There is a saying that speaks to there being no limits to what someone can do if he or she does not care who gets the credit. This message has been haunting me of late. It has been haunting me mainly because I realised just how much we are living in the era of the narcissist. And I wish I could lay the blame squarely on the selfie, but alas, the issue is much deeper than that.
It has also been haunting me because, like Mary and her infamous lamb, these people seem to be following me where’er I go. The context: of late, we have had to attend a few birthday parties where Gary had to sing. And, since these are friends or acquaintances, one stays for a while, enjoying a bit of the festivities. Some guests would want to talk about what we do, asking the question about how we subsist in the world of entertainment – a reasonable question as our lives may feel very different to theirs. Most people are nine-to-fivers who work for a boss, and who go into an office with a desktop computer and a landline and a few irritating colleagues.
They talk about things like “sick leave” and “annual leave” and “tea time”. They also have a regularity; a regiment almost, to their lives. They work Mondays to Fridays, and organise their leisure activities around weekends accordingly. Our lives as freelancers are “interesting” to them. We all “know” their lives while they will classify ours as “other”. Understandable. And, through these discourses, we all get to understand one another, right? Wrong…because, always, without fail, there would be a few (more than a few actually) that ask that question not so much because they are interested in what we do and how we do it, but because they want to tell us about their lives – yet again. The very life that we “know”, as it is the one that has been dangled in front of us for years and years. And, in terms of time, the weighting of the conversation is completely askew. We get to tell them about ours in five minutes (I am usually mindful of this for fear of becoming a bore). Then comes half an hour of their humdrum lives – and (the opening statement about who gets the credit refers) what they are “doing for the community”.
Thing is, I just don’t trust you when you are blowing your own horn. Like Nike, just do it already. Arrogantly looking for validation and being an “I” specialist and banging on and on about how you do this, that and the other is not only b-o-r-i-n-g, but supercilious. And it immediately makes me wonder what your motivation is for doing what you are doing for the “less fortunate” in the first place. Of the millions you make you give a few rand to the poor…or give them a cup of soup “every Thursday”, or a shoebox with a washrag, a toothbrush and a plastic toy at Christmas.
What are they supposed to do on the other six days of the week? And what are they supposed to do when it is not Christmas – the other 364 days? And then, when a poorer person burgles your multi-million rand mansion or hijacks your wife’s SUV you cannot believe why they would do that to you? To you, of all people, who give soup, a slice of lightly buttered bread and a toothbrush so freely to the poor? How dare they, right? And now, because you have to pay for your wife’s psych sessions after the “trauma she suffered at the hands of these ingrates” and the additional state-of-the-art security system at your home, you have put your soup kitchen “on the back burner” and “feel so despondent” with this country that you “have looked into” emigrating since it is no longer safe here for you and you family. And, you are definitely not doing that toothbrush and toy gun shoebox thing this year, because you read in some psychology magazine that your toy gun “might have been the very thing” that assisted “them” to think about violent crimes. After all, you “work so hard” for your money and to think that “these people” just stand there “with their hands cupped” waiting for “hand-outs”. Meanwhile, all I am hearing is “blah, blah, and more blah…” Please, someone – anyone – give me a bowl of soup to drown myself in…
And to think I was going to talk about something as banal as athletes’ tattoos at the Olympics this week, and how I cannot always see the pictures clearly on darker skins, often resembling splashes of dirt. Just as well I didn’t write about that, as a volley of arguments would have branded me a racist!