GREY MUTTER: These days more and more people are pushing back at the rules, probably under the mistaken belief that if there were not so many restrictions and laws, we’d be happier. I disagree completely, writes Lance Fredericks.
SOMETIMES you don’t need facts to know the truth. For example, I know without a shred of evidence – and yet without a shadow of a doubt – that it was a group of naughty laaities who conceived the childhood game called ‘warm patatas – koue as’. Some may know it as ‘hot beans and butter’.
Thinking back, I cannot imagine a single reason why any sane child would want to play this game, yet we did.
Here’s how the game went: A conga line of children would follow one child who would be searching for a belt that someone else had hidden earlier. The children in the line would be chanting: ‘warm patatas – koue as, warm patatas – koue as, warm patatas – koue as’ over and over again, while those who had hidden the belt would give clues, saying if the search was getting warmer, when they were on the right track, or colder when the search was in the wrong place.
The point is that when that belt was found there’d be mayhem because the laaitie that found the belt would now chase everyone else and – as we put it so delicately in those days – “put strepe on their boude”.
Some nights you would sit in the bath, after an evening of playing ‘warm patatas – koue as’ and proudly, with warm feelings in your heart, trace your finger over the red welts on your legs and back. It’s so funny that when parents or teachers whipped us it was punishment, but when we were whipped while playing ‘warm patatas – koue as’ it was … fun.
I guess children have always been a bit weird.
Anyway, corporal punishment has, of late, taken the highway to obscurity. These days it’s very rare to hear of children who are being subjected to what I euphemistically refer to as ‘the storms of punishment’; the actual, authentic, more accurate Afrikaans terms for ‘thunder’ and ‘lightning’ would have readers writing angry letters to our editor.
Anyway … dare I say it, I think we were happier when those storms raged. Living under the constant threat of ‘storms’ breaking out if we overstepped any boundaries, kept us within the safe confines of society’s rules, which means that because most people were behaving themselves, we were much safer, and more secure back then.
These days more and more people are pushing back at the rules, probably under the mistaken belief that if there were not so many restrictions and laws, we’d be happier. I disagree completely, here’s why:
One of the first lessons you learn when you start driving is how to park in a parking bay; alley docking is driver’s test 101 – it’s the barest basic. If you fail this part of the test you’d tell no one because this is THE most basic driving skill there is.
But have you noticed how many people can’t (or won’t) park straight in a parking bay any more? And I am not even talking about reverse-parking. The fact that drivers park their cars at an angle of as much as 20-30 degrees in a parking bay could mean one of two things – either the driver bought their licence, having never practised or passed the test, or – and this is more of a concern – they don’t give a hoot about how they park.
An attitude of “I can park like I want; who’s going to tell me I can’t?” is dangerous and at its root has the same basic fundamental attitude as what is happening all around the country.
For example, this past week, residents in Cassandra were – once again – warned to stay away from the Hull Street bridge near the Samaria informal settlement because there were clashes between the police and those who lived in the settlement.
The problem? Well, it seems that the informal settlement had become too small for their liking and the ‘informal residents’ had, on a whim, decided to expand their borders … by cutting through a brand new fence that had been erected at great expense by the owner of a plot of land on the R64 to Boshof.
In other words, not content to stay in their own lane, or ‘bay’, they have decided to do as they please and encroach on an area that they have no right to. The similarities in the perceived attitudes of ‘land grabbers’ and ‘bay hoggers’ are pretty interesting, don’t you think?
The tragedy is that these days you dare not try to tell someone they’re parked skew or that they dropped litter, or that they shouldn’t trespass on private land. Responses can be rude and, a lot of the time, pretty aggressive. It’s madness!
If we can litter where and when we want, if we can park as we like, if we are allowed to take land or vandalise land we’re not allowed to have … and all of this without any consequence, then I honestly fear for our future.
If we allow things to continue on this trend, what kind of society will we be looking at even 10 years from now? It won’t be pretty, I assure you. I sense the approach of … errr, let’s call it ‘waste’, and I fear that the fan is blowing at high speed.
And if it seems like I am being an alarmist, and that things will never be as bad as I am projecting, think of me as the man who was sitting on a bus one day next to a woman who was suddenly overcome with the urge to relieve herself of some air, and not through her nose or mouth – if you catch my drift.
She gently lifts her leg to release what she hopes will be a silent squeaker, but instead lets loose a loud, ‘cheeky’, ‘bassoon-like’ blast.
Everyone hears her rendition of ‘Ode to Joy’ and the entire bus goes silent. The embarrassed woman desperately tries to think of something to say to the man sitting next to her.
Eventually, to break the awkward stillness, trying not to blush, she asks him, “Um, sir … do you have a transfer ticket?”
“No, I don’t,” he replies. And then, trying to help, adds: “But when we pass the next tree, I’ll try to grab you a handful of leaves.”