Whatever Happened to Mister Average?

oscar 2Boggel gets on his beer crate to scan the faces of his customers. When he does this, they know it’s time to remain quiet, he wants to say something.

“I have something to say,” he says.

“Get on with it, Boggel, we’re discussing the Oscar case. You’re interrupting a serious conversation.” Servaas scowls into his beer as he waits.

“That’s my point, you guys. Whether Oscar is guilty of a heinous crime, or if he made the worst mistake in his life, is something the courts must decide. But the reason you chaps is in such a deep discussion, is because Oscar is…well, he’s Oscar. National idol, international icon. A real modern-day example of overcoming all the odds. The man with no legs, who competed in the Olympics.

“Had he been Joe Soap from Brakpan, he’d have maybe fifteen seconds on SABC 3, and a mention on page 5 of the Sun. The magazines would have ignored him and the tabloids would have looked for something more sensational.”

“Ag, come on, Boggel! The man killed a beautiful young model…”

“My point, exactly, Servaas. Suppose she was just an old woman, living on a farm? Who would have noticed? Who would have cared? Do you think that BBC, CNN and Sky would have bothered to send a single journalist to cover the story? But no! Take an Olympic star, a model, and a gun – and you’re guaranteed hours and hours of screen-time. 

“My question is simple. Why, oh why, is the loss of Reeva – as sad as it is – more important than the murder of thousands of farmers? Is the death of one lovely girl at the hand of an idol, so important that we ignore the 3000 farmers killed by criminals? Why is CNN quiet about that, huh? And some say 70,000 Whites were killed violently since 1994, remember? Where’s BBC? Goodness knows what the figure amongst our Black population is – it’s probably even more horrendous. Do you think Sky was interested?

“Why do you insist on discussing Oscar, when women are raped at the rate of one every four minutes in our country? Children are being mutilated for muti, young men die at initiation schools and two children are murdered every day. Last year alone, there were more than 15,000 murders in our country. Did you see it on any front page in London or New York?

“When Time magazine said we live in a violent society, everybody got up in arms, saying it isn’t so. I’m sorry…we’re living is Wonderland. Like Alice, we’ve gone down a rabbit hole to escape the reality we can’t face any more.”

“So Boggel,” Gertruida’s voice conveys her concern, “what do you suggest we do?”

“Here in Rolbos? Not much, I’m afraid. We can respect the dead and the families concerned, I suppose. We can stop gossiping. And we can take note of what’s happening around us. Somebody must stand up to say enough is enough; and tell the government to stop pilfering the coffers and start doing their job.”

“But Boggel,” this time it’s Precilla who tries to placate the barman, “nobody’s going to listen to us, man! We’re such a small, little town. We’re nobodies. No way anyone will listen to us.”

Boggel shakes his head. “You’re wrong, Precilla. To change anything – anything – you have to start with yourself. Only if you’re convinced that you’ve figured it out, can you talk to a friend or an acquaintance about it. And if more and more people convey that message – friends talking to friends, families sharing the idea and so on – it’ll work it’s way through to everybody. Believe me: if the country adopted such an attitude, it’ll effect people in other countries as well. Word of mouth – that’s how we’ll change the world. The answer isn’t the sensational front page or the horrified TV-presenter; the answer is in each of our hearts and minds.”

“Okay, Boggel, you’ve made your point. But we’re just chatting about Oscar, and you’re talking about changing the world. It really isn’t the same thing.” Servaas points to his empty beer glass as he shakes his head.

Boggel obliges by opening a cold bottle of Castle.

Sometimes he wonders why he even bothers to talk to his customers. Maybe he expects too much from them?

Boggel is a very mild-tempered man. He doesn’t curse or shout. Now he looks Servaas straight in the eye as he says:

“%@#* man! Don’t be like the millions of South Africans out there! Wake up, will you? The country is in trouble and all you can think about is cold beer…and Oscar!”

The little bent man slams down the beer in front of Servaas, rips off his apron, and storms out.

He’ll take a long walk, calm down, and be the quiet barman once again. Like the rest of the country, he’ll just have to learn to ignore reality and go on living with Alice and her friends down that damned rabbit hole.

At least they seem happy down there.

9 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to Mister Average?

  1. Herman of bibledifferences.net

    Thank you for bringing these horrible facts to our attention Amos.
    We get so used to hearing of farm attacks and other murders that it makes no impression at all, until someone near is involved. I try to keep good relationships with all people that cross my way, but the mentality of some people just stirs up racism within me when I least expect it.
    Since 2000 a family member of mine is waiting to be paid the outstanding 90% for his farm before he will be able to evacuate and hand over his farm. How many more are there who are willing but are not able to comply? And most of the money allocated for this project is paid out on bonuses etc. And yet the government talks of confiscating farms and stoking the hatred against honest farmers trying to make a living on farms into which they have invested all their personal resources and years of honest work!
    I honestly try not to be a racist but your balanced article shows how hard these people are on their own! How they just shrug their shoulders even on so many deaths at these barbaric initiation schools!

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      I like the term ‘culturalism’ -meaning something is true for your own culture and differs from others. The fact is that race is not involved in SA politics – if it depended on accepting various skin colours, we’d be living in harmony long ago. The divide between cultures makes it difficult. As much as a German will find Chinese life hard to understand, so it is here. Will we ever bridge the gap? Only when cultures start reaching out to each other in compassion and try to understand why certain reactions are deemed normal…and adapt to that knowledge. Thanks, Herman…

      1. cvheerden

        I should probably post about my adventures with the Chinese… There are races on this planet who would never play the race card as in ” my 60 % should be enough to pass the exam, because I have been disadvantaged, you know”. We Germans actually get along just fine with Asians who take a lot of pride in education, bettering themselves and taking responsibility for their own advancement 🙂 Apart from believing that everybody goes to hell anyway and my sheer inability to choose food in a wet market, I find Chinese easier to understand than the African mentality of ” you all are responsible for me” … Just saying.

      2. Amos van der Merwe Post author

        Valuable comment you left here. We simply have to get away from the adapting of exam marks and the label of ‘disadvantaged’. If disadvantaged means somebody is less able than the next, should their votes count the same as the rest? Mmmm

      3. cvheerden

        Ouch… Now there is a valid point I would like to discuss with all parties involved. It would be hard to have a level headed discussion and not a very visceral fight. My argument would be that giving anybody a “special needs” treatment would be truly degrading and true racism, while expecting the same and trusting everyone is truly able to perform the same, would be equality. I’ve watched African kids tweet under the hashtag #blackpriviledge how outraged they are that everyone assumes that they only got into college because of affirmative action. For the sake of all, we should return on a performance based system. My argument: invest in education instead of mansions, and in only ten years the whole country is up to standard because from then on every generation can embrace a new work ethic due to proper education… Yes, idealistic. It has been done, though. Performance as ticket to a prosperous future… Not the prospect of childbirth at 14 for short term cash…

  2. Anne

    Thanks for the story Amos, good read, and a story everybody should read. I wonder often what I truly know of this world.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s