Visit JHB? I double dare ya! March 3, 2009Posted by baldricman in General, News.
Tags: crime, dare you to visit, jeremy clarkson, jhb, johannesburg, jozi, south africa
Jeremy Clarkson recently wrote an article entitled “I dare you to visit Johannesburg, the city for softies”. (See it here)
I found the article highly entertaining, and not without some highly relevant truths in it. Of course, there are the usual high number of Clarksonesque exaggerations and outlandish statements, but in my opinion, these are what make the article entertaining. (For the record, I feel the same way about Top Gear: he’s a prat, most of the time, though very funny, but anyone who takes his reviews on cars seriously is in dire need of some lightening up.)
Anyway, the article seems to have caused quite a stir amongst residents, expats, and visitors alike.
And while browsing the comments people posted on two sites (News24 and UK Times Online), I came to the undeniable conclusion that the vast majority were disturbing polar:
On one hand, we have the terminally pessimistic lot, who seem rather determined to make sure nobody ever sets foot on South African soil (yeah, like that will solve our problems). They can be usually divided into 2 camps: the expats, who left this cursed land years ago but, like a spurned ex-lover, just can’t seem to let go), and those that continually threaten to leave (I say, “Go ahead, make my day”). Regardless of which camp, they can usually be identified by their aptitude at selectively quoting the unpleasant statistics as gospel, and the more cheery statistics as “government propaganda”.
And on the other hand, we have the infuriatingly optimistic folk seeing all that is Jozi-ish through rose-tinted glasses. These odd creatures (soon to be on the endangered list) are most noted for pointing out, sometimes a little insensitively, that they have never in their 35 years of living in Brixton, been a victim of crime of any sort (at least, as far as they can remember).
Noteworthy is a curious sub-class to this group, growing in population yearly: they are also expats, yet who display a distinct penchant for noting that they have been more victimised *since* emigrating.
This broader group also displays selective tendencies in statistics-quoting (though precisely the opposite to the first group)
So, why is it so hard to be optimistic about a country, without denying its issues?
Can we really be positive and proud without being called naive, and can we be critical and challenge apathy, without being called complaining pessimists?
Why are we forced by some unspoken rule to “pick sides”?
Here’s a thought: Maybe we need to learn that South Africa is a little like our delinquent child: You correct her, you monitor her, and you tirelessly teach her the values of honesty, integrity, and accountability, intervening when necessary.
But you still love her even when she makes mistakes, you work for her, you boast about her to strangers, and you always have the highest hopes and dreams for her.
That’s how I hope I behave; I know I want to.