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Beating up the bangbroek

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Deep down were they attacking what they hated most about themselves?

To this very day, I cannot think of anything that would sting more than being called a “bangbroek” (pronounced bung-brook). I don’t know how being scared and one’s trousers have anything to do with anything, but when the words “scared” and “trousers” were combined into “bangbroek” to define you it really hurt. You’d do anything to avoid that tag.

Unfortunately for me, I was a coward so that label stuck. I was so afraid of doing something wrong, something against the law, that I was always seen as the bangbroek in the group. Oddly enough I always felt like I was missing out on something until one day last week, that is.

I was leaving the mall the other day when I noticed a commotion in the parking lot. A bag-snatcher had been apprehended by mall security and was being brought back to the security office after what, I am guessing, must have been a long chase as everyone was winded.

The criminal was not enjoying the trip back to the security office. For every step he took he was being slapped, kicked, punched and pounded by the security personnel and by an ever-growing mob.

From what I could see from a safe distance – being a bangbroek I would not dare go closer – someone would walk up to the security guards and ask what he’d done, then they would vent their anger on the hapless criminal who was being restrained and was therefore unable to protect himself.

“Why were these people so angry at him,” I wondered. “Surely he couldn’t have stolen everyone’s bags,” I thought to myself.

“Are they angry because he looked to gain from what caused the old lady whose bag he snatched so much pain and trauma?”

But let’s be honest. The anger of the citizens is understandable, and personally, I was glad that this criminal was caught and that the old lady whose bag was snatched could have her property restored to her.

People are angry because it seems that the bandits are free to pursue their plans to plunder while law-abiding citizens are told to take extra precautions. One gets the impression that the law-abiding citizens are being told to continue living on high alert because the rogues are happily running free.

I thought of other rogues who deserved to be dragged through a parking lot the cellphone company that encouraged me to sign a two-year contract because they were offering four amazing perks on this contract as add-ons, only to inform me halfway through the contract that two of the perks would be falling away. How on earth do you change a signed contract halfway through, I wonder.

I also think of my internet service provider. The only reliable thing about them is their invoice every month. I complain so much about their service that they don’t even bother responding to my e-mails any more. I suppose I am an irritation to them.

But, in my opinion, if you are paying for a full service and receiving a fraction of that service then you are being robbed.

But I cannot stop thinking of the anger of the mob towards the bag-snatcher. What exactly was upsetting them so much? The words of a friend of mine, an aged pastor from Taung, came to mind: “When you notice a specific sin that you find especially hateful in someone else, you become angry at them because they have stolen your favourite sin,” he told me.

Then I thought, what if this mob was attacking the attitude of the bag-snatcher rather than the young man himself? What if it was the ugliness inside of him that repulsed them so much? And then I thought, what if he was the embodiment of that one thing that they hated most about themselves?

Was it his selfishness?

Deep down were they attacking what they hated most about themselves? I am sure they would never admit it, in fact I am certain that they’d do anything to avoid being identified by that tag.