You speak about your house maid as if she were a small, spoilt child and jealously guard your possessions, counting them and making sure nothing was stolen, every time she leaves. You fear "those people" in the townships and rural areas, and lock your car doors and house doors, call the cops, call the neighbours, call the security company, there's "one" walking on the road outside. You build huge complexes with high walls and electric fencing on top, guards and bright lights at night, blotting out the blanket of the Milky Way for the sake of safety in your expensive human zoos. Did you ever stop to consider that every day your housemaid arrives in your house from hers, which is far, far away despite the fact that the Group Areas Act was done away with. Her house probably has electricity, but not water, and certainly not hot water; not flush toilets. She might have a small fridge, but can't always afford to fill it. She might have some smart clothes to come to work in, but she certainly does not have a cupboard full of shoes, another full of warm winter coats, shelves and shelves of soft linen and towels, and a special cupboard just for all the beauty products you supposedly need for your face. What do you think she thinks of you when she sees all the food that goes to waste, rotting in your fridge. You waste. You buy and buy and buy and never actually consume. You leave taps dripping, lights burning, heaters running, cars running. Your selection of shoes and clothes that you never wear but guard vigilantly against theft because somewhere deep inside, you know they could be benefiting someone else but your avarice won't let you part with them. Do you think the person who cleans your toilets, washes your skidmarks out of your underwear, and looks after your children while you chat on the phone, go shopping for more clothes, watch TV or lounge by the pool, do you think that she doesn't see what you do - or don't do? When she sees your lack of productivity, gravity or humanity, how can you expect her to respect you the way you wish to be respected? When you waste while she starves and freezes, how can you expect her to be anything but cynical and hostile? When you still call her "the girl" after thirty years of her life spent cleaning your floors, how can you expect respect, gratitude, loyalty? The "one" walking along the street in your neighbourhood is scary because he has scruffy clothes, he looks like he might smell a bit ripe, but that's because he's been travelling on foot for days to try to find somewhere he can work so he can look after his children. He might end up working for your neighbour as a gardener. If he's young and agile of mind, he might even end up serving you in the restaurant down the road. But for now he looks like a threat, and when he buzzes your gate, or knocks on your car window, you don't answer, gather up the children from the front garden, look the other way, ignore it and it will go away. But "it" is a human being, a person, with thoughts and feelings, and it is a basic courtesy to acknowledge the existence of another. But you disregard this fact. If it looks like that, it obviously can't be human, or have the same rights I do, you think to yourself. Why the surprise, then, when that same individual whom you refused to acknowledge, steals from your house when he can't find a job, or lashes out in frustration at a community of beautiful, clean, well-dressed people in big cars and bigger houses, safe and pristine, like dolls in a shop, who don't even see him. If he doesn't exist when he is asking for work or food, doesn't it stand to reason that he won't exist if he's stealing from your garden shed? Or is that only only way to validate his presence? If people looked through you all the time for weeks, wouldn't you also do something terrible, just to see if you really were a ghost? And when you retreat into your high-cost low-cost housing behind those high walls with the boom gates and the lights overpowering the heavens, there's a whole community of people on the other side of the road in tiny one-room shacks that watch you. Who do you think is keeping watch over you and your expensive, precious piles of junk, every day and every night? It's not white security guards who control access to your human zoo, it's black people. Probably the husband of your "girl" who sees your waste and your idleness and goes home to a meagre supper every night after cleaning out your enormous fridge full of wasted, rotting food. When you drive past the guards at the gate each morning and each night without looking to either side, without a greeting or sign of recognition, you may not see, but they do. What do you think they think? Do you really think they would hold you in high regard? You feel safe inside your walls and electric wires, but who is keeping you that way? Who holds the key? And do you think that those people for whom you can't even spare a glance would really lay down their lives for you, if it came down to it? You waste without thinking. You fear without reason. You take your precarious superiority for granted, believing it to be earned, justified, and then you trust when your conscience should tell you otherwise. How can you ever expect to be considered a part of a nation when you put yourselves apart from it, and you don't even realise that you waste? |