SMOKE: A Primal Scream

Originally published: 22 September 2003

I'm a pleasant enough bloke on occasion (I used to be a lot more pleasant and obsequious before I began running a business) and generally strive to be polite and gracious with my fellow human beings.

But when I lose it ... well ... let's just say that Lucifer himself looks like a Sea Point rent boy in comparison.

I've never been to a shrink before and as a result have more than my fair share of rage inside, which under normal circumstances remains buried far beneath the surface of my socially-conditioned, laid-back exterior.

This rage only surfaces under extreme duress, and when it does I become a completely different person.

It's not something I'm proud of, but I refuse to fork out thousands of my hard-earned blue-backs to some twat who thinks he knows more about me than I do, and hence I have to live with my rage. As do those who piss me off, unfortunately.

Case in point - a beggar who accosted me at the traffic lights near my house on Sunday.

To place this in perspective for international readers - you cannot stop at a traffic light in South Africa without being hit upon by any number of beggars wanting money, food, cigarettes or alcohol.

I can't speak for the rest of the country as I don't get out much, but in Cape Town the situation is a major epidemic - not only do they hassle you persistently, but they bring their little children with to help.

Kids who should be in school and who could be without having to pay a cent - there are numerous programmes and bursaries and financial aid to help the less fortunate. Pleading poverty is simply not an excuse for not giving your child an education.

Many of them will actually send their tiny kids up to your car while they sit back and wait for the cash to roll in, as it invariably does.

On any given day you will be hit for cash by traffic light beggars, parking attendants, people ringing your doorbell, beggars outside the entrances to shops - it's an endless stream of people wanting money, yet who are not prepared to lift a finger to earn it.

I am not oblivious to the harshness of life in South Africa and am fully aware that there are millions who are less fortunate than me. Because I drive a car, however, and am fair of complexion, it is automatically assumed that I have spare change to throw around, although nothing could be further from the truth.

It's not to say I'm not more fortunate - I benefited hugely from having an excellent education and from the fact that I was born with a white skin, although to be fair to me I never had a say in either matter. It's just the way things turned out for me.

But both those things make me an instant target for those who feel I owe them something.

My point of view? I owe nothing to nobody. I did not create apartheid and did not support it, and unfortunately this point of view is one that is seen as selfish and not understanding of the social problems in our country and typical of whites in South Africa who don't want to accept blame for the wrongs of the past.

But I'm simply living out the circumstances that were dealt me by life and am constantly looking to improve the quality of those circumstances - just like everyone else. I have worked as hard as I can to make my quality of life better and would expect everyone else to do the same.

For this reason I do not support beggars in any way, shape or form, and it is my view that if nobody else did, beggars would be forced to actually go out and get a job instead of leeching off those who they perceive to owe them something.

With begging in this country comes The Guilt Trip - if you do not give money to beggars they regard you as cruel and heartless, neither of which - in my case at any rate - is true. I just don't feel that I owe the lazy anything.

So it really pisses me off whenever someone approaches me for money, and on being told politely but firmly "No" continue to berate me for my apparently heartless response. That's when I get Upset.

It's precisely what happened on Sunday - I was on my way to pick up my mate and as usual had no money on me, and only one cigarette, which I always light before leaving home.

I stopped at the lights and saw a fellow approach me with the usual hangdog, my-life-is-so-shit-compared-to-yours expression, and for some reason I felt my blood pressure begin to rise.

Maybe it was the long face, maybe it was simply the overkill of having been accosted so many times in the past week alone, but the last thing I wanted at that moment was to have to spend the minute or so I had to wait at the lights explaining myself to yet another piece of human flotsam who had given up on life.

He mumbled the usual garbage at me and I gave him the usual negative, but as usual he didn't accept my answer and started badgering me for a cigarette.

Since I only had one - the one I was smoking - I replied in the negative again, turning away at the same time. But he didn't stop - he went on a tirade of mumbling and curses, and something inside me snapped.

I turned to him and emitted a primal scream which almost shattered the windows of my car, and he nearly fell over in shock and horror.

I don't know how I stopped myself from getting out and beating him to death, but I was closer than I've ever been, believe me. I wanted to beat him until his bones shattered and his blood ran dark, but thankfully for all involved the lights changed to green and I roared off instead.

Maybe it was irrational, maybe it was cause and effect - I don't know. But my intentions are not evil nor motivated by anything other than my reality, and to have some sack of shit try and make out otherwise simply caused me to snap.

What does this incident make me? A privileged, stuck-up White? An unfeeling, self-serving Pig? A borderline nutter who's simply had enough of being blamed for all that is wrong with our society? Yet another rich person who has no clue what it's like to live on the streets and have your dignity taken away?

I don't think I am any of these things, but I guess it all comes down to perception.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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