Struggling to ignore the best advice I’ve ever been given
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NEVER shoot off an email while you’re angry.
That was some of the best advice given by two colleagues, Alan and Clyde, both of whom I respected and admired.
I took their advice to heart and have never done it since ‒ until now.
This little patch of paper has tried to offer a spell away from the tough stuff we all face daily. A kind of scab for the rotten pustulation of corruption and greed that has inflicted our society.
It has explored, among other things, the possibility of human nature being, at its core, good and kind.
Our lead story last week suggested this was backed by numbers, that South Africans were a good, kind people who helped one another.
It was juxtaposed with the story on the beginnings of our violent protests. Ostensibly, their roots were planted by a looting, corrupt and luxury-loving few, in a bid to buckle and burn our Constitution. Seeing the rich and powerful hurting the already-hurt is hard.
And then the roots grew to a heart-breaking paroxysm of violence and criminality.
The man repacking his car so he could fit his looted 54 inch TV (at least ‒ it was certainly not your average TV) was clearly not starving and wasn’t filling his getaway vehicle with food; another who fled ‒ slowly ‒ with a chest freezer on his head; supermarket trolleys filled to the brim with “shopping” including large amounts of alcohol balanced atop ‒ and, frankly, most looking well-fed and having a ball.
Then there were the fires: whole malls, trucks, smaller businesses: it seemed like the “hungry” people were taking revenge on those who put in the effort to build something.
People have been killed.
And no law. No Minister Cele strutting about as he did when he was busting people on the beach in the time of lockdown or smoking out those addicts desperate for a cigarette; crickets, in fact. One could be tempted to think his invisibility was because he was taking off his hat and working on a plan to end the madness, support his overwhelmed and little-seen staff who must be terrified too. Utter silence, and no word and no plan.
This patch also tries to avoid heaping abuse on the president. He has one of the world’s crappiest jobs and I don’t understand why anyone would want it. But he does have it and his address on Monday fell far short of what honest, fearful and helpless citizens needed to hear.
This time has been shocking, traumatic and heartbreaking to most. Some areas have turned into war zones and those who can are helping to protect those who can’t.
CPFs, security companies and normal citizens are stepping in to try to keep people safe. It’s not their job and they put themselves at legal risk by doing so.
However, in the absence of a government and other political leaders doing everything they can to help hungry, poor and angry citizens, and avert this kind of violence instead of using it as a political weapon, it also kind of proves the point: most South Africans are good and try to find ways to help one another.
This patch of paper still stands for that.
- Lindsay Slogrove is the news editor
The Independent on Saturday