“In God we trust” is printed on the American dollar. Surely it can’t be referring to God, the creator of heaven and Earth? Mammon, the money god more likely.
Living on the streets with an empty pocket I came to realise how even without nothing, one can be happy.
They say the best things in life are free. True. The sound of children laughing. A beautiful sunset. Nature. From where I stand it seems to me we, as humans, are being consumed by worldly possessions.
We get up early in the morning, do the nine to five thing to get paid an hourly rate. When we get paid, ironically, we are broke again a few days later. We have no dedicated time for our families. And that one-hour church thing on a Sunday gets in the way of the sports channel.
Quality of life is lost. The human touch is lost. Personal interactions are becoming fewer and fewer by the day.
I go back about three years and reflect what it was like when I walked the streets of Bo-Kaap and District Six, which is rich in history. There I engaged with the locals, chatting about days gone by. Today, I can hardly see the “old” District Six.
The same with Woodstock. And it is not because of progress. It is driven by pure greed. People are being displaced again, this time to make way for huge developments, pushing the little corner shop off the map.
And among this multibillion real estate development and award-winning buildings, the homeless, after waiting around for about five years, got a fenced-off piece of ground under a highway bridge where carbon dioxide from heavy traffic will take its toll on our health. Drop toilets galore. But it is ours. This is as good as it’s gonna get. This small piece of land is ours to live on. To do our washing, socialise, sleep, play, whatever. Out of the public’s eye. No more being a nuisance.
In summer it is going to be awesome to live outdoors. Protected by a green fence. Yes, life on the streets is no longer safe. It is just a matter of time before we become another statistic for yet another robbery, rape or a murder - if we haven’t become one already.
You see, as some people cling to their worldly possessions others are becoming more desperate to survive day to day. And there will be compromised interactions, “them versus us”.
When you’re living on the streets, rules, diplomacy and common decency will not keep you alive. The concrete jungle doesn’t abide by it. It’s survival of the most streetwise.
The monster was created by the very people who turned their backs on the poor. The time has come to breastfeed the monster. It is not going to go away.
* Danny Oosthuizen is the #TheDignityProject ambassador. In his weekly daily column for the Cape Argus, he tackles the struggles homeless people face. Connect with Danny on Facebook and on Twitter @masekind3213 or via email: [email protected]
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.