“I would get these ones, I find them comfortable.” A friend told me while she accompanied me shopping for shoes comfortable to walk in. They were nice, and expensive looking. They were sensible, rubber soled loafer type of shoes that didn’t speak of me. I don’t wear that. I liked the ballerina pumps. I showed her the ones I liked and she just shrugged.
It made me think of how extremely one-sided, or self-sided we all are. The shoes are irrelevant, obviously, but I found it fascinating that all she saw was her choice for herself. She even seemed a little peeved that I wasn’t going to do what she would do. I mean, in loafers I would have been being her. What sense is there in that?
I was talking to another friend about a friend of mine who is married to a gay man. It’s not unheard of. It even has a name. “Mixed-Orientation Marraige.” Of course this woman always knew the man was gay. Does anyone marry a gay man by accident any more? She loves him. He loves her. It’s a marriage about love and mutual respect, friendship, and companionship. They work it out as suits them. Whose business is it but theirs? They both have extramarital lovers. They each know the other’s lover. They’re all friends. They’re a very contemporary couple and they are very happy together.
“I’d never do that.” she exclaimed in shocked horror. Again, I was struck by the subjectivity.
“No, you wouldn’t, but it isn’t about you.” I said.
She lives, as-married, with a man who she doesn’t love and about whom I have heard her say only insulting and negative things. I get the constant impression she doesn’t even like him. But he’s got pots of money, so she doesn’t have to work and he lives in a divine mansion with copious servants. He pays her kid’s school fees and he buys her jewellery and designer clothes and takes them on holidays in Europe. He irritates her, she says, but she needs the perks. So yes, she’s with him for the money.
Now, that’s something I’d never do.
Many years ago, when I was at high school we had to write opinions about one subject or another for a general knowledge class. It was a class scheduled into the curriculum and usually consisted of debate on issues in the newspaper. One would, for homework, have to write an opinion. Then, in class one had to defend the opposing opinion. It was fun. It was mind expanding. You had to see all sides and in so doing you reinforced your belief in your own side; or you changed your mind. At least you knew why you thought what you thought. That was the point. You had to be unemotional, rational and you had to listen to and understand the other side of the argument.
However, sometimes all sides don’t present themselves. I don’t understand the hunting and killing of animals, be it bears, lions, rhino or elephant. These are magnificent creatures. Why kill them? I don’t get it. No one has ever satisfactorily explained to me the necessity of it and I cannot fathom the necessity without intervention.
I don’t object to the wearing of fur. I have a mink coat. I love it. What do minks do except make coats? They’re rodents. I’m helping them live out their purpose on earth. Someone in France once released hundreds of minks from captivity on a mink farm. I read it somewhere. Those pesky rodents ravaged the land, ate the crops, and impoverished the farmers. They attacked livestock and pets. They were a nightmare. ‘Revenge of the Minks’? Evenually, after much damage was done, they were caught or killed or both and made into coats. I know there are arguments for not wearing fur. I’ve heard them, but I don’t care. Many people will not see why I don’t care. I’ve been asked why I abhor the killing of elephants but not minks. I have a handbag from the 1960’s, which belonged to my mother. It’s elephant hide. It’s beautiful. Why don’t I object to that? Perhaps that elephant died of natural causes. Perhaps I’m shallow.
I went to a dinner party a few years ago in America, where a man told me that he came to South Africa to hunt lions. I bristled! My first question, “Is that even legal”? Apparently it is. My second question, “Why would you want to shoot lions”? The answer was something about sport. I didn’t get it. I still don’t. My third question, “Is there not something in your own country that you can kill for sport? Must you really come to our country and murder our animals”? The answer was a kick under the table from my friend and the uncomfortable mutterings of others who were trying to cover up my ‘blunder’.
I was more than a little outraged, to tell the truth and I think I exercised admirable restraint. The guy had no satisfactory answer. I think he was ourtraged that I was outraged. How dare I question him! I didn’t know he was supposed to be someone important. I didn’t care.
“If you can’t justify coming to my country to kill my lions, why do it? Why do you want to kill beauty and majesty? What’s wrong with you?” That was how I put it because that was how I saw it. But, one doesn’t want to ruin a perfectly lovely evening among posh American Republicans, so I backed down and the subject was closed before it all became too contentious. I try to see the point in defence of the murder of majestic Rhino, Lions and Elephants. I simply don’t see it. The point is hidden from my view.
Why would you dislike another person because their skin is a different colour to yours? It makes no sense to me. I don’t understand it. I’ve never understood it. I had a friend, when I was a teenager, who had dreadlocks. Other friends didn’t like him. They mistrusted him because of his choice of hairstyle? How totally irrational is that? He was a white guy, and his dreadlocks were not thoroughly unusual in the early 1980’s. That was the day of mohawk headed punk rockers, white guys with big afros embracing blackness. Guys with blond haired dreadlocks embracing ganja culture. People with tattoos on their heads instead of hair.
My friend was embracing Jah and Rastafari, or so he thought. Shame, he was ignorant but not maliciously so. Even if he was way off the mark, to dislike him was bizarre. He was reaching out. Black people didn’t trust him. White people thought he was wierd. He was wierd, but he was a perfectly personable person. I totally failed to see the point of view of my other friends. This guy and I got talking because of his dreadlocks. I met him at a party. I said, “I like your hair”, which opened us to conversation and we became friends. Actually, I didn’t like his hair, but that’s just my aesthetic preference. He loved his hair and I liked him. I thought he should investigate Rastafarian culture, which is deeper than smoking spliff and wearing dreadlocks. But hey, he took from it what he wanted. Can you fault that? I couldn’t. Today he has short hair. He’s an engineer. He’s ‘normal’. He’s less interesting. We’re still friends.
When I was a full time zealous – church every Sunday – Bible study every midweek Christian I had a secretary who was Muslim. Some of the ladies from church came to my office for some churchie business. They met her. Afterwards, at least four of them phoned to tell me that I couldn’t have a Muslim secretary. The obvious question was “Why not”?
“You’re unevenly yoked,” they said. We’re what? What does that even mean? What kind of religious apartheid nonsense is that? Must she think what I think in order to be my secretary? No! She must be herself. They were telling me that I must fire my secretary because she’s Muslim? I refused to fire her. It was a long time ago, but I still think of that, sometimes. It stays in my mind because it’s one of the stupidest, most insulting things that was ever said to me.
“Vive la difference!” Right?
I notice that many people get angry when your point of view differs from theirs. Why? I must admit, I get angry when presented with bigotry of any kind. I don’t believe people have the right to bigotry. I’m like that. Well they have the right to freedom of thought, of course, but hold back expressing your bigotry when in my presence. I’ll tear you apart.
How many cultures are there in the world. One country has how many cultures. In South Africa diversity is our middle name. Can a Pedi person hate a Zulu because he is Zulu? Actually, we have a bad track record both among ourselves and with foreigners, so perhaps I shouldn’t try to use us as a shining example of diversified unification. I sometimes wonder if we’re even on that jouney any more. But how rediculous is that? With our vast diversity of ‘Peoples South African’ we still have space to discriminate. We make no sense.
When you think of how many countries, regions of those countries; cities, villages and towns in those regions; people in those towns, cities
and villages and the numerous languages and dialects there are in the world; when one thinks of the differing cultures, and religions in all those countries, regions, towns, cities and villages; not to mention the remote tribes; surely common sense leads one not necessarily to reject or accept any of the ideas and points of view, but, at lease to listen to them with an open mind. One should, at least, accept that there will be differences. Should we hate people because they see the world differently? Different experiences will produce different world views. Dare we judge otherness and find it wanting? No, we dare not be so stupid. We dare not be so ignorant.
It is my considered view that the difference between us is a beautiful thing.