HOME AT LAST! Part 20
SOUTH AFRICA AFRO-XENOPHOBIA – WHEN BUSINESS DIES …
My younger sister is angry, very angry. She’s extremely bitter. She hurts so very much. She’s so angry, if the new-on-the-block business rivals knew, if they had any empathy at all, they’d either leave town, or better, listen to the extreme dissatisfaction my younger sister has over their unfair and dubious business practices. My younger sister is not alone. But, they, the new-on-the-block business rivals, don’t seem to care. The relative peace and stability of the post-1994 democratic South Africa allows them to exercise extreme forms of arrogance and insensitivity to their South African business competitors; family mothers, family fathers.
See, these the new-on-the-block business people, almost all of them come from an African Super Power land, the largest economy in Africa, the most populous African nation. They have the right to come and make as much money as possible anywhere in South Africa, at any price, as quickly as possible. It’s their entitlement, of course. Don’t you know that South Africa owes it to them? Their great country contributed to the liberation of South Africa from the shackles of Apartheid slavery and brutality. Payback time. Stop whining, man.
My younger sister and her extremely provoked colleagues are, fortunately, very tolerant and patient. Difficult and trying as the situation may be, they desist from any hostilities directed against these new rivals with rather special methods of doing business. It’s almost two years now since these special African people entered the scene. But they don’t seem to see or feel the bad vibe undercurrent pervading the part of Welkom CBD they operate their unpopular businesses in. To them, in this particular case, South Africans are just stupid fools to be messed around with at will. “They take our kindness for weakness!” I heard someone say the other day. What these people don’t seem to know is that Welkom has always been a melting pot of African Diasporants, especially for those from the entire Southern African hinterland. Hence Welkomites’ relatively greater tolerance and patience towards people of the world. However, bad things have happened to people here before. This is still South Africa. Everyone has a tipping point, even Welkomites.
I hate Xenophobia with passion. I have a very deep, lifelong relationship with Xenophobia. I am a born and bred Xenophobia target child. Xenophobia follows me everywhere I go, everywhere I am. Depending on where I find myself at any one time, Xenophobia comes to me packed in tribalism, nationalism, regionalism, or racism. I constantly have to defensively explain myself whenever I meet my people for the first time, with specific reference to South Africans, Zambians, Batswanas, Basothos, Zimbaweans, Malawians, and, to some extent, Tanzanians, and Angolans: ‘Well, my father was a Zambian. I was born in South Africa, of a South African mother. On my father’s side we have people all over Central Africa, as well as southern parts of East Africa ….’ became a part of my first-time self introduction a long time ago. To White Trash, I’m just another Black fish. They are incapable of seeing how big a fish I am; Whale, actually. On the other hand, in London, responding to my being introduced to him as a South African refugee, an English senior university Professor says, “That’s odd! Chilembo is a Zambian name. Perhaps Malawi. But you must be Zambian” There we go.
Behind my Super Man façade, I carry with me deep Xenophobia induced emotional scars. But they have yet to kill me. So, I get stronger each and everyday that comes and goes.
My father knew well how bad Xenophobia is. That is how, and why, even long before we managed to escape to Zambia in 1975, it has been a family tradition to, when approached, without any strings attached, help anybody from Africa settle in South Africa, if that’s their wish and need. Clean and legal all the way. Pappa was very good at helping and teaching foreign brothers practical things as to how to go about living successfully in South Africa, from fixing jobs, to languages, to car driving. There are several families in my old location, Thabong, who came to being through Pappa’s facilitation. In Zambia, Pappa would further facilitate safe passage in and out of the country for many a South African freedom fighter, regardless of political affiliation, although we were/ are an ANC family through and through. In our homes in Lusaka, we provided, as a matter of course, shelter, comfort, some sort of family setting, and the like for many a young immediate post-Soweto 1976 generation South African in exile. Although South African refugees, particularly the inexperienced youth from uptempo South African townships, notably Soweto, had their bouts of madness in Zambia, on the whole, South Africans left a respectable reputation in the country. Other countries will have their own to speak for themselves.
In a perfect world, competition in business should lead to favourable pricing for the customer, inspiring constantly improving quality of goods and services in the market. Winners in business are those who have the most enduring customer loyalty bases arising from a holistic Satisfied Customer Service Package, which will include goods quality, goods origin/ sourcing, packaging, presentation, Brand identification, business location, premises, hygienic conditions, staff customer relations, customer confidence, and, above all, perceived and actual cost effective pricing apparently favouring the customer. Stayer winners in business are also those who constantly strive to set, and maintain high standards, following managerial and Public Relations practices consistent with what would qualify for acceptable Business Ethics, as well as Good Corporate Governance classifications. This is of universal application, regardless of enterprise size, and scale of operation/ -s. And lastly, but not least, the most successful and lasting business enterprises are those which never go out, intentionally or otherwise, to weaken, or bring to disrepute their industries in anyway, including active competitors.
My younger sister is very, very angry. When she hurts, I hurt too. Last Christmas she desired so much to see her first and only grandchild, who lives in Durban. No deal. On the grandchild’s 1st birthday a month ago, she still was not able to see the little boy. She’s broke. Yet she goes to work everyday. No business, no job. No money. This is one lady who, in her mid-late 30s went back to school to study for a Diploma In Cosmetology. 1 ½ years of expensive, privately financed education at Tshwane North College. She worked very hard, getting top grades, way above her youth classmates in their late teens/ early twenties. Upon graduation she opened and ran a successful Beauty Care salon in Pretoria 10 years ago. Seven years ago she came back home to Welkom, continuing the success from the major league Gauteng market. All good until about two years ago, when an unprecedented new group of Nigerian Beauty Care entrepreneurs hit town. Well-capitalized, they acquire about all there is of prime business premises. No problem. Welcome, our people! The more the merrier. Competition? Bring it on! There is enough bounty for everyone in Welkom. Alas, the Nigerians want it all for themselves.
The new arrivals come with the most aggressive marketing campaigns. No beef. Wake everybody up. Enliven the market. Bring new ideas, new styles. Give Welkom ladies more Afrikan fire, the time has come for them to rock for real with Afrika woman she dance fire dance … She go say, she go say I’m a lady’o … Oh, yes, Africa Unite! Cool! But, and a big BUT, it seems the Nigerians mean Afrikans unite in Afrika, but not in South Africa. Remember, Mandela sold South Africa to White people and the international Western imperialist forces. We are here to claim our share at all cost before everything is gone.
These Nigerian entrepreneurs have gone about their business totally the wrong way, upsetting many people, including my very angry and bitter younger sister, as well as her other South African colleagues in the Beauty Care business in the city. In their aggressive marketing campaigns, the new comers have defaced the Welkom CBD with very ugly, non-professionally done advertising posters and street boards. This once prestigious, modern business zone looks now more like an informal market place anywhere in Afrika.
The greatest beef with these brothers and sisters of ours is more in the pricing of their services, which are so ridiculously low that, according to my very angry and bitter younger sister, they cannot be logically explained, or even be sustained, given just the cost of materials necessary to perform the various Beauty Cares jobs they do. For example, one basic nails job most popular with clients used to go for R.250.00 per service unit. Factoring in all ordinary material and service provision costs, including effort time, this price would allow for a small but fairly comfortable profit margin; the higher the volumes, the better the profit returns recorded. So, enter the Nigerians, who by some inexplicable miracle manage to slash the price to a banal R.50.00 per unit! Of course, customers rejoice for this. My very angry and bitter younger sister and her colleagues are then ditched for the very, very cost effective Nigerians, the true Afrikans. But experience shows that the latter can charge such outrageously low prices because they are indeed cheap, using non-recognized materials like industrial Super Glue to attach nails. Their service personnel don’t have any evidence of serious relevant professional Beauty Care training, or education. People are injured here, some incurring long term, if not permanent damage, depending of treatment form performed.
My very angry and bitter younger sister now lives off repairing bad jobs done by many a Nigerian so-called Beauty Therapist in Welkom. But there are not many such jobs coming because, more often than not, the affected ladies will have in fact used up much more money in the bad job shops. Affected first time customers often become disillusioned, and therefore, lose interest, or faith, in the Beauty Care business. This is how the Nigerians Beauty Care entrepreneurs have tarnished the industry in Welkom, killing business for my younger sister and her other South African colleagues. These people seem to have no idea about what Customer Relations Management is, not to mention Business Ethics, or Corporate Governance, not in the least Public Relations, or Stake Holder Management.
So, my younger sister is angry, very angry. She’s extremely bitter. She hurts so very much. She’s so angry, if the new-on-the-block business rivals knew, if they had any empathy at all, they’d either leave town, or better, listen to the extreme dissatisfaction my younger sister has over their unfair and dubious business practices. The powder keg is on the verge of exploding. I see it on her face, I see it on her every step, her body language says it all every evening she comes home from work. Heaven forbid! Many mornings she oversleeps, unmotivated to go to work. There is no joy in business any more. The fire, the passion is gone. Future looks gloomier every passing day. Yesterday, I ask her how her day was at work. She, in a stinging melancholic voice, replied, “It looks like I go to work only to pay visits all day at the salon these days”
I once again maintain that the so-called violent Afro- Xenophobia in South Africa does not feed of itself. South Africans do not just wake up one morning and decide that they hate African immigrants. There is more to this scourge than meets the eye. South Africans can, and will receive the entire world’s condemnation; South Africans will be castigated by their own leaders for their unbecoming behavioural patterns and expressions through Afro- Xenophobia manifestations. And, those committing criminals activities during all this shall be brought to book, and be punished accordingly in terms of the law of the land. But to the extent that the African, as well as other immigrants are not made aware and appreciative of their own responsibilities, duties, obligations to basic human decency towards their South African hosts, their unbecoming behaviour will never change, or improve. Such that South Africans will go round with this never healing anger, frustration, and bitterness, which keep Xenophobia alive. Only a matter of time before a new round of violence, which, as experience shows time after time, does not take much to ignite and keep it aglow for a time, taking many innocent lives unnecessarily. My thoughts go to all those who have fallen in these tragic times, with deep-felt condolences to their families and loved ones everywhere.
The cure for Afro- Xenophobia in South Africa lies in the hands and minds of both the victims and the perpetrators. Simple as that. It’s more about attitudes than competition for limited resources and spaces. If it’s acknowledged to be fair, just, and humane, respecting the values, identities, beliefs, and socio-cultural dynamics and relations of the people, it wins the people’s hearts. It is called love for fellow human beings, Humanism. Peace, harmony, and life-supporting co-existence are a natural outcome, then. Of course.
Tel.: +27 717 454 115
April 23, 2015
Regarding the renewed, more grave, xenophobic violence rocking major cities of the land at the moment, on the ground, enlightened and critically thinking South Africans know that there is more to South Africans’ seemingly envy and jealousy over foreign nationals’ business acumen, as well as their apparent resultant financial success. There aren’t many social interaction spaces as revelatory of the true colours of individual and/ collective human behaviour and attitudes as in places of trade, market places. It’s only natural, therefore, that when shit hits the fan, as is the case with the current xenophobic hassle in South Africa, it will be in and around retail business, the space in which many a foreigner has found opportunities for sustainable income generation for themselves and their own in the country, as well as in each their own respective countries.
From Apartheid days gone by, few older Black South Africans can ever forget the extreme rudeness, arrogance, aloofness, racism, and abuse of many a trader of Southern European origin, as well as other (formerly) persecuted European/ Middle-Eastern groups. Any random spot check of many a trading place owned and run by African traders from the new post-1994 wave of immigrants into South Africa would most likely reveal the same tendencies, though based on a different foundation of logic in our times. Many an Asian (across the board) trader isn’t any better either. I choose here to focus on the Africans because the heat is on them. For now? The sole value of Black South Africans in this regard is that they are sources of money as buyers of goods and services, that’s all. Otherwise, they don’t deserve any humane and respectful treatment at all. In Zambia, I was shocked when I found some traders of Asian origin often saying in Fanakalo, to declare their lack of patriotism and respect in blatant terms, “Zambia ka wena. Money ka mina!/ Zambia is yours. The money is mine!” When I this time make a conscious choice to remove the silk gloves, and be a bit more hard hitting, it will be a misconstruance to conclude that I am tolerant, and or, supportive of Xeno-/ Afrophobia and its current violent manifestations in South Africa. My attempt here is to be as level headed, and as factual and objective as possible, as I go about elucidating my sociological dynamics understanding of all this strange phenomenon.
Reality is, because I do not have the physical appearance of a typical South African man, although I honestly do not know what a typical South African looks like, I am at the risk of being hassled anytime too myself. But then again, I, not too long ago, met a turned-out-to-be tribal affiliation conscious young lady who got disappointed to a point of anger upon discovering that I, “… such a smashing good-looking super dancer of a guy …” am not a Zulu. That’s just the way it is when one’s genetic material is a Mix Masala composition by way of ancestral lineages. Not long after I had come back home to the Motherland beginning of the second half of 2013, I commenced an ongoing series of exploratory and fitness training power walks around my new residential area, a high end, formally ‘Whites Only’ piece of work. One of the first things to strike me was that as I walk the streets criss-crossing the suburb, it was (and still is) by far, more often than not, White people who were (are) more friendly-disposed towards me. The hostile looks and comments I still get from my own Black people are most unsettling. But having been subjected to the latter kind of treatment for as long as I can remember, I have developed a very thick skin. And, besides, should need arise, I can fight, hard, both physically and mentally, whatever the case might be. Should I die, I won’t be lying on my back.
Several weeks into my new walking routine as described above, my attention is drawn to a beautifully constructed and laid out multi-unit residential complex (town houses); an unusual architectural feature in these parts. I stand by the gate and gaze into the estate, which has a compellingly well-kept garden. Magnifique! Soon after I leave the place, a huge, trendy American SUV drives out, and rumbles its V8 engine up towards me. Moving menacingly slowly by my side now, the driver’ side window slowly rolls down. Then comes into view a well-groomed upper body of a younger Black man, who, in an aggressive tone of voice enquires, “Can I help you with anything?”
“No, thank you!” I reply with, of course, a smile. The threateningly hard look he gave me made it clear he wanted to know more. So, I continue, “I am walking around here familiarizing myself with my new neighbourhood”
SUV Bossman, “You don’t just look into people’s yards! We are living in dangerous times”
Simon, “Oh? But this is my country too, I have nothing to fear”
SUV Bossman, “Where do you come from originally?”
Simon, irritation slowly building up, “Ke tswa Thabong, ma-a-an!!!/ I am from Thabong, ma-a-an!!!” My speaking Sesotho, my mother tongue, my first of 20 or so languages, must have shaken Mr SUV Bossman off his tracks, “Aw?! Ehhh…”
To add more to his confusion, I took out and offered him one of my business cards, which, indeed, showed a local address; reminding him once again that “… this is my country too, I have nothing to fear. Die is my land, ek ook!” SUV Bossman, embarrassed, “Heytha, Ta-Si!”
Simon, waving him off “Heytha-a-a …!”
And the SUV Bossman stepped hard on the gas, thundering away the monster machine, the engine sound of which sent cold chills up and down my spine. I still wish he calls me some day. Not important, though.
Visiting Mother Dearest a few days later, I tell her what to me was just another one of those funny encounters with my people. Mother Dearest, very worried and concerned, “Iyoh, Buti, my son, you must be careful these people don’t kill you! No doubt the boy thought you were a Nigerian. Many stupid Nigerians are said to be involved in lots of criminal activities in town, you know. Do be careful, please. In fact, were it up to me, you wouldn’t be doing these walks around town. You should go to the gym for your training!”
I have in my blog, in the 38 YEARS AN EXILE series, both implicitly and explicitly, in various ways emphasized the importance of humility as one of, if not the most important prerequisites to successful living in the global Diaspora. But, sadly, and most distressingly, the multifaceted arrogance and superiority complex issues many an African immigrant exhibit in their relating to/ with South Africans are, and can be most appalling. If it’s not their more sophisticated ancient, pure Afrikan cultures, it will be their religions, if not their “… we are more intelligent and more educated than you fake Afrikans South Africans” And then there is South Africa’s relative lateness in achieving a free and democratic dispensation. Actually betraying their own stupidity and ignorance, many ungrateful immigrant Africans ridicule and belittle South Africans for having allowed White people to mess them up so much for generations. It’s not strange, they often maintain, that Nelson Mandela sold South Africa to the Whites. Point is, to these shallow-minded immigrant Africans, South Africans are not real, and therefore, do not deserve to be regarded as Afrikans. Furthermore, the cheap reasoning continues, its okay to treat South Africans with disdain because they are not, and can never be equals of real Afrikans from the north. What baloney! Pure bird shit. In this atmosphere, how can there not be tensions between South Africans and their conceited African immigrant guests? Everyone has a breaking point. South Africans, much like everyone else, can tolerate insults, degradation, abuse, insensitivity, and lack of respect for only so much.
The most sickening of all in my books is this crazy notion and expectation that South Africa owes the rest of Afrika the world. No one in their right frame of mind can down play the immense, concerted effort the rest of free Africa applied in South Africans’ anti-Apartheid liberation struggle. But, South Africa did not in the end become free so as to play the role of some Super Woman Grandmother to take care of, and fix Africa’s post-colonial political and socio-economic problems. The only common thing South Africa has with the rest of Africa in this regard is, indeed, the colonial, as well as the imperialist domination and exploitation experience. How each and every African country decided to engineer each its own society and sociological constructs forms definite and specific points of departure. And, this is where the crux of the matter lies: Through sheer poor leadership and governance, leading to dysfunctional political spaces and institutions, as well as economies, feeding massive corruption appetites, firing up social unrests, and culminating in military coups and, ultimately, tragic never ending civil wars, much of post-colonial Afrika is like zones of hell on earth. If they do not die, and because they do not want to die if and when they can help it, people will, and shall, because they must, run away. Naturally. Those who choose to come to South Africa will receive the help and support they need and deserve to the extent of available necessary resources, knowledge, and skills in the country. Those Afro immigrants who abide by the law, respect the values and cultures of the land, shall indeed find that South Africa is, or has the potential to be, heaven on earth. No one must come to South Africa expecting some special treatment simply because their home countries helped in the liberation struggle of the country.
People live by choices all the way. If post-1994 South Africa proves to be more primitive than Apartheid South Africa, unhappy Afro immigrants can always leave for better pastures elsewhere. Even better, back to their own motherlands. But some of these motherlands, run by gangs of military rogues in different areas, are so dysfunctional they in practice don’t exist as sovereign states. So, aiming to get to Europe, people will risk crossing the unforgiving Sahara Desert. Those who survive and reach Libya will be subjected to the most dehumanizing forms of abuse, manipulation, and robbery. In the Mediterranean Sea, only so near and yet so far from European shores in Italy, the hardest of the hard will make for meals for the sharks. The lunacy of post-colonial African states’ dysfunctionalities South Africa cannot (be expected to) fix. Neither can, or must, South Africa and its people be expected to live happily forever with some of the scum these states have produced, and continue to produce. The Sahara kills children, youth, and women. So does the Mediterranean. In Libya unspeakable things happen to children, and women. In Italy, Spain, children, youth, and women are crowded in prison cells. No Afrikan leader coughs, or lifts a finger. Some rogues find their way into South Africa; cause trouble upon trouble. Old Apartheid inflicted wounds open. People respond. Mayhem rules. Shit hits the fan. Everybody cries foul, “South Africans are primitive savages! Kill them! Kill them!” Really?
Tel.: +27 717 454 115 April 18, 2015
HOME AT LAST! Part 18
DEPRESSION IN THE DIASPORA – It’s Over Now
- This article must be understood in the context of the entire ‘38 YEARS AN EXILE’ series thus far. Dedicated with unreserved love, respect, and admiration to my Dearest Uncle, Family Patriarch, Legend-In-His-Own-Time, Mr OB Chilembo, in Lusaka, Zambia.
- It is with never so small humility that I emphatically declare that my African culture in the 21st Century is one of the most prolific breeding grounds for Depression in the world. This, for purposes of only this writing, from the point of view of family and social relations dynamics, which are outdated and have remained static since the onset of European domination and subsequent colonialism from towards the close of the Middle Ages in the 14-15th Centuries. Who, for example, is more prone to Depression than an African family patriarch, or matriarch?
The unchanging sociological dynamics of African family and social relations in the modern world of globalization and the concomitant rationalization of production, management, and distribution of goods and services allows for vices such as exploitation, manipulation, abuse, greed, jealousy and awe to thrive unabated as a matter of course for multitudes. Many a non-productive, self-centred, wasteful, destructive, ungrateful, spoilt, visionless, lazy family member or other social relation live off the spoils of success accruing from the hard work, commitment to duty and obligation of some loyal, caring, and generous someone out in there in the wide, wide world, the Diaspora possibly.
Many African nuclear, and extended family members, including friends, get too much for free; all in the name of respect and honour, with regard to the recipients’ ages, and/ or relative positions vis-à-vis power and influence in the family hierarchy, and, not in the least, the family itself as a unique structure and community. The strong and mighty generous family benefactors are forever pushed to the limits to support, protect, beef-up, and sustain all sorts of ventures, activities, and events, which often lead to nowhere with regards to growth, progress, and development. It is almost never thought of of the fact that many a benefactor are only human also, who, sooner or later will hit each their own walls of fatigue, lethargy, leading to, eventually, Depression.In order to save, protect, and sustain the good family/ community Samaritans, modern African culture of survival must teach people to learn to be responsible for their own life choices, as well as outcomes thereof.
When we are growing up, when we fall as grownups, it’s indeed natural that we shall get by with a little help from our families, and our friends. But that’s as far as it ought to go. We owe it to ourselves to design, build, and sustain each our own unique worlds within the grander design of things in our universe. We owe it to the universe, universal creation, to be there for/ in the service of the genuinely weak and vulnerable of humanity the world over. The strongest will, and must survive to protect the truly needy, who may have ended up in the unfortunate life situations they are due to possibly extreme circumstances and forces beyond their own control.
May the leeches the African culture of dependency, exploitation, greed, and non-gratefulness produces see the light some day. Until then, many of the most resourceful African leaders across the board will remain short sighted and fairly easily corruptible due to poor judgement arising from nonchalant information processing induced by suppressed Depression. Perhaps the saddest thing may be that these are forced to work themselves to death, often dying tragically in various circumstances at relatively young ages. The pressure on these people is ever so enormous they don’t get to rest, they don’t get time-offs; they live in constant fear of failure, because that would make them sink (back) into poverty like the many, if not all, in the dependent family network/ community.
I am ever humbled and grateful that I was able to harness the necessary strength and courage to let everything go when the worst degree, with respect to intensity and duration, as well as numerous not related factors, of Depression hit me most heavily 2-3 years ago. I have lost a lot of dear and valuable things during this time. I have lost a lot of money. I have lost business. I have accumulated much debt at various commercial and state levels. I have lost part of my family. I lost face. But I got my life back. I’ve Got Friends. I Am Alive Again. I rule my thoughts and feelings again. Wisdom is my companion. In my soul I’m free. I’m back!
Given my story, experiences and dances of my life’s journey so far, my academic and professional training, as well as my career growth and development, I know Depression when I see it. I can smell Depression. I can hear Depression; I can see it coming from afar. It is my vocation to help people deal with, defy, and victor over Depression with elegance and grace.
I live off Depression, my bread and butter, milk and honey. I am good, the very best at what I do. I am tough. I am strong. I am Super Man. Depression is an affliction for my patients, my clients. I am so good and hot against Depression it ought to vanish into thin air at the mere mention of my name. But Depression is like water. Depression constantly encompasses each and every curve, bend, and corner of everyone’s being, much like water takes the form of its container, exerting pressure on the walls till the slightest crack, the slightest porosity. Then the damage is done. We are all vulnerable all the time, both in hard, and glory times.
Depression is like the dark hand of God ever looming over our heads just waiting to strike at the very first wrong, or right, step we take. We are all destined to slip sometime. Some regain balance quickly, and keep moving on. Some shall fall, and bounce back in no time. There are those who shall fall, break a bone, and get up after a while. Those who break many bones may never rise again, but will be there, doing what they have to do to stay alive. And then there are those who shall choose to die because, for them, there can never be life after a fall. Suicide is the easy way out. It works for some: The dead. For the living after, the clutch of Depression tightens up. So goes the circle of life. For a chosen few, the word fall may never even exist in their own vocabularies, though. That’s how we roll.
Getting caught up in Depression is like that insect you last saw caught up, entangled in a spiderweb. Struggle or no struggle to be free, all in vain. Strong, or weak and tired? Same. Dead? Same. Spider there or not for dinner? Same. Hopeless situation. Depression is not about right or wrong, good or bad, beginning or end, future or present or past, love or hate, swimming or drowning; it’s a condition ever in between the opposite poles. It’s like a ticking time bomb set to go at any random time, but never goes, but can go anytime, any place, all the same. To evacuate, or not to evacuate? That is not the question, that is not the solution. Reality is, the bomb is here. Nightmare of the worst order, like dying in a dream. Never complete. Yet, so real.
Depression comes and goes like dying in a dream. How many times have you not looked death in the eye in a dream? The bullet comes to you in the slowest of slow motions, so slow it’s like you can catch it and stop it with your bare hands. But your hands are tied up above your head, and so are your legs on the chair you are sitting. You want to scream and shout, but it’s like your throat is blocked; you can’t breathe. The bullet finally comes home. Hits you at the heart. Your body stiffens at the impact. But you understand you are not dying, you are not dead. And so, with a start you wake up. Holy Mo, what a nightmare! Then it’s over. You are alive again.
If and when you die, or are dead, Depression doesn’t matter anymore. Depression is what it is, depressing, in so far as it does not complete the job. Depression does not like to kill; Depression is not death. Depression is that valley of constant near death many of us, by conscious intention or not, escape into when challenges of life overwhelm us. Depression is the temporary home of variable sizes and (dis-)comforts for the dwellers, who will be there for varying lengths of stay. Depression engulfs us when the overwhelming challenges of life neither incapacitate our normal mental and physiological functions, nor kill us. It’s just that with Depression, things we are most familiar with, and have taken for granted all our lives inexplicably cease to make sense, or suddenly give new meanings that clash with our customary ways of relating, and interacting with our reality and existence paradigms. Trouble in paradise.
Depression alienates us not only from our normal and predictable routines, but also from our social relations. It is those whose social networks collapse most severely who shall suffer the most brutal and lasting punishment from Depression. When in the constant near-death valley of Depression, concepts of responsibility, obligation, duty, and outcomes of our actions lose relevance. Indifference reigns supreme here. Vulnerability to manipulation and abuse is very high. A sense of powerlessness against forces and powers we can’t control saps us of the tiniest amounts of energy left to do any work to come out of this quagmire. Extremely exhausting. Depressing. At this point, many throw in the towel; losing all hope, all faith. What will be will be. What won’t be won’t be. If no intervention occurs, either professional or from social network support, or both, Depression then changes form, crushing spirit of the man, the woman. Death inevitable. Suicide. It’s all over now. Body and soul gone. Depression remains with the living. Who’s next? When? How? So goes the circle of life, over and over and over again.
“Simon, I am worried about you, man. I never see you go out. I never see people come to your house. How can you expect to function in this country if you don’t socialize, man? You really worry me” my older neighbour, White, because this is South Africa, expresses concern.
Touched, I reply, “Thank you, Sir! But, oh, no, I am fine, very fine, actually. I am very happy. You know very well that I go on regular walks around our neighbourhood, and I fight with your dogs from time to time. I am busy with my own things every day”
Neighbour, “It’s not the same. You must go out and talk to people, man. All you do is you lock yourself up in your house, if you are not working your gardens. Argh, man, I worry about you”
Simon, “Well, Sir, I am doing a lot of things inside my house when you don’t see me outside. Apart from domestic chores, I do a lot of writing and reading. I am doing great things in there that people can’t see”
Neighbour, “What do you write about?”
Simon, “Various subjects and themes of interest to me. But most exciting is that I think I have at last found how to go about working with a book inspired by my late father’s life, as well as others of his generation of migrant labourers into South Africa”
Neighbour, “Very interesting! But I still think you must meet people, man. Hey, I have to go, there is a braai sizzling in the garden behind; my wife is waiting” Simon, “Bon appetite, Meneer!”
What I didn’t tell Mr van Vuuren, my neighbour, was that I had been under a long-going rough round of Depression when I came to South Africa from Norway in July 2013. The unexpected new set of shocking challenges I found when I got back to Mamma went on to worsen the condition. Trouble in paradise doubled. Because of the intimate relationship I have with Depression, I have since my childhood days devised ways to live with it each time it casts its wearisome huge dark cloud over my world. I have learnt to respect my Depressions, embracing them with gallantry each time. No resistance. No fight. No struggle. Just play along. Just dance, like a gentleman. All by myself, ain’t no misbehaving. Two things have always worked in my favour in this regard, especially in my adult years: My intellect, and the presence of an ever strong, ever loyal supportive set of a few individuals both in Europe and South Africa.
Fortunately, I have a natural knack for thinking about things about life and living. I have always sought to find answers and explanations for myself as to why and how people behave in particular ways in given situations. It has never been important whether my conclusions are right or wrong. The most important factor has always been whether I can make sense or not of behavioural phenomena I observe. If, as necessary, I can from all this, find working/ workable strategies and solutions for myself for dealing effectively with outcomes and consequences of the observed behavioural phenomena, then I am happy. My first-ever conscious recollection of my own Depression was at age six. After I got thoroughly thrashed by a group of older boys on the street, my mother brutally commanded me to go and fight them back, making it clear that I had to learn to fight my own battles because there was no one else who would. Street fight victory has never tasted better than that return fight. Later, reflections over my mother’s attitude and behaviour revealed that I indeed was the underdog relative to the other kids in the neighbourhood:
- Against my small family of only 3 siblings and our parents, absolutely all the other families had more family members by far. Many of these people were extremely violent. They would go all out like packs of wild dogs to protect, backup, or avenge their own on the streets.
- I had no elder brothers, or older cousins, uncles, etc. for protection.
- Whereas patriarchs of the other families were ever present, visible, and most vocal, my father was hardly seen, as he would be at work most of the time. Besides, my father was a very humble, tolerant, and peaceful man.
It made sense, therefore, that to survive in a mean and tough world, I indeed had to learn to fight my own battles alone. Det skulle bare mangle. So, each time Depression has struck since then, I withdraw, I keep to myself. I hibernate. I think. I cry. I think. I meditate. I think. I speak. I think. I see things. I think. I hear things. I think. I feel things. I think. I write. I create. I pray. I sing. I play. I dance. I make noise. I laugh. I am mischievous, l’enfant méchant. I am rebellious. I am rude. I’m mad. I’m arrogant. I’m hard. I’m isolatory. I’m exclusive. I’m dismissive. But, like they seem to know somehow each time I get in there, in all my darkest hours, the few people who care the most about me ever reach out. Unsolicited. Before I know it, I’ll be up and about again. Refreshed, recreated, revitalized, and stronger than before. Yes, I’m back. I Am Alive Again. Depression is defeated. The devil is in on long-term sick leave. It won’t die. It mustn’t die.
Depression comes with the territory in the Diaspora. There may be visions; there may be hopes of a life on beds of roses in the Diaspora. These may indeed be realized in time, but they do not come cheap, or easy. Depression is the key. Depression is the passport. Depression is the boundary, the threshold. To begin with, it is depressing enough to have to leave one’s original depressing homeland with all that it entails. If the afflicted doesn’t choose to die, Depression will follow them everywhere, like herpes. Depression is in fact an essential part of the human condition. Humanity owes its progress, both for better or worse, to Depression.
Whereas on the one hand Depression is never in practice a conscious preferable condition or space to be, on the other hand, conditional upon dealing with it correctly and successfully through own personal/ collective resources, or external professional and other interventions, it affords multitudinous opportunities for enquiry, as well as reflection on the nature of things and/ contra human existence in the universe and its infinite diversity, as well as potential. Scientific Research, and the ever-insatiable need to find answers and alternative solutions to conditions that, through various mechanisms and agents ultimately culminate in Depression, are thus stimulated. Depression is the incubation house of creativity, and innovation.
Depression befalls us due to real and/ or perceived lack/ or, want of things, both material and/ conceptual. The paradox is that if and when these wants and needs are met and satisfied on the one level, we, almost without exception, always want more and more, to ever rising levels of magnitudes and complexities. Such is how humanity is ever drawn, or pushed forward to ever more and more sophisticated modes of production, as well as social engineering and management to regulate, moderate, and control human behaviour and attitudes. The secret is in knowing when more is enough, both with respect to numbers and time. It is the element of time that will determine whether or not the tortuous journey of/ in Depression will have been worth the often-extreme individual and/ or collective suffering in the end. Depression will add value to one’s, or societal life to the extent that it’s allowed to complete its cycle, no matter how long it takes, resources and tolerance capacity permitting. Ask me, a child born, raised, and bred in the Diaspora, I know. Depression is my darkest, oldest friend, beyond whom abodes all the answers and solutions I need for finding, and living at peace with all the mysteries of my life, as well as with the spirits of my ancestors, and with my God.
Tel.: +27 717 454 115
April 05-08, 2015
HOME AT LAST! Part 17
WEALTH MANAGEMENT IN THE DIASPORA
For an ordinary Diasporant with humble origins from their motherlands, with no history of family wealth accumulation over time and, therefore, not born with silver spoons in their mouths; as well as not having been raised with soft pillows under their wings by virtue of family status, influence, privileges, and power, the Diaspora can present unprecedentedly huge opportunities to earn money, create, build, and sustain wealth. Assumption here being that the Diasporant chooses not to die dead, nor alive, leading a miserable zombie-like life of bottomless anger, frustration, bitterness, and hate, with no ambition and direction in lands of milk and honey in the Diaspora. Loser Diasporants fill up psychiatric hospitals, if not prisons, in the Diaspora host lands. Success in the Diaspora, here measured in terms of earning potential and wealth accumulation, is there waiting for those Diasporants able and willing to change, win, and adapt to the ways of living in their new found lands.
Without necessarily turning away from their core values of personal identity and self-respect as inculcated in their original homelands, wise and smart Diasporants seeking to attain lives of peace, freedom, and prosperity will discard own dysfunctional behavioural patterns in their new environments. They will with open minds interact with locals with mutual respect for one another’s humanity, as well as histories. It is through this interaction that both the locals and the Diasporants will learn to adapt to one another as they constantly learn about one another’s ways, mutually adopting new, all round positive values and views of the world. In time, both sides will win one another’s confidence and trust as a new common culture, the intention of which is not to annihilate the old cultures, spontaneously emerges; enriching all sides’ languages, cuisine, fashion, literature, faith, belief, religion, and many other aspects of harmonious societal living and co-existence.
Sometime in the earliest years of the 21st Century, I receive a gold-plated invitation letter from my Bankers: “Simon, thanks for coming over! The bank thought we should call you in so we can have a chat about your finances. Perhaps we can come up with solutions to help you mange your financial portfolio better, to both yours and our advantages. You do have a lot of money with the bank!” said one of the two Financial Advisors assigned to me.
Simon, “Thank you! I must say I feel flattered in that I’ve never been called to a meeting such as this before. All too VIP compared to what I’m accustomed to of often cold, over-the-counter, impersonal service”
Financial Advisor, “Welcome to the exciting world of Private Banking, Simon! It’s not everyday we have people of your background here, either. What do you do for a living, then? How do you get to make so much money? You seem to have really killed it in recent years”
Simon, “I have a Therapeutic Massage and Coaching practice at Aker Brygge, midt i smørøyet. I also run two Karate schools. On the side I do periodic language teaching, as well as translations. There are also lucrative Communication/ Personal Safety Management Skills courses I’ll give from time to time …”
Financial Advisor, “Wow, that’s a full programme! Are you married? Children?”
Simon, “Single. No children”
Financial Advisor, “How do you manage your private life in all this, then?”
Simon, “Tjaaa, I don’t have what you might qualify as private life. I work all the time, and I enjoy it. Keeps me out of mischief. And, making big money from my own personal effort is great fun”
Financial Advisor, “What do you do with your money? You seem to be a man of expensive tastes”
Simon, “I do have a few costly and beautiful personal items which make heads turn, yes. But I spend most of my money on my family and people in South Africa. I pay for several children’s education. Because I would like my siblings and others in the extended family to be economically strong and independent eventually, I pump a lot of money in their private business ventures, and the like. My aging mother’s well-being is important to me. Given that she is a retired, once upon a time successful entrepreneur herself, I spend a lot of money on her various needs and wants as well”
Financial Advisor, “Very commendable, Simon! But you do have a life here in Norway also. Do you ever think that when you have been here 15 years now, you are likely to stay on many more years to come? You know, as we get older, attributes of our success tend to tie us down to where we are here and now. And, besides, you are a Norwegian citizen as it is. I want to challenge you to think about focusing your attention to your own needs in Norway as well. You cannot go on working for others forever. You have a life too. Looking at your investment profile, we have a few thoughts. First of all, I suggest you consider investing in an apartment, or a house here. Paying rent is like throwing money out of the window. If you have no wife and children, the Life Insurance premium you pay is far too large. I do understand that you do not want your mother and siblings to suffer should you die. But, were they to get the NOK X million settlement tomorrow, they never will learn to be self-reliant at all. Just consider how much money you have spent on them so far. Have they improved their businesses and lives, then?”
Simon, “Oj, that’s a new way of looking at it”
Financial Advisor, “Yes! And we challenge you to make a drastic cut on your non-growth capital outflows to South Africa, to the extent that you thrive in Norway. By investing your capital in Norway, you can easily follow the trends, and see it grow. That way, you can continue working hard, but enjoying more of your life as your wealth grows right in front of your eyes. The South Africans will in fact benefit more from a more comfortable, and wealthier you here”
Simon, “Makes perfect sense. Thank you! How do we move forward, then?”
Financial Advisor, “We have a few suggestions …”
Such were some exciting, high-risk financial instruments characteristic of the high finance conjecture times of the mid-2000s sold. In less than two years I had just over NOK X1 million cool returns on my investments, and my life would never be the same again.
About the same time, an elderly patient at my former clinic at Aker Brygge struck a conversation, “A lot has changed in South Africa since Mandela was released, Simon?”
Simon, “Sure! And South Africa is becoming a hot tourist attraction. In fact, many Norwegians have started to buy holiday properties in the Cape”
Patient, “You know, Simon, my countrymen, Norwegians, they are some of the most stupid people in the world I know. They go round the globe wasting money and time on properties they use only so many days in a year. There’s just too much stress around these properties, some of which take more than half a day by air to travel to. All my properties are here at home. I have full overview and control. Never any surprises. My wife is happy. I am happy. No stress!”
Thinking I owned time, I opted to build a big house for my mother in South Africa, before I could invest in my own in Norway. Exactly a year later, a medical condition took me down, thereby starting a series of unfortunate events that would have dire consequences on my businesses and personal economy. When the Global Finance Crisis of 3rd Quarter 2008 struck, I was already on my knees. It hit me so hard I never recovered, despite the formidable fight I put up for a 5-year period of mixed blessings thereafter. The Diaspora had worn me out. Weary and wasted, poor and cashless, I thought it was time to come back home to Mamma for comfort and support as I embark on a long road of rest, recuperation, and rejuvenation.
When things work out for an overly generous and kind Diasporant, people back home in the motherland forget that we are only human like everyone else. Not all of us can be on top of things through and through. At some point, we all trip and tumble with variable degrees of severity. But when you are down, you are down. When you are inherently good as a human being, there’ll always be a helping hand to assist you up, though. However, there is no guarantee that that hand will be of any one of your immediate people on whom you’ve blown your millions before.
Lesson is, as people grow and become economically strong and independent, their own needs and sets of obligations do indeed grow as well. And, with growth comes change. When people grow and change both with age and material acquisitions in time, they’ll, naturally, most likely do so in their own independent and unique directions, defining and designing their own new worlds without you, the (former) benefactor, in them. Spoon-fed people tend to have short and selective memories.
So, Diasporants who want to have more durable financial and economic success must learn to take care of their own worlds in the Diaspora first and foremost. And, for Christ’ sake, when you’ve once lived high and large in the Diaspora, never, never ever come back to the motherland weary and wasted, poor and cashless. If and when shit hits the fan, rather use the little monies you have left on an ashram spiritual adventure tour of India, or some cool holiday resort in Florida, even Bali. Not many of us can handle well the isolation and exclusion back in the motherland when we come back as ‘When We Were Kings’ storytellers, or objects. Listen to your Bankers, as well as words of wisdom from elders you come across in your endeavours and travels. Above all, live resolute and strong always, regardless. Keep the faith. Stay true to your principles. Keep your visions alive. You’ll soon learn that sometimes it’s okay to fall after all. Rest is good; just don’t let worms of the earth eat you up. Time fixes many things. Hang in there as long as you need to. You will rise again. If you’ve made it once in the Diaspora, you can again make it anywhere, really, like in New York, New York. Dear Diaspora, I’ll be back! Soon.
Tel.: +27 717 454 115
March 24, 2015
DEDICATION: To my Brothers, global fraternity of wisdom, my Teachers, my Dear Mother, and my children from other fathers all over the world.
Trees and flowers planted round Chilembo Heights residence have each a name, and a story to tell. The Acacia Lisebo Maria tree is Dear Mother’s life metaphor. Her deep loyalty and commitment to her friends I have yet to fathom. She loves her enemies. Over time, she ever actively seeks to bring them closer to her, if not under her wings. Ever benevolent to the enemies and their offspring, if and when they die she will contribute to seeing to it that they are buried with dignity and honour. Amazing Grace.
Forced to close a protracted intense, mutually irreconcilable conflict on certain crucial matters of principle, the great royal prince, his highness doctor professor Mdadakumbakumba Kumdada threw in a verbal salvo, “Simon, I know who you are. I know where you come from. I know whom you talk to. I know about you more than you think you know yourself. I can finish you off anytime I want!”
Simon, “Believe me, Sir, I happen to know very well who I am, and where I come from. I am son of a poor immigrant labourer from Zambia. Well, in Norway, everybody knows everything about everybody who is a good, law-abiding citizen in the country. And, let me remind you, kind Sir, that you have threatened me on more than one occasion before”
Mdadakumbakumba Kumdada, “Young man, I don’t make empty threats. I am a man of action!”
Such was the line crossed. And, symbolically, I drew my sword. In another time, another space, I would have, without a blink, done the lightening fast Kill Bill Yakuza boardroom meeting slash on the man. I am Musashi disciple.
The side of the line on which I am, and I live; on which I Am That I Am on a daily basis, is bright and merry, and so full of love. On this side, I am a poet, I am a singer, I am a dancer; I am the buffoon. I am a freedom fighter, freedom maker, freedom protector and defender. I praise freedom everyday on this side. This is the side For All The girls I’ve Loved Before, all the girls I love; for all the girls I shall love tomorrow. I dream on this side, I create on this side. I thrive on this side of the line I live because it is the home and source of knowledge. Knowledge is power. Power is energy in motion. Energy is potential for work. Motion is movement. Movement is work. Work is change. Change is flexibility, adaptability. Adaptability is growth and development, which lead to progress. Progress translates into abundance, foundation for peace, it being the ultimate goal of life. If I Should Die Tonight, it shall be on this side. I have chosen I shall not die in the dark, in misery and pain. That is how I can be most ruthless, unkind, and unforgiving to any negative force that unfairly, and unjustifiably, crosses the line from the other side to destroy what I have, and know, of the good life of love and peace, rationality and philosophy.
On the other side of the line, where darkness, misery, and pain prevail is found the likes of Mr Mdadakumbakumba Kumdada. Myopic, hopelessly ignorant types to whom enlightenment cannot form even a fragment of their visions in the dark. Driven by perpetual greed and power drunkenness, their existence is all about control and domination of others. Using age-old human behaviour manipulation tools of religions and gods, as well as “our culture”, their chief aim and preoccupation are to bend people under the yokes of respect and honour. Because they do not know anything about themselves as unique individuals in universal energy creation manifestation, it being beyond their intellectual and spiritual comprehension faculties, the concept of personal integrity is far beyond their perceptive potential. These kinds of people are the greatest liars, the worst tricksters at any point in history. The reality is that it is the fear of the unknown, as conjured up by their own underdeveloped cognitive capabilities, which they project outwards to the world as they rule with fear, terror, murder and genocide against those who stand against them; all in the name of holy ghosts and gods, prophets, ancestral spirits, and the like. It is those Diasporants, like Mr Mdadakumbakumba Kumdada, fitting the description just given, who fail to establish new lives of success, happiness and peace in their respective Diaspora host lands, with particular reference to those of the opulent, industrialized, First World of the West, including Norway, where, all things remaining equal, light, knowledge, and human dignity are valued above much else.
In happier glory and glamour times gone by, yes the unforgettable Yuppie days of the 1980-90s, at the Baron Night Club in Oslo, over the biggest bottles of Moët & Chandon I had ever seen, the great royal prince, his highness doctor professor Mdadakumbakumba Kumdada, had given me a friendly warning, and a subtle threat, “Let me tell you something you don’t know about me. I have defied sure deaths several times before, after having been forced to dig my own grave on two or three occasions. You see, from my training in our secret tribal leadership training according to our culture, I am indifferent to death and life. If I am alive I am alive, if I am dead I am dead. But I kill; I do not get killed. If you try to kill me, I will kill you first. Old as I am, I can move at the speed of a Black Mamba snake if and when I have to, anytime. Don’t ever try me! Norway is a terrible country for us Black people to be. You won’t see it immediately, but racism here makes apartheid in South Africa seem like a child’s game. However, don’t worry, I will protect you. I will support you any time. But you must respect me. There is no other foreigner who can do for you what I can. I am a man of honour. I keep my word. That’s how we Royals are. All I want is respect, nothing more, or less. Cheers to a happy future together in Norway, my young, brilliant friend!”
We cheersed on and on through the night. Girls came and went; and came with us in the end. Even in my drunken stupor, with the girls doing things to me many men can only dream of, I couldn’t let go of the notion that respect is earned.
Respect is a two-way traffic, beginning and ending with the self, in a continuous self-referral loop. Awareness of self-respect is conditional upon knowing oneself for the human being one is, in a never-ending interactive and mutual interdependence relationship with other social beings. This, defining our roles, duties, responsibilities, and obligations to the wellbeing of, and service to others, for the furtherance of harmonious and peaceful co-existence in, and for, overall societal growth and development. Respect is about the values we stand for, and represent, both as individuals, and members of different human/ social collectives. Mutual respect among people of all sorts of varying backgrounds meeting in specific spaces and settings, as well as times, is attainable only when their divergent values are, or can be, compatible. Given the vast disparities of people, as conditioned by the divergent nature of origins, all-round growth and development in distinctive parts of the earth with variable natural conditions and natural phenomena occurrences, compatibility of human values does not often come on its own, it is worked at.
Learning, acquiring knowledge and understanding, including internalizing new ideas and views of the world as the Diaspora keeps on growing in thousands by the day in our times of huge, extremely brutal religious and sovereignty/ civil wars across the globe, are vital components of the key to mutual respect of variable people values in the world. It is the failure, I shall assert, to synthesize new uplifting, life-supporting paradigms from acquired, if at all, new knowledge which is the cause of lack of success for many a Diasporant the world over, thereby playing into the hands of the inhuman religious fundamentalists’ indiscriminate orgy of violence and necropower pursuits in jihadist-action-hotspots everywhere, for example. Xenophobic violence experienced in South Africa in recent times has not miraculously come, and does not feed, of itself. No one thrives, and humanity has little to gain from those who have chosen to live on the other side of the line in which darkness, misery, awe, jealousy, prejudice, malice, and pain reign. Enlightenment is the answer to “… Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds …”
Ignorance state of existence is a personal choice. You want to die and feel free in life beyond death, do so alone in your own world of myths and superstition. Racists in South Africa and elsewhere, take heed as well.
Tel.: +27 717 454 115
February 27, 2015
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 52 trips to carry that many people.