“Do you recycle, Boggel?”
“Sure I do. Take the bottles and plastics through to Upington every month when I get new supplies. It helps keep our town clean and it’s good for the planet.”
“Ja, everybody is going on about being green these days. I suppose it’s the right thing to do.” Servaas feels marginally better since he heard about Sugarman. “If we don’t, we’ll turn the world into a dump. Mind you, we’re really not far from destroying our environment. Rhinos, elephants, whales, forests…the list goes on and on.”
“It’s not just that, Servaas.” Vetfaan points to the front page of The Upington Post. “You can add politics, education, the economy and some churches to your list. Listen, I don’t want you to start wearing that awful black suit again, but give me one single example of something that’s improving these days. I’m really not sure such a thing exists.” He swills the beer in his glass around a few times, deep in thought. “Service delivery. Price of petrol. Electricity outages. The whole crime scene.” He throws his hands in the air, almost upsetting Servaas’ glass. “What next?”
“Well, there are lots of people trying to make things better. You know, the Mother Theresa’s of the world.” Boggel really doesn’t want another gloomy evening in his bar. They’ve had enough of those recently. “Big companies are getting involved in local communities. The Sunday Times is giving away R1,2 million in school fees to underprivileged pupils. MNet and Liberty Medical Scheme raised more than R600,000 for charity with a golf game. Local scientists have developed a new Rabies vaccine. And Dr Ramphele announced a new political platform. It’s not just doom and gloom, guys. There is some good news, too.”
“Just listen to yourself, Boggel. Did you say anything – anything – about the government?”
“No. I didn’t.” Boggel smiles wryly. “But that’s why I brought it up. We had hopes for the government. Dreams. And it’s time to realise we must stop believing they’ll change anything. We had other dreams too. We hoped Valentines would be a celebration of love, not death. We wanted to be a proud nation, but we can’t. We thought people living here are all inherently good, but we certainly have our layer of bad apples. That’s why we must recycle.”
“What do you mean, Boggel?” Oudoom has just sneaked in for a quickie.
“Green minds, chaps, green minds… Look, the bottles I take to Upington, once were full. They were worth something. Now they’re empty, and pose a threat to our environment. If we recycle them, they’re not wasted – they become useful again – worth something. We must do the same with our dreams. Instead of allowing broken dreams to clutter our minds, we must use that energy to recharge – redouble our efforts to make things better. Empty out the old, fill up the new. Don’t wait for the government – start with yourself. Simple as that.”
“Ag come on, Boggel! You sound like one of those motivational speakers now. How can we use tragedy to feed optimism? It’s a contradiction in terms.” Servaas is certainly not buying anything Boggel has said.
Oudoom clears his throat. “It’s what faith teaches us, chaps. It says you must become child-like again. You can choose to look down at your shoes all the time, or you can lift your gaze and inspect the horizon. Boggel is right. All the effort you put into bad-mouthing circumstances, can be channelled towards doing or saying something good for a change. I’ve seen children play with mud, with twigs, with stones – children who have nothing, will make their own toys. And I’ve seen children in a room full of toys, crying because they are bored. Unspoilt children -the poor kids, those from good homes, and those who still believe in a better tomorrow – laugh much more and have much more fun than spoilt children.”
“So you’re saying we’re spoilt?” Servaas lifts his bushy eyebrows to question Oudoom’s statement.
“I’m afraid we are, Servaas. You see, the global village has become very small. Something happens in New York, and it’s on the radio the same day. That’s where the clutter – the pollution – starts. We weren’t wired for the overload of human tragedy we have to digest every day. We’re clanspeople, designed to live in smaller communities where we take care of each other.
“Look: take Rolbos, for instance. Supposing it was just us. A little collection of people with no contact with the outside world. We wouldn’t care about the politics in the Union Buildings. We won’t know about the tragedies that affect other parts of the world or other people. Instead of feeling part of this huge amount of misery, we’ll have our own lives to reflect on – and we’ll work through our own ups and downs.”
“But that means we’ll live in a bubble, Oudoom. Ignorant peasants with no understanding of the world out there.”
“Exactly. We’ll be like children again. And you know what? We’ll regain our sanity. We’ll be happy. And we’ll concentrate our energies towards making things better for each other, rather than talking about misery and tragedies all the time.”
The debate turns into a discussion of the advantages – or disadvantages – of larger societies. In the end, they fail to reach consensus – in true Rolbos-style, with smiles and nods and gentle jibes at weak points in certain arguments. Still, the evening isn’t wasted.
If you visit Boggel’s Place, you’ll find a black bag in the one corner. Vetfaan painted a sign on a piece of wood, reading “Broken Dreams” and nailed it to the wall next to it. The idea is a good one, but it’ll most probably not spread to bigger places like Keimoes of Kenhardt.
What you’re supposed to do, is to place your broken dreams and negative thoughts in the bag before ordering a pint. It’s worked wonders so far. The message is simple: if you can’t say something positive…shut up!
Oudoom is right…children have a much better sense of beauty than adults do. It’s because they have a much greater ability to recycle: crying one minute, laughing and playing the next. But we; the adults and leaders of tomorrow’s generations; we set the example that spoils their innocence. Pollution is, after all, the adults’ fault.