And Ferial Haffajee has read it. And it appears she has gone through something like the five stages of grief at seeing what are generally considered to be typical white, middle class anxieties playing out in the mind of a man from Kathlehong.
Haffajee’s conclusions, however, are not dissimilar, in their nuances and concessions, from Dlamini’s.
Read, think – and perhaps respond yourself?
I had been detained at the Bramley police station for four hours, sitting in a side office staring at the empty holding cells across the room, when the question came to me: What am I doing here? Here, in this police station on an afternoon when I should have been preparing for my return the following day to the United States, where I was a graduate student, a place that was feeling like home with each passing year.
In truth, I had had several occasions to consider emigration. The first time was in 1992 when, shortly after completing my A-levels in England, I had toyed with the idea of staying on and going to university in the United Kingdom. The second time was in London in 1995 when I had considered staying on after my year-long tenure as a junior correspondent for the Sunday Times. In 2000, I had thought about settling in the United States after completing a year as an exchange student at Bard College in New York. But each time the pull of home had proved stronger than the attractions of life away from kin and country.
* Health warning: if you are one of those people who get upset at the mention of apartheid’s legacy, this is going to annoy you.
It’s thankfully been stilled by our happy rainbow nation now, but the persistent narrative on the topic of “should I stay or should I go” will be back.
It’s tiresome and I thought that I could happily ignore it as an occupation of fairer-skinned compatriots that I would never understand.
That is until my favourite writer, Jacob Dlamini, wrote an essay on the same topic in the Mail&Guardian recently. “Et tu Dlamini?”, I wanted to cry. His question was provoked by a nasty incident of mall rage where he got into a fight with a dude in a big four-wheeled drive car. He ended up at a nearby police station pondering what it might be like to live in a society where we didn’t exist on the edge of the violence that has become so darned every day?
When I visited my family in Sweden where pacifism seems a trace element in the water, it was good. The rules worked, the public hospitals looked better than the best of Netcare, an honour system underlies most systems including transport and taxes.
But while I enjoyed it and wondered how you replicate social democratic values in our highly unequal society still smarting from apartheid, I certainly didn’t want to stay.
- Should I Stay or Should I Go? To Live in or Leave South Africa edited by Tim Richman
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