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Privileged pest … for a while, anyway


OPINION: Though it’s fun and exciting to travel and see new things and experience different cultures, it’s even better to bring back positive experiences and better ideas from the places we have visited, writes Lance Fredericks.

Picture: Robert Owen-Wahl, Pixabay.

IT IS SURPRISING that there are so many well-adjusted people from my generation around these days. Those who bear the Generation X grew up in the trenches.

I mean, imagine hearing – when you were asking, pleading, begging for something you really, really wanted – “this child is a bladdy pest!”

“Bladdy pest” nogal! No wonder so many ‘Gen-Xers’ have complexes. No wonder we sell ourselves short. No wonder we are so restrained.

Ja nee … when we wanted to express ourselves, we were labelled as “lastig”, or called “forward” or told that “children must be seen and not heard”. It’s for this reason that for some of us, any sort of recognition makes us a bit uncomfortable. It makes us squirm just a little bit.

For example, a few weeks ago, as the Festive Season started trailing off, I was at one of the malls in Kimberley when I saw one of my old school friends across the courtyard. I hadn’t seen him in years – though we live in the same city – and we walked over and wished each other all the best for 2023.

I then spoke to the young lady who was with him … I will go out on a limb and guess that it’s his daughter. She spoke about how much she loved reading the DFA. It had always been part of her daily routine, she told me, and she was finding it difficult adjusting to not having access to a daily paper. No, not a “daily paper”, she said the DFA.

It was then that I noticed the even younger lady, I think she could be between nine and 11 years old, standing next to her mother. Not wanting to make her feel as if I was ignoring her, I extended my hand for a quick “how do you do”.

Her response, I will call her ‘Princess Z’, was beyond what I could have imagined.

“Are you a real celebrity,” Princess Z asked, stars in her eyes. “I can’t believe that I am speaking to someone who works for the DFA!”

She would not let go of my hand, but instead turned to her mother and said, “Can I have a picture please?” She then turned to me, “Will you take a picture with me please?”

And just like that, this “bladdy pest” suddenly became a celeb. For the rest of the day I was walking taller, proud of the fact that someone so cute and precious thought that I was a big deal, and also because I realised that I am working for a publication that means a lot to many people.

It also made me realise that, working for the paper, I can never be complacent; that I should always be trying to do better. We owe that much to our readers.

More often than not it happens that when people speak to me about the newspaper they speak about what frustrates them, about what the DFA is doing wrong, how we are falling short and missing the mark. And though some criticism and complaining is valid as we do not get it right all the time, and we can always up our game, being encouraged and appreciated can achieve so much more.

In last week’s column, I hinted at that.

I made it clear that, although I complain about the state of my city and our country, my environment in my home office is not as neat, clean and orderly as it could be. But I determined to do better, hoping that a positive contribution would do more than constant complaining.

Then an e-mail landed in my inbox last week. The sender, I will refer to him as ‘O’, spoke about how what I wrote resonated with him.

“I fully understand and support your view that we ought to correct the wrongs of us being careless about our hygiene,” O wrote. He then told a story of how, while visiting a pub in Osaka, Japan, he felt the need to relieve himself on the walk home.

However, O told me that he had to hold on to his bladder juice until he got back to his hotel because of something he calls Japan’s ‘Consequence Management law’.

Consequence Management law; I like the sound of that. O says he encountered it in Dubai too. He writes, “Dubai and Osaka in Japan, wow those places are a marvel coming to cleanliness, and this, I reckon, is because of Consequence Management.”

But according to O, Consequence Management is not only about not peeing on the street or not littering, it’s about being good, being a model citizen proactively – doing the right thing because it was right.

His e-mail contained another account that I found uplifting.

“I recall (when) I lost my scarf when we went to watch a soccer match,” O writes. “I went to look for it at half-time, retracing our route from entering the stadium, and guess what?

“The security personnel on duty simply took my ticket to check my seating arrangement and told me to return to enjoy the game as they would bring me my scarf.”

At this point I am guessing that being a South African, he wasn’t feeling very confident that he would ever see his scarf again, But the story continues …

“Indeed I did manage to get my scarf back mid-way through the second half,” O writes, adding, “I praise their way of enjoying life because of this Consequence Management put in place.”

It is possible that there could be a few people who could be rolling their eyes right now, probably thinking, “Oh listen to these privileged travellers preaching to us!”

But that’s not the case. Having travelled does not make the traveller better than the one who has stayed home. It just means that the traveller has been exposed to more. And therefore I believe that sharing the experiences and encouraging a better way of doing things should be a traveller’s responsibility … to bring back a report of how we can learn better things from other cultures.

Based on what I have experienced during the course of my own travels – nationally and abroad – I have come to the conclusion that though it’s fun and exciting to travel and see new things and experience different cultures, beyond that, it’s better to bring back positive experiences and better ideas from the places we have visited than to take our entrenched manners and practices over there – wherever ‘there’ is. Consequence Management can be an example of something positive in the context of this column.

I saw a quote one day that made me think about the responsibility of those privileged enough to travel. I don’t know who said it, but it went: “It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.”

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