Monday, June 08, 2015

Worry Met Eish

Worry feels like one of those contests where you see how long you can keep a sweet in your mouth without it disappearing. Except you want to lose. Instead of sneakily slipping it under your tongue and trying to think of something else, you really get stuck into it hoping it will disappear. And it doesn't. I sometimes find myself having a conversation, either with someone else or in my head, that I think is almost exactly the same as I have had before. The same moan. The same whine. In South Africa this can be followed up with saying 'Ja, Nee'. You can't really translate Ja, Nee as Yes, No. That hints at the ambiguity but hides the deep sigh that normally accompanies it.

How long do your sweets last?

The sigh hides a satisfied resignation mixed with saying it is a problem. No actual action is required. Well, action is required and we will 'maak 'n plan' (make a plan) but hidden within the moan is a hardness. Life is hard. What of it? IF you really want to make a change there are always options. There are always tough choices that can be made. But if the same worry keeps coming up again and again, at some point you will have to recognise that perhaps you are accepting the tradeoffs. You are accepting the Ja and the Nee.

Some friends and I were chatting yesterday about 'Identity Politics'. We were also chatting about the danger of chatting with me. The next day, there is a strong chance of recognising something you said. Anyway, one said "All politics is identity politics". The line comes up in many searches so I don't know where it comes from, but it makes sense to me. I have talked of how office politics often comes from the clash between wanting meritocracy which requires reviews and ego, and wanting to focus on a broader team goal. Democracy is also frustrating lots of people too with how tribal it tends to become. Much of this polarisation is because people start to identify with parties.

The funny thing with identities is that the underlying bits that make them up are transferrable if they are important. So when I read passages from the founding of America, bits resonate. When you read bits of the Magna Carta they resonate. Bits of the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, and the Gita resonate. The bits that try create identity based on superficial things help create the tribe, but are where the problems come in. What does it mean to be African? On a vast continent, some in the North identify with Europe, because it much closer than the Southern tip. Some identify as Arab. Some identify as Bedouin. For hundreds of years people having being moving in between places and mixing with different groups. Is origin important? How long ago? Is a particular land mass important? We have learnt the hard way that Apartheid, the idea of setting up places for self determination and exclusivity, doesn't work. It is also normally based on the bits that don't matter. The bits that do matter transfer across superficial lines.

A favourite South African ad mixes in Some Afrikaans, English, and Xhosa. Most is 'lost in translation'. 'Enkosi' means 'Thank you', but is confused as 'Kos' which means 'Food'. 'Eish' is kind of like 'Ja, Nee' but can also mean excited/ horrified/ angry/ shocked or pretty much whatever depending on the tone. Here is confused with 'ys' and a request for a drink with ice (Met Ys = With Ice). Despite all the confusion, there is an excuse to use the bakkie, an excuse to eat, an excuse to drink and an excuse to enjoy an evening. To kuier. This is the stuff that matters. 

If we are going to moan, either it is something you are going to change, or it is something you should enjoy. There will always be problems. Some can be enjoyed 'Met Eish'.


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