A young boy was rushed from Mossel Bay to George Provincial hospital at the beginning of last week for an emergency operation on his foot.
The boy is a participant in a youth empowerment program run by The Surfer Kids NPO, a non-profit organization started by my wife and I in 2010.
The boy showed up one day, sometime around mid January, as he has done almost every day for more than a year. One of our Instructors noticed that the boy’s big toe did not look well.
The Instructor kept the boy aside for the day’s practice and sent him home with instructions to his parents to get the boy to the local clinic.
Apparently what had happened was that the boy was playing soccer in the street and he kicked his toe into the asphalt, splitting it open.
The boy rejoined the program several days later, but his toe had gotten much worse. By this time it had been about two weeks since the original injury had occurred.
Off course our Instructor asked the boy (and later his parents) whether he’d been to the clinic.
As it turns out, he had been there, and the (likely understaffed) clinic sent him home with an ointment. Which evidently did nothing to solve the problem.
The situation deteriorated further and within a day or two the wound started looking really bad. Our Instructor described it looking like a piece of cauliflower. At that point we took matters into our own hands and our Instructor decided to consult a private doctor, who agreed to consult us free of charge.
The doctor visited our premises the next day and did not even look twice at the boy’s foot. His advice was to get the boy to the local hospital as soon as possible. The boy urgently needed intravenous medication to prevent the loss of his toe.
Keep in mind that by this stage it had been about three weeks since the original injury. And the boy had been showing up, attending our program every day. Despite having to walk from the township to the beach in order to attend the program.
Perhaps it was the food that we provided them with on a daily basis that kept him coming, perhaps it was the sense of belonging that drew him there. Perhaps it was the hope we gave him that things may one day change.
Following the doctor’s advice we immediately drove the boy to Mossel Bay Provincial Hospital, only stopping in the township en-route to collect the boy’s father.
That was a week and a half ago.
At the end of last week we found out that after initial treatment in Mossel Bay, the boy was transferred to George Provincial Hospital.
Because, all this time, the open wound was not the worst problem.
Even worse than the cauliflower look-alike-lesion, was the fact that his toe had been broken. That, combined with the infected wound, required him to have emergency surgery.
Now, if you think this is crazy, stop right there.
It isn’t crazy.
This situation, it’s the norm for millions of people.
And that’s what is crazy.
The fact that this is so normal. For so many people. Every day.
But what’s even crazier than that, is the fact that privileged people (like you and me) who all live within the immediate vicinity of people like this, we go about our daily lives while these things happen right under our noses.
And then we act surprised when protests erupt. A Surprise which turns indignant when these protests turn violent.
What did we expect would happen?
“Ok, wait, hang on, people of dark colour, I understand that your people (and countless of your ancestral generations before you) were fucked over completely, but I wasn’t the one who fucked you (not personally anyway) so don’t vent your frustration in a way that affects me, but don’t look, because I’m going to do exactly that, I’m going explode into a fit of road rage everytime someone cuts in front of me in traffic, while I’m driving my car that’s worth more than your entire livelihood, and I’m going to swear, shout an scream at the imbecile who wasted about 2 minutes of my time today, but you, don’t you dare show the frustration of centuries’ of abuse.”
Frustrated people turn to violent protest.
It’s like acting surprised when your house burns down after you’ve been experimenting with DIY petrol bombs.
Is it constructive? Well, no because it’s quite literally destructive. Things are being destroyed. But maybe it’s a wake-up call. And if it is, it is constructive.
You, and that person burning down the university library, you are the same.
Your frustration is as real as the circumstances that provoke it.
And there is only one thing that you can do about it. The only thing that you can control is the way you react.
The choices you make and the actions you take.
So the only question that really matters is this:
What are you going to do?
What are you (personally) going to do about the situation we find ourselves in, collectively, as a society?
I know what I am doing about it.