There's no question each generations is becoming more worldly due to extensive travel, either for work or pleasure, and the phenomenon of satellite radio, cable and other media and entertainment outlets that allow people to tune into what's happening around the world.
Even so, there's a difference between knowing the facts and scenery of a certain locale and understanding a perspective cultivated in that place. While journalists may be able to tell us the different opinions expressed in a foreign country, there isn't the time to explore everyday, local issues that often tell more about people, their backgrounds and the way they think than do programs covering a large national event.
So how do you really learn what's going on in the lives of other people in the world? The best way is to go live in their communities. But since that's not an option for many of us, the next best answer is to take advantage of the Internet by joining discussion groups that allow us to form friendships with people from outside our ethnic, socioeconomic, political, religious and philosophical circles. When we listen to their opinions, which are neither right nor wrong but true for them, personally, we can't help but launch ourselves outside the mental boxes we live in by virtue of living in one place.
That's how I met Daphne Olivier, a fellow writer living in a retirement village in Howick, a small town four hours from Johannesburg, South Africa, or "Jo'burg" as the locals call the provincial capital of the province of Gauteng. Howick is on the Umgeni River in the Natal Midlands on the east side of the country about two hours from the coast. Daphne said she and her husband's ancestors migrated to South Africa 300 years ago.
While talking writing, Daphne and I exchanged some information about our lives and she was kind enough to pass on an article she wrote for a friend along with the following comment: "South Africa is a very beautiful country, but not a good place for white folk to live in nowadays because the VIOLENT crime rate is so unbelievably high."
Why I Am Not Optimistic About the Future of South Africa
Several articles have been written recently criticizing expats who, "trash South Africa". White South Africans are told to stop complaining and to be positive about the future. We are reminded that South Africa is not the only country in the world plagued by crime.
This is true, but I would like to know whether the authors can point to any civilized country, anywhere in the world, where an ordinary citizen, like me, can claim to have personally known the victims of so many violent crimes? I am an ordinary citizen and while I have not (as yet) been the victim of a violent crime, the people in the following list were all friends, neighbours and/or relatives.
1. An elderly couple hacked to death on their smallholding in Thornville. No arrests were made.
2. A few months later a second couple was attacked and hacked to death in their home in Thornville. No arrests were made.
3. A friend hijacked at gunpoint in Pietermaritzburg.
4. A woman murdered in her home in Howick.
5. A woman attacked and raped in Merrivale.
6. An elderly man attacked and beaten up on his farm.
7. My daughter attacked and thrown off the balcony of a double-story house in Warner Beach.
8. A cousin hijacked at gunpoint in Port Edward.
9. An 83 year-old woman forced off the road in Pietermaritzburg, then pulled from her car and flung onto the street. The hijackers then proceeded to kick her before driving off with her car.
While this list is horrific, I am sure that it is by no means unusual. Every South African I know has been touched in some way by violent crime. Many will have far worse crimes than these to recount.
So, while I acknowledge that crime is prevalent in all countries, I do not believe that it is happening at anywhere near the same scale, or that it is accompanied by such violence as here in South Africa. Worst of all, the criminals are seldom arrested, and when they are, our Justice system more often than not allows them to walk free. In the rest of the world this would be called anarchy.
I would like to be positive. I would like to walk my dogs, or go shopping, or visit a friend or drive along the highway without fear of being mugged or raped or hijacked or murdered. I would like not to worry about the safety of my family. But as that is not possible, I hope that those who can leave, will join the growing number of expats as soon as possible. And if they "trash South Africa", it will be with words of truth.
I want to thank Daphne for sending letting me share her thoughts and experiences.