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Black Friday to Blue Monday

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Apparently in South Africa such behaviour is acceptable when it comes to bargain hunting.

What a party: The area adjacent to the Oppenheimer Memorial Gardens in Sol Plaatje Boulevard, a favourite hang-out for young people, is strewn with empty alcohol bottles every weekend, leaving a mammoth clean-up headache for the municipality.

Being in the fortunate position of not being completely financially flush of late, I had the luxury of sitting back and judging those who had enough dough in their pockets to lose their minds in that maniacal shopping spree on Friday.

The scenes of chaos at stores, the stories of people losing shoes and weaves in their scuffles for bargains, reports of altercations between security guards and shoppers made my sour grapes taste really, really delicious!

I spent some time yesterday looking at video clips and pictures of the Black Friday mayhem online, and my heart sank. I will forgive you if you benefited from your shopping spree and believe that I am just envious, but I wondered if Black Friday can be good for us as a nation.

Here’s my reasoning: Two years ago, someone told me that he went to a supermarket on Black Friday with one purpose in mind, to get his hands on some cheap toilet paper.

He said the store was crammed with wild people with the craziest looks in their eyes, but he didn’t mind because he eventually managed to get his hands on the prize – his toilet tissue.

However, on his way to the till, a wild-eyed, crazed shopper grabbed the toilet paper out of his hands and disappeared into the mass of other crazed shoppers.

Apparently in South Africa such behaviour is acceptable when it comes to bargain hunting.

My question is: If this is our attitude during a time of greed, what will happen during (heaven forbid) a time of need?

Where does this self-centred, greedy, entitled attitude have its origin? It must come from somewhere. Did parents stop raising their children with rules, and have adults stopped giving the young people direction and values to which they could aspire?

At the risk of sounding exactly like the old fart that I have become when we were children, most adults had a sense of right, and if a child stepped out of line that child could and would be rebuked by any adult; and I don’t know how they did it without social media, but by the time you got home your parents had heard all the sordid details of your misdemeanour.

Childhood was a nightmare; I couldn’t wait to grow up. But now adulthood is a nightmare, because I see children at the very tipping point of losing complete self-control, and I don’t know what we can do about it.

For instance, on Sunday night after work I drove down Sol Plaatje Boulevard, past the Oppenheimer Memorial Gardens or should I call it the Oppenheimer Memorial Dump? It was a sight that I cannot unsee. Dozens upon dozens of young people enjoying themselves and just hanging out, “chilling”; while all around them, everywhere, empty alcohol bottles were strewn on the lawns, in the road, on the sidewalk everywhere!

“At least the grass is green,” I mused, as I looked at all the green alcohol bottles covering what used to be lawns.

Nearby on a lamp-post, in front of the art gallery – one of the better art galleries I have visited in my lifetime – there was a poster: “Littering: See it! Report it! Stop it!” And around the lamp-post there were numerous empty alcohol bottles.

By the way, I took a drive around that area yesterday afternoon on my way to work and it had been tidied up and squared away – will this teach our youth that they can litter as they please, and someone will come and clean up after them? Is that what young South Africans are learning?

That cannot be healthy!

I may sound like the grouch who missed out on Friday’s bargains and who wasn’t invited to the garden party, but bear with me as I say: No amount of effort by a municipality or volunteers to clean up our city will have any lasting impact until our own citizens, from knee-high to drinking-age and beyond, learn that it’s their responsibility and privilege to keep our city litter free by simply not littering.

It’s that simple.

Because if we do not learn to respect ourselves we definitely will not respect others; and one day down the line one of our Black Fridays could turn really, really dark.