Guest post by Naledi Hlefane
My prodigal sister has finally returned home after a five-year departure. Perhaps “prodigal” is a strong word. Some petty quarrel, surrounding the birth of her little girl, between her and family elders led to our unfortunate separation.
She brought along her five-year-old daughter whom we’d not seen since birth.
My siblings were elated, mostly by the roles of aunts and uncles they were to formally assume. I was equally enthused but my affection for children is short-lived.
For one, I am pathetic with toddlers and the closest I ever get to baby talk is: “helloow you cutey cutey. What’s your name? Huh? What’s your name?” I then smile and blink a few times in a desperate attempt to make the baby laugh. With those aged three to six I despise the nose-picking, the nagging, perpetual wailing and the one million questions.
I was perplexed when my niece took a great liking to me, insisting on sharing a bed with me instead of her mom and imitating some of my habits. What a sweet little thing she is, I mused. But with all living things on earth, true colours are revealed, eventually. So was the case with my niece.
As it turned out, she has quite a loose tongue. She takes any tone with anyone- child or adult. She doesn’t take disciplinary action too good either, even from her mom. And she would cry till the second coming if she could.
By the third week of her stay I had decided: I’m not having children. EVER! When her mother asked me to babysit her daughter “for just a week”, because of an urgent course she needed to attend, I nearly threw myself out of the window. I would do one of two things during that week: commit suicide or homicide. I obliged nonetheless.
On the first day, an extremely hot Sunday, my niece was tiresome, constantly asking for food. The next two days were fine, except for the 21 questions. She was either terrified or bored for she kept asking how much longer it would be “till mom returned?”
I took her to the mall the next day, to change the routine a bit. Our day was bliss. We were the cynosure of the day, mother and daughter, or so many thought. It shocked me at first but the idea of playing mom for the day gradually grew on me. I lost count of the compliments she got for her “cute” ensemble. I gave a nod for each one taking credit as the stylist.
The following day at the mall was no different, in the spotlight as usual. She was enjoying her pizza when her mom called to announce that she was on her way home. My niece was ecstatic.
I was practically non-existent with her mom back. I couldn’t help feeling disappointed. Was I not the one who had combed her hair gently, the one who cooked noodles at her request? Did I not warn her against using the Lord’s name in vain, teaching her to use “Oh my gosh” as opposed to “Oh my God”?
I mean I had done a practically good job in the few days of being her guardian. I was pleased with my patience and astonished by my nurturing demeanor. There were countless times when she infuriated me so much I should’ve had the upper hand, but I hadn’t. Strangely, I had contemplated having a family of my own in the future. To be given a cold shoulder after this was disheartening.
But as I sat in despair her old habit of wailing kicked back in and at that moment my own child-intolerant ways returned. I was again reminded of why I don’t want to bear children.
I asked an awkward question in a packed lecture theatre at university once. Our Media studies advertising course had a guest lecturer, a creative type from an advertising agency who had spent years in the industry and had won lots of awards and been all over the world stoking his creative light and generally spinning words into gold for a hideous number of international brands.
The lecture itself was fascinating – I still reference his witty and cynical take on product differentiation to this day – and I remember I was so engrossed in what he had to say that it seemed like mere moments before he was done with the presentation and it was question time.
Several people asked the usual – how to get into the industry, whether he had ever used drugs, how did he feel about advertising from a moral point of view. Then I raised my hand, opened my mouth and said something horribly, horribly vulgar – “How much can we expect to earn?” Everyone stared.
He moved from one leg to the other nervously twiddling his chalk and told me that, well, most people didn’t go into advertising to get rich but because they had a passion for the job and that if that was the kind of way we wanted to approach the industry than we probably wouldn’t get very far. But, to answer the question, it might begin as low as R2000 and we would have to slowly work our way to the top. I sat there mortified and outraged.
Mortified, because of the, oh, hundreds of minds simultaneously churning around me – “…howrudehowrudehowrudehowrudehowrudehowrude…”
Outraged because I was trapped in a room with those same minds to which it had never occurred to interrogate this language of so-called passion because they had never been in the position to test whether passion actually pays the bills.
There is something which we were not taught in school, our generation. The more people I meet, the more I lament this. Paradigms.
The consciousness that we each possess a world-view that is not necessarily universally true just because it is true to us.
The knowledge that others do not live as we live or think as we think.
The understanding that what we hold to be sacrosanct is not equally divine to others because they may have other things to worry about.
From all the people I have met in what I call the third sphere of society, the middle classes, I have seldom met anyone who ventures out of their cosy middle-class world-view long enough to realise that some people are too poor to afford to be passionate.
Strange. But true. See, the unspoken assumption of our gentleman lecturer was that everyone in that lecture theatre came from homes where the only people they owed anything to were themselves. He assumed that everyone in that lecture theatre had homes. He assumed that we all were just embarking on the great unfettered adventures of our lives as he had been at our age.
All from homes not too rich and not too poor, with no dependents, no 12-member families relying on us to dredge them from poverty. No twisting emptiness in our stomachs because we hadn’t eaten that day. No 2-hour walks home alone in the dark because we didn’t have the R3.50 to take the skidonky bhopopo bus. No pressing realisation that, before some of us could even begin to consider those things they call “dreams” and this thing they call “passion”, we would first have to come to grips with that thing they call “staying alive”.
Some people are too poor and too poorly schooled to speak of passion.
Passion is a terribly cruel and terribly powerful figment of mass bourgeois imagination. Passion is a tyrant.
When you apply for funding, when you go for a job interview, when you enter a competition, your words, your actions mean nothing to most people unless you mention that secret password, “passion”.
You must say, I am passionate about this idea, I am passionate about your company, I am passionate about selling massive amounts of useless junk to people who don’t really have the means to buy it by telling them that it will make them better mothers, or manlier men, or cooler youths, or simply better human beings.
I have middle-class friends. They may find this offensive because, well, they can’t be blamed for the fact that they were born into privilege and they can’t be expected to apologise for the fact that their parents worked hard to send them to decent schools, and, sorry, but they really resent what I am saying, they disagree because – no, because, no, I really must let them finish, LET THEM FINISH, right, thank you. What they were saying is, is that I, I do not understand what I am talking about, I do not know what I am talking about in fact let’s just leave it, let’s just stop this conversation here right now…
Don’t get me wrong. All of my middle-class friends are fine, noble and up-standing people from whom I have learnt much. Conscious people, who read Biko and pay their taxes and register to vote on time. And give to charity and join civil organizations and admire advocates of human rights. They worry about global warming and tweet about politics and learn several languages and broaden their minds through travel whenever they can. My middle-class friends want to make South Africa great, they want to change the world, want to spark the revolution, be the revolution, televise the revolution, tweet the revolution, look back at the revolution and wonder if it was worth the revolution.
I have a suspicion though. A terrible, horrible, no-good suspicion, that it takes more than just going to school to secure your future because you need to have an education which is the key to success to actually succeed. Oh no. I profoundly suspect that it takes much more than that.
by Zwanga “Evans” Mukhuthu
Don’t get me wrong, I am FOR funeral services. But brief ones. And there lies the problem. There is no such thing as a brief funeral service; especially amongst us Africans.
I was reminded of this over the weekend when I attended a friend’s funeral. The service started at 07:30 at his home, dragging up until 09:15.
Since he died being popular in the community we went for another service at the community hall and it dragged until 13:00.
It took me almost six hours of gospel to finally put my friend to rest because the ignorant reverend thought he could convince every sinner present at that funeral to come to church the next Sunday and live happily ever after.
I say greedy because the funeral gospel is done under the pretence of giving the departed a clean way to heaven no matter how much of a sinner one was
Where did you ever hear of an African funeral that was hosted without a priest as a result of one having been a bad person in the community? Never! He or she might have been a rapist, killer or a common thief, but they all get decent funeral services presided over by decent reverends.
I’ll tell you; because it’s not in the dead ones’ best interest but the interest of those attending the funeral. And my people don’t know this.
Think about it.
Many people don’t go to church these days. And it is to be assumed that once a priest finds himself in a packed hall of different mix – believers and sinners – he gets a little excited (or maybe not so little.)
My reverend will tell you that no priest likes preaching in a church of 18 members. It is every priest’s dream to preside in front of hundreds of people. Also, the preaching that goes on in these services are not meant or intended for the dead one.
If the person who is dead did not get deliverance while they were still alive, it’s all over for them.
I remember once during a Sunday church ceremony. My reverend was at the altitude of his sermon when he said, “There is no God’s pardon beyond the grave. This (life) is the only chance you’ve got to clear things with God. Do it before it’s too late.”
But why is it that we are now spending long hours in funeral services in the guise that we are preaching for the dead ones, while we all know that their fate has already been decided upon?
There are people who have never set foot in a church building and the reverend knows this well. But what’s a reverend to do when he meets people he knows he will never live to see them in church? He grabs the opportunity with all his arms and legs (I mean he doesn’t preach sitting)
So there you go, my sinning friends
Next time you attend a funeral service and have a loud priest preaching in front of you know that he is talking to you not the guy in the coffin.
The guy in the coffin gave up listening to the reverend a long time ago.