There is economic disparity everywhere in the world, but in some places more than others. South Africa is most certainly one of the places with a bigger gap between those that have and those that don’t have.
Of course the larger the separation, the larger the lack of respect for those that have less. We all know how those with more look down upon those with less. Some might display outward empathy, compassion or tolerance, but truth be told, those with more do believe that they are superior to those with less. Those with less are treated with less respect and less dignity, even disdain. I personally have heard people discuss those with less, automatically assuming they are criminals, untrustworthy and unhygienic. Why? Because they have less? Because they live differently from you?
However, at the risk of me sounding devoid of any empathy or compassion for the socio economic conditions that many are faced with, I got to wondering recently, are there those that just don’t desire more?
We often see on social media (and I myself am guilty of it), people posting memes about running away from the madness they call life, and living on a hilltop all off the grid, isolated and quiet like. Many of us have those thoughts regularly. Of course, whether we would actually be happy and content like that, we do not know. We have tasted the life of luxuries, excess and convenience. Perhaps this isolated off the grid type of life would not be as great as we imagine. But what of the people that have never had more?
As mentioned in my previous blogs, I am very selfishly selective of whom I allow to destroy my soul with feelings of empathy and compassion. So, the 16 year old standing at the robot looking for free hand outs to buy the next tube of glue to sniff, while in all probability, his mother sits at home feeling distraught and totally helpless in being able to assist her child, does not qualify as someone who I allow to take residence in the destruction of my soul.
I am fully cognisant of the fact that he would probably have grown up without the privileges and opportunities that so many (including myself) had. I would not even pretend to understand what his life was like growing up. But there is a huge possibility that his mother and/or father worked their fingers to the bone, in order to try and create more opportunities for him. But he preferred to live a stress free life. Not a great life. Not a comfortable life. A STRESS FREE LIFE.
Now the people who I do allow to take residence in the destruction of my soul, are the people who do want more, but who never had the opportunity to get more, who constantly try to improve their lives, despite the fact that they are faced with immense obstacles on a daily basis. These are the people who have the responsibilities, even if on a smaller scale compared to the middle and upper class. They have the home loans, the school fees, the utility accounts, the children and themselves to feed and clothe. These are the people, who to be honest, in their entire lifetime, will never have anything more than the bare minimum. They go out there every day, and do what needs to be done, just to live in the life that has become our norm. These are the people who never had the opportunities so many more had. These are the people who would have had more, had they been gifted with more opportunities. These are the people that I would love to save. These are the people who WANT to be saved. These are also the people that want the respect, that deserve the respect, but don’t receive the respect.
But then, I was wondering about another class of people. These are the people who might actually not want to be saved. Rather than seek employment, they live their lives on the streets. There are so many of them. It is like a whole community. They socialize, share their stories of the day, discuss the weather and so on.
What got me thinking about this was when I moved out of my White privileged environment one Sunday morning, to accompany my son Salt, who is coaching Little League soccer, to one of his matches. I am not going to delve into why (helicopter mom) I chose to accompany him (helicopter mom), as that is not relevant (helicopter mom) to this blog….HELICOPTER MOM!! Be that as it may, we drove through areas that we do not regularly get to see, especially at 7am on a freezing winter morning. We drove past many people, more particularly groups of people, who were huddled around fires they had lit for warmth. Some were eating, some were drinking…..pretty much having started their Sunday morning like everyone else….just on the streets. They had blankets wrapped around them, and seemed quite content with their lives. They had a lot less to worry about at the start of their day, than I had to worry about.
I was anxious to get back in time to attend to the one of three jobs that I hold down. Of course one has to work 3 jobs to pay for the nice house. Naturally, what comes with the nice house, is insurance to protect the house, security so no one takes your nice things out of the nice house, sky high utility bills, petrol costs to get to and back from the 3 jobs for the nice house, nice food for the fully stocked fridge in the nice house and everything else that goes with having a nice house!
What I saw that Sunday morning, were people who had a huge sense of community, as opposed to us privileged lot, who honestly just stand on the shoulders of others to get where we need to get. Who are so stressed in maintaining a certain lifestyle that, not only do we not ”love thy neighbour”, we don’t even know thy neighbour!
With people such as these, there is no such thing as eating alone. Whatever they have they share. Honestly, they have nothing, so there is nothing that the next person envies, nothing that the next person can take from them. Their only concern (which is a major concern, granted), is where they will get their next meal.
Now I might sound devoid of any compassion, but on that drive, I just saw a different picture! These people do very little to contribute to society, or the upliftment of a country’s poor socioeconomic conditions. However, I truly do suspect that given the opportunity to improve their situation, by working or being proactive in finding employment, having responsibilities and bills to pay….. they would decline. These are not the criminals. These are not the people coveting the possessions and lifestyles of the privileged. No, these are the people who are actually content with their lives.
So perhaps before judging and labelling all people that have no roof over their heads, think about the fact that maybe we have it all wrong. In all probability, many are judging us!!