Tuesday, March 23, 2010

They eat alone

I’ve been very quiet lately. Unfortunately trying to sell stories about what I’ve found in the old Transkei has been so much harder than I anticipated, and it’s dragged me down.

The hardest part has not been the editors that say no, I can accept a polite refusal, but being outright ignored. I guess in a world drowning in emails, it’s easy to get lost in the spam, but when you send again, and phone, and leave a message… how hard is it to send a "no thank you"?

But it got me thinking that perhaps this is another part of this journey: learning what it’s like to really, really be ignored.

The people I’m writing about, the people who teach in schools where there aren’t enough classrooms, the people whose local clinic last received life-saving ARV drugs in time for the April 2009 elections - they know how it feels to be ignored. To knock on doors, again and again and again, and have no one listen.

If I really want to understand life in rural South Africa, then maybe I needed to feel the same way.

At first you feel a bit disappointed, but hopeful. Then you feel a bit sad, but optimistic. Then you feel a bit tired, and you take a break. Then you try again, and you begin to doubt yourself. Then you panic. Then you feel angry. Then you feel really, really angry. And then you just sit still.

“We’ve got angry, and more angry, and angrier, it doesn’t help. People just got tickets to get on the gravy town and then closed the door. They eat alone,” Khululekile Ntula, 29, the dreadlocked youth league chairman of Ward 15, near Mthatha.

I know how he feels.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear the media machine isn't more responsive, but it's a twisted beast at the best of times, and these seem to be some of the worst. It would take very little to share some human courtesy, but there's probably not a lot going around in those buildings, whereas it seems you've been treated to quite a bit, despite the difficult situations people are in. Don't lose heart - keep writing stories you believe in, and regardless of whether some gimp of a gatekeeper bites, you'll have a great file of work, and I'm sure there'll be an outlet for it in some form. Best wishes, Daniel