I have become an emotional person, a person whose days are rarely filled with laughter. Instead, I am confronted continually by an avalanche of grievances, of real, every day national and personal issues. My days are filled with stories of neglect, or crisis, of unsympathetic greed. My nights are filled with confrontations of my own creation; personal reprisals or guilt trips that weigh me down or choke me up. Yesterday I cried about an Apartheid atrocity, today I felt saddened by a South African song.
Having come to Johannesburg two months ago, I have been confronted by the real South Africa, the land I left behind when I was a naive eighteen-year-old. My world was an insulated racist mess, with me trying to break free from its confining narrow-mindedness. Then I went to university and made friends with black people. I thought that made me good. I thought that I had escaped the persecution of having been born during Apartheid, of having a family which contributed in its own small way. After learning to criticise my every thought, I then spent three years in a blissful first world city, geographically separated internally and externally from the crying, fighting, dying nation.
But, now I know that Cape Town is a dream land. I struggled to make friends, because everyone is trying to avoid everyone else. They are not willing to expand their worlds beyond what they know. Because what they know is safe.
I was safe until I had to integrate, until I had to confront my own life and learn from my own Apartheid. I had created Apartheid in my head, apart from the reality of poverty, of crime and fear. I had not made black friends, just acquaintances. I had not made concessions, or given enough or sacrificed enough. But now I don’t know if I can take any of those actions, compromising myself in the process. I don’t know if I can leave my cushy, learned office on the 16th floor of a building that overlooks this reality and walk out into the street and really be there in mind, spirit and body.
I am scared of what I might find there – the same life that many South Africans live. This reality of this country is that millions of its inhabitants live a life of desperation and fear. And I am their enemy.