Boggel 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.