The Astounding Asininity of Some South Africans

I had a conversation yesterday, which is haunting me.  It was with a white young man who must have been about five years old in 1994.  He went to school at Michealhouse, which is one of those posh KZN schools that turn out the future billionaires.  His family is Sandhurst based.  He has black friends.  He’s not a racist; at least if he is I don’t think he’s aware of it.  He’s a really nice young man.  I don’t believe he’s a racist. I like him.  But the conversation we had really disturbed me.

We were talking about the situation in the mines.  He said of the miners;

“They don’t need R12 500 the way they live.  What are they going to do with that money”?   I’ve never heard anything approaching this kind of thinking before.  I really didn’t understand what he meant.

“But the idea is to improve their wages so they can improve the way they live.”  I said.  Seriously, I was puzzled.

“An accounting graduate only gets R6000 for his first job, how should they get R12 000.” He said.  He was quite passionate.

“These aren’t graduates, these are skilled labourers who have been in the job for a long time and the mine should demonstrate their value and pay them properly”,  said I.

Then he told me.  “They’re rock drillers.  It’s not even skilled labour, so the mines can just fire them all because anyone can do that job”.

Now I was really puzzled.  Fire them?  No they can’t.  And CCMA notwithstanding, it’s a wage dispute.  You don’t fire people for asking for more wages.  Although, having said that,  it remains to be seen.  This is still South Africa.  It’s their right to strike. Am I right?   Or am I wrong?  It’s starting to look like the old South Africa where people don’t have any rights because they’re black and poor?  Marikana!  “Ah, but” I thought “let us not go to Marikana”.

I was thinking, but I didn’t say.  ‘Michealhouse, Wits and this is the extent of your thinking?  I guess education in SA is worse than we thought”.

How is being a rock driller not a skilled job?  Anyone could do it?  I was stumped.  I’m not a stupid woman, but I felt stupid because I didn’t have a response.  I just looked at this guy, with my mouth open in amazement.

I thought, “Well I don’t know what goes on down a mine.  Maybe rock drilling isn’t what I thought it was.  Drilling sounds like a skilled job.  I’ve never seen what rock drilling is, but I’m sure it’s not like drilling a hole in the wall with a Black & Dekker.  We see the road drillers.  That looks like a skilled job; but when you’re drilling all the way under ground in those exhausting circumstances I think you could cause untold damage if you don’t know what you’re doing.  Doesn’t it involve enormous machinery?  It’s a skill”.

Then he said that the miners were lying when they said they only earned R4000 a month, because they get benefits.  What?  “Well the maid in our office takes home R3000 and she does very well on it.”  He said.   I had nothing to say.  By now I just wanted to end the conversation because it was really pissing me off.  ‘She does well on it’?

And what the hell does he mean the miners are lying?  Did he slam his head into something rough and hard?   Is he disorientated?  Who the hell takes to the streets in protest and risks death – in the case of Marikana meets death – for the sake of a lie? Some things are just so bamboozling to me that they confuse my mind.  What do you mean they’re lying?

While I was having this conversation I was reminded of something.  A long time ago when I was maybe 17yrs old I met a white South African woman at a friend’s house.  I had known white South Africans all my life.  They were part of the ANC.  They were part of my family.  I’d not met this particular brand of white South African.

So when this woman told me she was from South Africa, I proudly told her about my Dad.  She was not pleased.   She talked like a Nationalist Party rep.  One thing she said I can never forget.  She said that the pictures that we saw in the newspapers,  and on TV of black people dead in the streets, people shot by police were not true.  She said the journalists found people and got them to lie down and poured food colouring on them to look like blood and then photographed them and told the world the police had shot them.  In other words, it was a photo shoot.

I think I was reminded of this because yesterday’s conversation raised a similar sentiment in my solar plexus to the one I felt back then.  Something between bewilderment and contempt.

Where do people come up with this astounding bullshit?


About Tselane Tambo

I share myself in these desultory ramblings. It’s my thoughts and memories; some anecdotes and opinions. It’s an accidental autobiography. When you’ve meandered through these pages you’ll be within reach of a little piece of me. Thank you for dropping by.
This entry was posted in Nocturnal Ramblings of a Mind Unplugged. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Astounding Asininity of Some South Africans

  1. plaintain1 says:

    Thanks for this. But I’m just wondering..did you challenge him on this? If so, what did he have to say? Yes, it maybe ‘Michealhouse,Wits and this’ is the exent of his thinking but this proves you can receive the best education ever and still not be informed. It just shows (to me) that racism is still alive and well, (especially with the conversation you had with the white woman) in SA and its people still has a long way to go.

  2. No, its my thinking that when people talk crap, just walk away. His passion makes it clear that he’s entrenched in what he thinks. This is what he is comfortable thinking. I don’t care. I’m very surprised that anyone thinks that way; but I really don’t care to challenge him. He’s wrong. He’ll learn in his time.

    • plaintain1 says:

      I know this is slightly off tangent but just to make a comment of private education. Having put our kids through private education in the UK, you’d be surprised at the thinking of some of their peers (and their parents!) I and my husband have to counter the astonishing questions that our kids come home with and constantly let them know, there is nothing wrong with them. One of the most common questions they get asked – how many houses do you have?
      Yesterday I read that David Cameron was on the Letterman show. Cameron failed to answer correctly questions on English History, and this is somebody who did Eton and Oxford. My point is that private education may give you discipline, focus and leadership qualities but it cannot give you common sense and experiences. The young man you spoke of sounds like someone who has listened a lot to family members and friends, who all have similar views and are all dictated by fear. It is sad that he cannot see outside his tiny box and I feel sorry for him and others who cannot understand why the miners have to do, what they have to do. Forgot to say, a great blog.

      • I saw the David Cameron. Shame, he’s forgotten his history lessons by now. LOL! But the difficult questions. When I was at school a little girl came up to me and said “My Dad says your Dad’s a comyoliss”. The way she said it, it must have meant that my Dad was the devil incarnate. I didn’t know what she was talking about. Neither did she. So I asked my Dad. “What’s a comyoliss?” He just laughed. I mean how do you explain to someone who doesn’t know what a word is, what a word means. I chuckle when I think about it now.

  3. Pat says:

    I loved how you wrote with all his education that was the extent of his thinking.
    I believe what this young man is lacking is life experience, he should experience what it is like to live and work as a miner and then his opinions would be completely different.
    I think many problems in this world could be solved if people fully experienced what it is like to live and work under different circumstances. Perhaps then people would be more considerate of the rights and needs of others.

  4. Colin says:

    Wow. Can you imagine the type of people they are turning teenagers into at public schools like Eton and the American equivalent???!!!!!!

  5. kwakhehla says:

    I think this is one of your saddest blogs for me. Sad because it highlights a reality not just about South Africans but about people. You write simply, clearly, but with penetrating insight into the bullshit that many use to justify their lives.

    Like the youngster and the woman, some people dwell in very narrow, blinkered comfort-zones. That is where they grew up, and that is where they persist. They do not question, do not challenge, they simply accept what they are told by those they believe in. And in accepting, refuse to hear anything to the contrary.

    They are easily brain-washed and indoctrinated. They are the pillars that preserve stability, always ready to pick up a rock to stone those who are perceived as different. They are not defined by wealth, colour, class or privilege, but simply by their blind acceptance of whatever authority (physical or metaphysical) rules their lives.

    They are not evil in themselves. But in their ignorance of other beliefs and cultures or other ways of seeing things they can do great evil in the belief that they are doing the right thing.

    The experience of good private schools and universities, may, but not necessarily, inculcate a sharply critical, questioning mind.

    Just as experiencing crisis, poverty, and a grim struggle to survive, may, but not necessarily, stimulate compassion, empathy and an appreciation of how most people make it through the day.

    The self-righteous believers, the jingoists, the chauvinists — they are always with us, whether in rural KwaZulu Natal, or insular Sandton. Ignorance, for them, is bliss.

  6. Well, Khehla, the world is changing and SA is changing and on all continents people are calling for economic freedom. Look at the occupy movement. People with revolution in mind are linking up everywhere and there will come a time when they will not be able to be ignored. Our miners will find support from all corners of the globe and the plat and gold and etc mines will cave. They will have to. Those comfort zones will be blown apart. It’s just a matter of time.

  7. Tawanda Moyo says:

    Raises the question, can the level of education attained by a person be a measure of his wisdom and societal worth?

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