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My Jobless Life

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LIFESTYLE

We aren’t we

There is a pain that goes with defying your limitations; and I don’t mean just a mental or emotional un-comfortability. There is actual physical pain in breaking away from who you have been trained to be and becoming who you are. I remember many nights just writhing in bed in bodily pain because my mind and my spirit rebelled against a life that was too small, too depressing and too stupid for me to continue with.
My eyes hurt when I saw people going to work every morning. The fear and anxiousness about going to a place they hate, being late, and leaving their children while still not having enough money to live comfortably is such an ugly site. I wanted to cry for myself as much for them. I despised everything that is establishment and order and authority imposed on me from outside. The life of an ordinary person was despicable and I wanted nothing to do with it.
Every night a voice came to speak to me, it said: “What the hell are you thinking? What are you going to do with your life if you are not employed? Where have you ever seen anyone getting anywhere in life without a good job and a solid income?” It made so much sense, it sounded so true, it seemed so right; but all that wasn’t for me any longer. So I had to kill that voice and the act of killing it is like going to hell. That is how I experienced it. It’s like being burnt from the inside out. Night after night I squirmed and scorched in the darkness. All I had to do for some relief was to say to the voice, “I give up, you’re right.” But I couldn’t. I didn’t know what waited for me beyond ordinary life, I didn’t know where I was going, I only knew I couldn’t stay where I was.
I was a loafer, a slacker, a weight on the shoulders of society, I was worthless in comparison to all the hard-working folk who gave up their lives to make a living. I abandoned my fellow human beings to the security of mediocrity.
During the day the voice screamed desperately for me to start acting sensible. It painted pictures of lack and deprivation that unsettled me but never scared me enough to make me change my mind. What I became fearful of was wearing cheap shoes and poorly made clothing bought on credit. I became fearful of fast food bought on pay-day to compensate for the week of meager meals that went before. I was scared of fancy cars with huge re-payments and tiny re-sell values. Huge televisions and satellite subscriptions, cell-phone contracts, church tithes, weekends out, hair-do’s, nail jobs; it all scared me. Problems, gossip, friendships, politics, religion, education – I couldn’t bring myself to care about any longer. Not caring was painful, it felt wrong, it felt dangerous. I had to pay to free my mind from all the limitations I accepted. I paid dearly.
I’m still on a journey to find out what life really can be like when you are free to make up your own rules. Every now and then I come across yet another limitation to break free of and have to stand in the fire again. It doesn’t hurt as much now as it did then, but hurt it does. I now see life very differently. I don’t feel bound by societal norms, I don’t feel bound by expectation, I don’t feel bound by rules made for the sake of making rules, I don’t even feel bound or fearful of the law or law enforcement institutions. I feel however the weight of carrying myself and that is a much greater responsibility than complying with the rules of ordinary life. The world is filled with restrictions and boundaries but from where I stand now it seems to me that these things are completely powerless. They are more mental and emotional than actual. They are imposed through a threat of loss of approval and fear of violence or persecution. And we accept them without question, empower them without resistance and then tell each other that life would be better without those who oppress us.
The truth is that we love our chains, it’s the perfect out from having to challenge ourselves. It’s easier to profess high ideals than to live them and a restrictive society gives us every opportunity to shirk the opportunity to be who we say we are. The truth is that maybe 1 in 100,000 people will break away from the rules that we all say make our lives pointless, miserable and difficult. The truth is that we don’t even realise that breaking the chains is a real option.
Ordinary life is still ugly to me. Ordinary conversations hurt my ears, I don’t participate in them. Ordinary people depress me, I do my best to avoid them. Ordinary things leave me unmoved, I stare at them and see nothing. Ordinary problems are stupid to me, it is insignificant things people stress about through lack of knowledge and power.
I don’t do anything extraordinary with my life, except live it; which to the average person is something extraordinary. The point of my pointless life is for this pinprick of awareness, a nothing in the greater scheme of things, to face an unlimited world fearlessly and curiously with an intense desire to know and understand as much of it as my being can handle. I eat food, drink water and breathe air, but I do it with no illusion of there being a point to all of it, the doing is the reason for the doing. It’s audacious, arrogant and highly presumptuous that this tiny grain of nothingness, called myself, dares to want to make a life that flips the bird at all good definitions of a good life.
There is no great reward for following all the rules. There is no golden star for getting the most approval. There is no sense in living in misery with a hope of rest and salvation in a nebulous state that follows your death. There is a chance to live a life that makes you happy now. There is a world of beauty, splendour and abundance, peace and joy hidden in plain sight. We walk right past it every day because we’re too busy following the rules. We can never be free because we want to win; win at a game that’s set up to ensure we always lose. We can never be the one calling the shots because we don’t want to carry the responsibility that goes with it, so we have to be the one who bends the knee. We can’t be unique because we have to be on trend. We can’t be independent because the price of approval is conformity.
We can’t be, because we aren’t we.

Black Souls in White Skins?

steve bikoThis is a title borrowed from Steve Biko, the father of black consciousness. In his piece he questions the assumptions white liberals made when dealing with black students in the organisations he was involved in those dry, hopeless, repressed and downright crazy years of apartheid in the 70’s. And in it he raises the question that always begs an answer in my mind as well. Is there something so inherently wrong with being black that we need white people to rectify us, civilise us, and educate us to be like them?

Many white people will tell you that they suffer discrimination too, and I can honestly say that when a black person hears that we think: Bullshit!

Such a statement goes out from the premise that a white person has any idea of the non-stop barrage of negative assumptions black people live under. It also says, in a very subtle way, that every time a person is judged as inferior or ostracised they are degraded to the level of a black person. Blackness being naturally inferior and deserving of ostracism.

I am always very wary of non-blacks trying to fight causes on behalf of black people. I treat them in a very circumspect way and never quite respond to their rah-rah bullshit about how badly black people are being treated. At the end of the day they go back to their big houses in the suburbs, with 2-3 cars, pools and dogs that eat gourmet kibble of the same cost as a black family’s weekly grocery budget. So like a good black person I just smile and listen, comment little and hit the delete button in my mind right after they leave. My head need not be filled with the prattle of people looking for an audience to their undeserved and often unappreciated privilege.

Then there are those who are fighting their own demons under the guise of empathising with the horrendous condition of being black. Because when you feel like shit about yourself you now know exactly how it feels to be black. Every time a black person sings they hear the pain in her voice, the suffering she had to go through, the hardship is palpable; her loving, happy upbringing notwithstanding. Being black is painful and the suffering they hear is not theirs, but hers of course. By siding with the lower level forms of humanity, masses of them to be sure, they have a big army and worthy cause to hide their insecurities behind.  Their questions about their worthiness and their issues of self-rejection couldn’t find a better home than with a group of unworthy people who face rejection as part of their daily existence. The perfect fit.

There are those smart white people who are quick to describe black people as illiterate and uninformed and form arrogant little theories about how black people can be educated to know all the wonderful things up to know destined only for the fair skinned. Never do they stop and ask if there is anything black people know that might enlighten whites. They know it all and you are a savage until you allow them to teach it all to you. They say that being a white woman is equal to being a black person. Blacks are thought of as dumb and incapable of complex intellectual functioning, so are women. Blacks are being paid less for the same work than whites, such is the case between white men and women. Blacks are often first to be picked and limited to performing servant-like tasks such as cleaning, housekeeping, child-rearing etc.; just like the white women of this world. Black are considered prone to responding emotionally rather than logically to situations, and women too. So being white woman whose husband thinks she doesn’t have to work, expect her to take care of her own home and children and don’t pay her as much as he does her male counterpart is equal to treating her like a black person. The poor, poor darling. How will she cope with all this free time while the real black people of world are busy in her house and garden and she only has to do the hard work of giving orders? We blacks really feel for her.

The rebels of the white world want to wipe their lily-hued behinds on the unfair advantage they grew up with by using darky slang and listening to rap music. They want to show up their mommies and daddies by consorting with undesirable types. They want to stand out, they want to be the only one. The only one in their circle who actually knows how to get to the nearest township. The only one of their friends who’s had a fling with a black chick. The one who says “Siyabonga, sisi”; the one white guy who spoke your language even though the language in your town is Tswana, not Zulu. They want to be the only white dude in a black crew. That will really give daddy some serious palpitations and have mommy panicking to calm him down while trying to untangle the huge knot in her expensive lingerie.

We know most white people smile to our faces and use derogatory terms to refer to us at home and with their friends. We know the best pranks are pulled on darkies. We know all the stupid jokes have either a Sipho or a Gatiep in them. We know that when there is a dirty bit of hard labour to be done us blacks spring to mind first. We know that you think singing and dancing are about the only things we do well besides everything you are too white for. The only people who are stupid enough to think all that escapes us are the ones doing it because they’re scared of being found out.

I can’t say I am 100% non-racist, the differences between races are too blatant for me to ignore. I do avoid anyone who wants to improve or change me for their own reasons. As stated before, such desires are based on a belief of inherent sub-humanness. I have some white friends, believe it or not. One of the most amazing people I have ever met is white and some of the people I like best and enjoy being with most are white too. I consider them my friends, a title not lightly given. They don’t try to make me into anything other than what I am. They accept that I might be looking at the world differently than they do and my viewpoint is no better or worse than theirs just because of the colour of my skin. They realise that I might just know more about being black than they do and that I never have and never will consider it a condition to be cured of.

Black people don’t feel inferior to whites or any other race, but we do feel black; because we are. We know however that being black earns us the label of inferiority in the minds of white people. There is a delicately nuanced distinction between feeling inferior and being treated as inferior. We suffer from the latter not the former. We love our black selves, ask any black you know. We don’t want to be rescued from being black. We don’t want to be civilised out of being black. We don’t want to educate away from being black. Black works for us; in ways no white person could ever imagine.

So a black soul in a white skin? I haven’t met one yet.

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