Repost (December 2016)
As we see the dawn of 2017, I’m somehow struck by how reality for most people is skewed by what they are willing to see (myself included).
For most of December I’ve had the privilege of spending time in Africa; since it’s a continent and not a country- I’ll be specific ( Zimbabwe and South Africa).
There was no missing the buzzing excitement as the Johannesburg bound flight took off with the tourists and their families anxious to start their exotic African holiday and the expatriates eager to return home for the holidays.
Both groups no doubt had differing ideas of how their time would be spent, for the tourists it may have included Safaris, perhaps some adventure sports, walking with lions, sleeping under the stars and no doubt visiting an African village with a tour guide to see how the other half live.
The expatriates would have been looking forward to some much needed sun and quality time with family, and not to mention an opportunity to showcase their much improved situations in life.
My very first day was a whirlwind of excitement with visiting different places yet as the sun started to go down that day, I painfully realised that there was another reality so easy to miss.
In South Africa the poverty was in the shadows- almost like an embarrassing uncle photo shopped out of the Christmas photo.
Only those willing to see the inhumanity and dig a little deeper than the village tour got to see it.
The high levels of prostitution, most of them young girls; the dilapidated buildings some called home.The 1 bedroom window-less flats divided into multiple sections in order to enable multiple-occupancy.
The streets overflowing with rubbish, waste and thousands of people; the drug addicted mother with a baby on her back begging for money. And the ironic background was Johannesburg, the city of gold and bright lights.
The city were millions of South Africans and other Africans flocked to – for their fortune. The city that enticed so many with promises of unlimited opportunities only to ensnare them deeper. Africa’s very own “American dream” with a tragic end for many without an education who end up either dead, or deep in the throes of crime .
For me it was a very raw picture, in a very beautiful country where you saw only what you wanted to see and the exaggerated Rich-poor divide no doubt played a significant role. Back in London I feel very humbled because a big lesson for me has been that if we don’t open our eyes we miss the tragedy in the world; if we don’t open our eyes all we have is a tinted reality that bares no resemblance to reality. What a challenge for me and hopefully for you too as you look around your very own world.