I was chatting to someone the other day and began a sentence with, “And as I get older….“, when he interrupted and said “you get wiser“. First of all, I do not like being interrupted. Second, this is NOT what I was going to say. Perhaps he was trying to pay me a compliment. I do not mind compliments (at this stage, I’ll take pretty much any that get thrown my way – I’m weak like that).
But if he’d allowed me to finish my sentence, he would have heard “… I find I am becoming less and less tolerant of selfish, over-privileged people and self-appointed experts – and, what’s even better, I find I am able to express my opinions verbally and directly.” This is something I’ve had trouble with all my life – I was brought up to be polite and to treat others with respect, whether or not that respect was returned. A very deeply engrained survival tactic, which I had mastered by the age of 3, was to keep my mouth shut. Voicing one’s own opinion, however civilly and/or timidly, was the equivalent of navigating a field filled with landmines when I was growing up. Landmines were best avoided by standing in one place.
This is so liberating. What I say may or may not make any difference to the recipient of my intolerance or irritation, but I don’t care about that. I can’t change people’s minds about things and it is not my vocation in life anyway. (When I was 13 and fully indoctrinated by the Sisters of Mercy, I believed my vocation was to become a nun. Thankfully, by the age of 14, I’d discovered Levis, cigarettes, Neil Young, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Kurt Vonnegut and a very attractive young man called Roy who used to ride his bike all the way from Melville to visit me after school every day. We only ever stood at the garden gate talking, but it was enough to make me realise that there was more to life than a narrow bed in an austere cell with a bunch of religious fanatics, no personal freedom and no choice of different outfits). I did have a glow-in-the-dark statue of the Virgin Mary on my shelf, and you could lift Mary up to reveal a little container presumably meant for your rosary. For me, it functioned as an ashtray. It took my mother years to discover the source of the smell of stale stompies. Revolting, I know, but there we are.
I have spent a little time thinking about these things. My conclusion is that the more seriously people take themselves, the more “special” they believe themselves to be. Yes, it is rather simplistic but it is a sufficient explanation for me. Well, guess what? We are all special and, ipso facto, none of us are special. We all have different abilities, interests, opportunities, circumstances; the colour of your skin or the amount of money you have in the bank doesn’t give you the right to think you are better than someone with skin of a different colour or less money or less formal education.
I’ve made a good start lately on this new, more outspoken me, and I like it. I am starting to like me more. I have boundaries. Don’t cross mine and I won’t cross yours (or at least I will try very hard not to, and if I do, I will apologise to you). We are entitled to differing opinions on climate change, psychology, the wisdom of covid vaccinations, critical race theory, capitalism, art, music, religion and politics. We are entitled to these opinions by our Constitution, by the true nature of democracy, and by common decency and the absence of judgement.
But talking about judgement —- right now, most South Africans are entitled to feel wildly and deliriously thrilled by the thought of ex-Prez Jacob Zuma going to jail. It’s supposed to happen today. Only for contempt of court, despite the other 782 million laws he’s broken, but jail is jail. No doubt he’ll be out soon, he’s a wily bastard, but until then he’s going to look really really lousy in orange.