This post of Harsh Reality reminded me that there are people out there who are not constantly, as an everyday part of their lives, thinking about the dangers lurking around every corner due to crime.* What a fortunate position to be in.
The post reminds people to be safe during the holiday season, as there are many people who are going through tough times and, consequently, may turn to crime to ease their plight. So true, I thought. This time of year we are all manic: trying to finish up work before going on leave, organising and attending Christmas parties, dealing with family, attempting marathon gift buying sessions on the 24th of December at Sandton City (attempted suicide, I tell you) and getting the family packed and off to the coast, the bush or some exotic overseas destination. If ever there is a time of mass distraction, it is the silly season.
Christmas time is also in South Africa known for an increase in crime rates. A lot of people are walking about with big wads of cash for Christmas shopping or after receiving year-end bonuses. Homes are left unoccupied while people are on vacation, leaving them vulnerable to break-ins. The more liberal use of alcohol during the season also adds to the general lawlessness that ensues.
It struck me that the constant reality of crime in South Africa (not just in Johannesburg) is such that people here generally don’t need such a reminder. It has become such an integral part of our lives that we are wary, watchful and, sometimes, downright paranoid without having to think about it. If someone were to tell me to watch out for suspicious looking people hanging around near ATMs, I’d laugh and say, “Of course, do you think I’m stupid? What country do you think we live in?”.
In South Africa, it is pretty much standard practice to:
- check the rear view mirror when arriving at our front gates for cars following us or would-be attackers hiding behind the bushes on the sidewalk (said bushes being, of course, sufficiently trimmed to reduce the possibility of a nasty surprise)
- do 360 degree visual checks when stopping at traffic lights after dark to make sure there aren’t any tsotsi’s approaching your car for a smash-and-grab (that is if we stop at all)
- pay thousands of Rands each month for security companies with armed response (just to have the crap scared out of you when a guard unexpectedly appears on your door step with a big gun)
- have a collection of security cameras, iron bars, beams, motion detectors, electric fencing, attack dogs, pepper spray, guns and security company signs that would make Fort Knox green with envy
- be as suspicious of the police as of a person skulking around at night wearing a balaclava.
This Christmas, I wish that we can start to turn the tide against the flood of crime in this country, so that we can also live in a place where we need to be reminded to watch out for muggers at ATMs. Can you imagine that…?
* To qualify this statement, I am referring to people also living in more or less “normal” places. I realise that there are people who spend every day of their lives in horrendous and dangerous circumstances, like war zones in Africa or the Middle East. That is, of course, much worse than anything we experience in South Africa. There is always something to be thankful for.