The white picket fence has become an international metaphor for feigned suburban bliss. Much has been written about it and much will indeed still be written about it…explored in plays, in articles…in films, in documentaries.
Sometimes South Africa reminds me of that great, fallacious Suburban idiom – white picket fences (perhaps black ones in the SA context?) and beautiful gardens sporting lovely red roses. We forget of course that roses have thorns. And when the thorns hurt us we are not so taken with the roses any longer but more concerned about our bleeding fingers.
We also forget that all too often what happens behind those picket fences are horrendous acts like wife beating, alcoholism, drug abuse, serious debt issues and many people living lives of quiet desperation…but hey, the fences, in conjunction with a sensor light, immaculately stand the test of time, of the South Easter, and even of the burglars that try to scale them…
This “picket fence” syndrome is the modus operandi of many South Africans. Everyone is scared to say bad things or even just to be themselves for fear of being ostracized or that their throats might be slit or, heaven forbid, they are bombed to smithereens for their beliefs.
With this in mind, we may not insult or criticize…we may not say bad things about the president…we may not…we may not…a life of “We may not”. What did we “win” democracy for then? What do you teach your children then? Is this the reason why we have so many children with very little or no opinion at all? One of the reasons I studied Philosophy was so that I could have a good sense of logic…of being able to make logical conclusions, to study the links between propositions and to be able to go: “If this happens, then that will be the outcome…”
But in this country of ours, mediocrity is applauded all too often. Too many people walk around with no real sense of critical analysis…are we building a nation of idiots? This is also the reason I listen to talk radio – 567 Cape Talk to be more precise. Topics are relevant and the engaging is intelligent. Many of the other regional radio stations usually help to build the stupidity by discussing inane issues such as what the latest lipsticks are on the market or which USA celebrities are undergoing divorces.
Respect also seems to have lost its real meaning as have dignity and morals. And, as many people are not able to distinguish between the aforementioned, we are in a very dangerous space. We are so scared to offend, to such an extent that we only “heave our hearts into our mouths” when in the company of our nearest and dearest or when the microphone has been switched off. Or, more often than not, the “many a true word is spoken in jest” or the “I only speak the truth when inebriated” adages apply.
If we cannot criticize the highest office in the country, or just talk and talk and talk about what is happening without really DOING something about it, then things will just continue to happen and the slope will become more slippery as we traverse towards our own demise. The thinking is that as long as I keep my house clean and my picket fence neatly painted, nobody will notice when I am paddling like old hell to stay afloat financially. Or that I have tried to commit suicide twice already. Or, that I am the biggest bigot who hits my wife. Or that my teenagers are tik addicts. As long as I feel safe behind my picket fence, my roses and my sensor light.
In the infinitely wise words of Led Zeppelin: “And as we wind on down the road; our shadows taller than our soul; there walks a lady we all know; who shines white light and wants to show; how everything still turns to gold; and if you listen very hard; the tune might come to you at last; when all are one and one is all; to be a rock and not to roll…”