The Bluebird of Happiness long absent from his life, Ned is visited by the Chicken of Depression.


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For the two years or so that we have been living in our particular street, I have taken what I will freely admit to being a rather snobbish pride in it. I can always tell whenever my parents come to visit, that my mother has recently been wearing a look one part concern and one part disdain, as recently as the parking of the car, in fact. My street, and my neighbourhood for that matter, have coaxed from me a grudging affection, for it is a street that would never have existed ten years ago, it is a street that incorporates and embraces everything the New South Africa adheres to: complexity, tolerance and respect. I understand why my parents react in the way that they do; I fear that they are to old to ever be able to 'reconfigure' the way in which they were raised, and it is a source of great sadness to me, not because they are unable to welcome transformation, but rather because they can never change fundamentally. I know the short excerpt to follow may appear to be nothing of any great consequence, but it has raised some difficult questions for me. On Saturday night, one of the apartments opposite ours was having a party. Generally speaking, it is deemed considerate to 'dampen' the ambient party noise at around 12pm, but on this night the balcony doors were wide open and the music was definitely intrusive. But considering that this particular apartment do not often have loud parties, most of the street seemed to be willing to tolerate the evenings merriment. Around 1pm, someone from an apartment on the other side of the street decided that enough was enough. Because he had no doubt been simmering for the last hour, his approach was one of immediate anger, yelling up from the street for them to shut the hell up. Things got heated, and to my dismay, the racial slurs started, from both sides. Fortunately, a few clearer heads prevailed and all the drama petered out. The matter was never a racial one, so why the racist remarks? I found myself for most of Sunday being deeply fearful of just how wide-spread the facade of tolerance might be. Do these divisions really run so deeply, that while all may appear well on the surface, a sudden flash of anger brings it boiling to the surface? I have warily convinced myself that this trouble in paradise was more a gust than a hurricane, but I can't seem to rid myself of this nagging doubt. Please don't interpret this incorrectly. I have no illusions as to how much healing has taken place in the last ten years, but I also know how gravely short we are of where we need to be. I know that there are many incidents of true transformation and equally as many of poseurs and manipulators. I think the reason this has plagued me so, is that I had finally begun to think that one of these 'incidents of transformation' had occurred in the street I call home, and although I still retain more than a modicum of pride in it, there has never the less been a hammer blow, and that first hammer blow is often the worst.


26 Responses to “The Bluebird of Happiness long absent from his life, Ned is visited by the Chicken of Depression.”

  1. Blogger Luke 

    I relate, I do. The thing that worries me the worst, is not when people are angry and the racist slurs start flying around, it's when people are supposedly relaxed, having a braai, or sitting in a pub and the tongues start to get loose, the "old" guard goes down and out come all that boiling, festering, undercurrent of intolerance, which you just don't see when that person is sans booze. That, to me, is the most frightening and insidious manifestation of whether or not there is true transformation in this rainbow society of ours.

  2. Blogger the wheel 

    Love the title. Great Far Side reference.

  3. Blogger Beelzebabe 

    No matter how far we progress, there is still that undercurrent of fear, from which all bigotry and hatred originates. Sad, and all too human.
    We must never get so comfortable that we forget the sleeping beast.

  4. Blogger Gone Away 

    On the plus side it was probably not racist, but one of those 'heat of the moment', 'haven't had any sleep' kind of things.

    On the minus side, it certainly is the beast inside us all. The propensity to pick on something, anything, different to us and use it as a focus of hate.

    There's a little subconscious demon inside saying: "that person who was horrible - how are they different to us? Oh, their skin is a different colour!" or "they've got freckles" or "they've got a big nose". It doesn't matter what it is, it can and will become a focus of hate.

    I know it sounds fatuous to compare being insulted for having a big nose with racism, but I think it's valid in the context. If there was a nation of people with big noses, they'd shout pretty loud about racism. What about all the "slanty-eyed Chinese" jibes. It's not racism, it's Hate-ism.

    The same holds true of hate focused on gender, beliefs, size, age, sexual preference, etc, etc. The hate comes first (for the person or for what the person/group is perceived to do or believe), then the focus on the person or group's defining characteristics.

    The sad part is that I don't think there's a 'cure' for that. As it becomes unacceptable in one area it will focus on another area, or go underground.

    Institutionalised Racism can be beaten, personal hatreds can't. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't stop trying to beat them in your own life and your own way, coz otherwise you'd have to just give in to them.

  5. Blogger forgottenmachine 

    Lucretia: I agree with you to a certain extent, but I also know that often prejudices are so deeply ingrained and that often an individuals facade of tolerance is really a conscious effort to change, but that alcohol relaxes those carefully constructed facades and so the indoctrinations come flooding out. I don't think that they would necessarily act on those thoughts, and as much they should be exposed as frauds, it's those who would act out of anger, or worse, calmly rationalise their actions that scare me.

    Skrambled: Thanks, I thought you might appreciate that!

    Beelzebabe: Hmmm, how ironic is it that your comment would be equally relevant to your last post.....

    Onkroes: Thanks, that's extremely well put and uncomfortably accurate. I would only disagree with you in the South African context. I don't think it was a hatred for the black population, more a disdain, a fanciful notion that the whites were superior which spurned the beginnings of apartheid. Also, the intial words of spite came from the party goers. When the words "Piss off you white fucker" came floating down from on high, I hoped that the response would not degenerate, but alas, it did. Which is why it bothered me so. It's just so easy to respond in kind, isn't it? Which is also why it's easy to spot the great men, far worse has been spat in their faces, yet they never devolve.

  6. Blogger sojourning crow 

    that was a vey eloquent story. the part about your parents was interesting b/c my parents are the same way, kind of neve datisfied with where i choose to habitat. and i live in a different part of the world. perhaps it's a universality which is constant and has some basis in genetic disposition with respect to gereatrics (sp?). They get old they get less flexible.

    Take care.

  7. Blogger Prone Ranger 

    The only way to beat prejudice is through communication and and interaction between people, on a daily and prolonged basis. It is through this that the similarities are realised, and the differences deminish.(Onkroes described the nature of the beast well). I have seen many examples of racists suddenly aquiring black brothers when in jail, or in the army, or when the new neighbours move in, but no sooner than one prejudice is beaten another arrives. "You know, the Dlamenis are really very nice, but those homos down the road! SIES!" The nature of the beast....

  8. Blogger banzai cat 

    So true, FM, so true.

    Ironically, here in the Philippines, the color of the skin is also important despite the fact that we don't get enough respect for our own to begin with.

    Likewise, would it be considered cynical when I say that I'm not surprised how human beings can turn on each other so quickly?

    *sigh*

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