perceived powers above, after covering such a distance. Her next move was straight out of a Jackie Chan movie, a sharp and forceful right hand move to her left side. When traffic police in South Africa still did their jobs, it was a move even they might have emulated.
Unfortunately my face was in the same place her hand ended up in. My inner celebratory dance gave way to a throbbing red lump of a nose. I shouted at her, telling her it was a stupid thing to do. But no, she quickly corrected me. I WAS TOO CLOSE! The fact that this was the furthest away from a cyclist she had probably been from for the last three or so hours, conveniently escaped her.Would it have been so difficult to simply apologise?
For some reason, South Africans seem incapable of what should be normal behaviour. I had an experience some time ago that was the most extreme I've experienced. My wife had cut her head by walking into an open window. The first hospital we went to wasn't to our liking, so we left to find another one. Walking back to the car, I saw a middle aged man in a bakkie (utility vehicle). He promptly threw his lit cigarette butt out the window. All I said was : "Dude, you dropped your cigarette."
He then got out the car, shouting that he didn't even smoke, while the cigarette butt lay smouldering on the tarmac, and even more incriminating- the smoke still emanating from his cab.
My wife and I ignored him and climbed inside our car. Seconds later, he almost rammed us with his bullbar. I wound down the window and asked him what his problem was. He then said, in an accent that would send shivers down any Englishman's spine : "The last guy that called me dude, his face never looked the same again. You must see a psychologist!"
Now, I didn't call him dude because I'm a hippie, not that he would haveknown what one was, but because it sounded a lot better and a lot less aggressive than asshole or dickhead. And he gets upset because I called him a "dude"? Thank the Lord I'm not Australian and called him Bruce. Would he have said?: "My name's not Bruce"
I noted with interest his recommendation that I should see a professional and then, taking into consideration the large vehicle he was driving and his obvious poor self image, I suggested he was the owner of an incredibly small penis. I think this flummoxed him- how small is small? When it got through to him he gave chase, but with traffic on my side, I managed to escape him. (some advice for foreigners : DO NOT comment on the size of a South African man's penis, unless you make him believe that it is actually bigger that he thinks it is. People have been killed for saying such things, but only after this incident. Until such time as the South African Government grants free penis extensions, thereby solving many of this country's ills, it remains a taboo subject)
I hear this abdication of responsibility all the time. If someone does something wrong, like breaking traffic laws, they immediately say: "Because I saw him do it" or "Because someone in government did it". Yet, they are vociferous in criticising the very people they emulate. Ask them if they will jump in a fire because someone else did and they will childishly reply in the positive. Just how does one deal with such levels of immaturity? And if the adults of our population behave in such a manner, what hope is there for their children?
In attempting to answer the questions I've posed, I have the following answers, which may or may not be conclusive. Firstly, we have a history of not thinking in this country (our Calvinistic, Apartheid past) and as such, we remain sheeple, never really thinking for ourselves. We do not read much in this country, apart from one particularly popular book and the odd newspaper. That particular book is nothing but a plaster on our reality. It is time to tell it like it is. Forget about wallpapering our truth, forget about reaching out for the embers, let's just be honest. If we admit that we have this problem, that extends into all spheres of life, and contributes to the moral decay, the corruption, road rage and all the darkness that goes alongside it, then we can begin to change. Just like someone with an addiction can only begin his rehabilitation after admitting to himself, that he has a problem, can we as South Africans, begin our new journey.