A big question not often pondered; Criminals: Who are they?
Not too long ago, I was robbed of my most prized possession – my late father’s wedding band. And it was really due to my own stupidity, as a driver in Johannesburg, sitting distracted; staring at the sidewalk with the car window wide open. These criminals… who are they?
After the initial cloud of disgust and trauma dissipated, I was left, as one is, a powerless victim, receiving little help from the Police service; just another statistic (actually, not even a statistic, as I was unable to report the case!)…
Then I got annoyed with myself that I didn’t at least scream something profound to the criminal as he made his escape, “This is not what Madiba worked for!”
All in all, an unnecessary event most likely caused by someone living in poverty just doing what he thought was necessary in order to get by.
I complained about the situation on social media – the only place one seems to get some conversation going these days; I certainly wasn’t getting much help from the Brixton Police Station.
I cried, I got angry, and, somewhat pathetically, kept blaming myself for having my window open.
Since, you know, if one is in a car, one should not open the windows, as that is not part of their purpose! Didn’t you read the owner’s manual?
The new normal in most parts of Johannesburg is that driving with your window more than 3cm open could be equated to putting up a flashing neon sign in the car: “Please attack me!”
Despite me getting so worked up in various cases about the plague of victim blaming (numerous stories attract comments about inappropriately dressed women having “asked” to be raped etc.) there I was, victim blaming myself, quite loudly, as well.
I altered my route to work; I started getting to grips that I would never see my dad’s wedding band again.
The symbolic feeling of having my dad with me every day had died, and in my mind, my dad died all over again.
Well, the symbolism hadn’t died; it had been ripped from life, beaten to death by a desperate person seizing an opportunity.
Now, each day, I have to smile, pretending to be content with driving around Johannesburg in 30°C+ heat, in my aircon-less car, with two 3cm gaps allowing some tiny bit of airflow.
As the weeks passed, some strange thoughts crossed my mind. Who are these people? Who are “they”? We often start reports of similar incidents with, “They robbed me!” or, “They took my car!” – but, who are THEY?
The sad realisation is that THEY are US.
Have you never done or said something nasty because you were late, because someone cut in front of you, or because you were tired? I reckon there isn’t anyone who can honestly say they’ve never done that. We are all guilty.
Sure, much debate exists about whether some crimes/ sins are bigger or worse than others, and I don’t aim to open that Pandora’s Box.
I only aim to point out that only WE can alter THEM. As much as we are all guilty, we are all part of the solution. As humans we are all connected; and a society is only as strong as its weakest members. Until a time has come where each individual can go to school and receive an education, along with a somewhat stable home life; until people don’t feel they need to endanger others in order to get by, we can’t expect anything to happen differently in our society.
South Africa, we need to stand together, unite against mediocrity, and unite against the bureaucracy of this government. The current government is not in it for us (for any of us!), and if we expect that at some point they will miraculously start to care about the suffering of the ordinary man who is literally on the street, we can only blame our ignorant selves for the sad state of affairs in our beautiful country.