dirty soils and secrets

emotional heap-ups. intense moments, coming and going. each one worthy of a book, a song, a speech, a plan of action. and yet our lives stream on. burning to say something. not knowing how and where. social media. online subscription post. newsletter. stage.. well, now the moment has arrived. just to say. say it all, say it all since the time of Brett Kavanaugh. the man lied! through his teeth, his ears, his everywhere. about abusing that woman sexually. it was so evidently clear, for anyone with just a spic of psychological insight. and so clear that she was telling the truth, as far as she could. and yet he was turned into the victim. he was made a hero and he was appointed to the Supreme Court of the most powerful country on the planet. the country that is fast turning into a banana republic – against the whishes of the majority of its people. I could not believe what I saw. and yet I could. because I was Brett Kavanaugh too. when i was eight years old and vandalized a fence at my school and then kicked and screamed, denying it all. because you see, i was the child of a dominee (a minister). i could do nothing wrong. i could not face being caught out. my little secrets needed to stay my little secrets. that was long ago. but i was Brett Kavanaugh back then. this man was infuriated that his dirty male-buddy secret was getting exposed. that was never how it was supposed to be. he was supposed to get all the first places in life because he was born the right colour, into the right family, went to the right schools and made the right buddies. nothing should stand between him and his ambitions. and when it did, he started kicking and screaming. and denying. right through the Holy Scriptures and the love of his mother. Trump is lying all the time of course and he does not even pretend to be the Head Boy. he kicks and screams himself into every position he craves to win. but Trump does not move me so much as this Brett. because in right-standing Brett i recognize something of myself. and then two days ago as i was driving to a school on the Cape Flats. at a big intersection, there lay a man, looking more like a sack of beans than a man, with half his body off the curb. any car could drive over him. his body lay there in a position of utter wretchedness. if only he was dead, but he was not. he was suffering. for all the world to see. night or day did not exist for him anymore. just his utter wretchedness. and I cried. I cried while driving past. I saw myself lying there, as I once did (oh dear no, more than once) on a park bench, having to get through the night with no place to stay. no I was not drunk, I was not wretched, but I was out. out as in out. anyone who has experienced being out – out of the game, out of the theatre play society puts on every day, out of the swing of connections that brings you from one place to another, that gives you a place amongst humans, out of the church, out of any kind of industry or organization, out of the myriad conversations that keep people in a flow of belonging – anyone who was there cannot in any way drive past such a wretched man and feel nothing. and just the day before, I cried too. again I was driving, this time coming out of Cape Town CBD, passing underneath a flyover. to my right, behind the pillars, there was an open space, covered by the highway – an open space occupied by homeless people. just dirty soils, soot, the incessant noise of cars and trucks spewing out greenhouse gasses. what made me cry was seeing a mother sitting in front of a little tent, doing something – washing or making or preparing, I don’t know – with her eye on her two little children. and immediately I saw myself and Joke with Mira, how we have our eye on her each day, how we look out for space for her to move, to play, to find playmates. I felt the feeling of being a parent as I saw this mother, but then, she, a parent on dirty soils underneath a bridge, with only one dirty area, right next to passing cars and trucks, for her children to play, all day long. how is that for bringing up a child? it ripped my heart. and more moments piled up: two weeks ago I was in the mining town of Randfontein at a high school, doing a workshop with a group of drama students. they were all African (black, yes). they served me with such a flood of creative and expressive improvisational acts, I was simply astounded: the confluence of such heart, energy and intelligence is little elsewhere to be found. and I told them that. and in that moment I opened my heart. they could not believe the year I was born. yes, I told them, I am THAT old and grew up under apartheid. they asked me about it. and my memory went back to how it was relating to black people, being a white child of about 10 years old. and I remembered that touching a black person’s hand – if ever that actually happened – carried for us something akin to being exposed to a Corona virus. no, seriously. but as I was telling them this, it all welled up in me. here I stand in front of them, these warm and bright people, who just floored me with their talents and hope, telling them how I saw their hands as a 10 ear old. and an immense shame came over me. I had to freeze in order to hold back the tears in front of them. (oh, you are welcome, hearing all this, to call me a bleeding-heart liberal, or a sissy, or obsessed with white guilt. I don’t care what you do to belittle my feelings. it just shows you up. these tears, these joys, this shame, this makes me human, this brings me closer to what we all share – black and white and rich and poor and destitute and comforted. it heals me, it restores me. nothing is bleeding. I do not bend under a burden. no. feeling is flowing and from that, I can turn to action). one final moment to share: her name is Primrose and Joke and I once gave her a lift from Robinson to Khayelitsha. so she told us about her project to help the youth where she lives to stay off the streets and off the drugs. we were moved by her initiative and her leadership and kept in touch. we told her story in the Netherlands and a friend came forward to raise money to support Primrose’s project (Lukanyo Lwabantu). We were happy to be able to funnel these funds through to her with which she first put up a wifi server so people on her block could access internet at low cost. Then to fix her laptop and then to support an event she organized over the December holidays so children could have some entertainment and fun. After this she said we should come and visit so some of these kids can show us what they performed at the event. On Sunday we finally had an opportunity to drive into Khayelitsha. Little did we know what to expect. here was a whole reception party, a large group of children singing and dancing with such joy and energy, both of us got tears (again). on top of that these financially poor people gave us a hearty meal for lunch and informed us of all their recent activities and future plans. the next practical project to be funded was identified and we will take this proposal with us back to the Netherlands. right now Joke is reading a book that shows how a lot of preconceptions we have about humans being only superficially civilized and essentially cruel and self-interested, are simply false. that we are sometimes limited with time and energy does not mean we are self-interested. that some of us are deeply wounded and acting out on others does not mean we are evil by nature (or born in sin, for that matter). we are no angels, but by and large, by nature, we live and let live. the klepto- and autocrats of this world can cause and is causing a lot of damage, but they are not having the last say. collectively, actually, we are a wounded species, judging by the way we have been acting out on Mother Earth over the last millennia. but again, wounds do not define us, as wounds can heal. let no one hold your tears back, for they are the agents of healing. no one with a sound heart can sustain dirty secret pleasures. the fact that the earth belongs to all that lives and breathes on it, will ultimately assert itself. and in recognizing that, we will break down all our unnecessary walls, and reduce the wretchedness around us.

 

(HA!Man 5 March 2020)

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