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Formed by fearful legend


Imagine the bliss of living in a South Africa where there are simply people

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Macaroni and cheese, especially when the generous layer of cheese was crispy and a deep brown on the top of the dish, was a favourite of mine.

All self-governance went out of the window when there was a dish of mac and cheese in front of me. I remember shovelling forkfuls of this bewitching delicacy into my mouth and wolfing it down, already planning my second and third helpings. It didn’t help that I had an older brother with a bigger mouth and a year-and-a-bit more eating experience.

I would always be trying to eat faster so that I could get to that crispy corner piece in the dish before he did. Truth be told, I used to eat so fast, I don’t even think that I tasted what I was eating.

Of course the adults were always on hand to get us to slow down.

“Do you know that Uncle Jeremy’s son was eating like that one day, when he choked to death at the lunch table?”

At the time it never occurred to me that we never had an Uncle Jeremy, and I would immediately start taking smaller bites and chewing each mouthful 31 times, like they told us to in our Health Education lessons at school.

Trips to the river were amazing fun, but we were told before we could slip on our shoes we had to shake them out, because some obscure person, that all the adults seemed to know very well, had at one time been stung by a scorpion and his leg had to be amputated just below the knee!

Now before we start dismissing all these fearful legends as fairy tales, let’s look at the lessons they taught: Do not stuff your mouth, chew your food well and shake out your shoes in the morning, especially when you’re out in the “wild”.

However, these are not lessons that I would have taken to easily, seeing as they are so “nerdy”. It was therefore necessary for the adults to introduce an element of fear while I was still immature.

They would have been wasting their breath if they had tried to explain to me the common sense behind all these fearful legends.

It’s interesting that children can often only be reached when they are either coaxed with a reward or threatened with punishment. The immature do not respond very well to common sense, but as people mature they can see the folly and dangers in many things, and make informed decisions for themselves.

Recently estate agent Vicki Momberg was sentenced to three years in prison, with one year suspended, for directing deeply offensive slurs at a police officer.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha said the jail sentence could “serve as a deterrent” to others. “It was a question of escalating and intensifying the fight against racism by finding even more sterner measures,” he said.

My questions are simple: Are we such an immature society, 24 years after Nelson Mandela became president, that we still need to be manipulated with fear? Will parents now tell their children the fearful legend of Vicki Momberg and warn their children not to use racial slurs, simply because she was jailed for such an offence? Can fear of punishment actually reshape a society so deeply divided along racial lines?

I believe that sullen submission to authority will develop the character of a rebel. Such feigned obedience is looked upon in the light of drudgery. It is not rendered cheerfully and ultimately it is a mere mechanical performance, while below the surface there is a festering anger waiting to be uncorked.

Imagine the bliss of living in a South Africa without any Coloured people. And while we’re at it, imagine how amazing it would be if there were no whites, Indians, Chinese, or even black people as well as those immigrants from up north.

Now imagine the bliss of living in a South Africa where there are simply people; and then imagine what it would be like if these unlabelled people could just accept and embrace each others’ diversity without prejudice and especially without any fearful legends.