Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fear, the Great Social Lubricator


Isn't it a great culture we have, built on rules that keep everybody separated from their natural joy? And the great lubricator of the system of rules is fear. Keeps everybody worrying, keeps everybody down.

Fear of not working hard enough, fear of not being clever enough, fear of not making enough money, fear of getting old, fear of doing something wrong, fear of anyone seeing what you're really feeling, fear of really feeling what you're really feeling, fear of looking like a fool, fear of actually being a fool, fear of - right, I'm going to stop now.

No, one last one. Fear of not being cool, and fear of letting your washing be seen hanging on the line. The latter is a big taboo here in South Africa, amongst a certain group. Who coincidentally revere the Italians. They build villa-like houses with Italian marble everything, take Italian lessons, go to Italy for their expensive holidays. Most of all they love Italian fashion, and buy their clothes in Milan, which makes all their friends think so much the more of them.

Who could doubt it? When those clothes are dry, and on their bodies, they are the ultimate status statement. When they're wet, and on the washing line, though, omigod. Fear of not being cool gives way to terror of Letting Your Washing Be Seen. Even though we idolise Italians who hang their washing out to dry all over the place.

I wonder who made the rule up, who first decided it wasn't cool for your neighbours to see your wet clothes. It must have been one person, no? Or could a whole nation one day have woken up, sat up in bed in a fright, and said in unison:

'' NO WET CLOTHES IN PUBLIC!”

Of course wetness doesn't apply to bathing costumes. Which is a relief. So they all sat up in bed and said their unison thing, paused when it struck them that bathing suits are made to be exhibited wet, and all said once again in unison "EXCEPT FOR BATHING SUITS!" Then they paused again as they thought that one through: "EXCEPT WHEN THEY'RE NOT ON OUR BODIES!"

Foolishness aside, some of the rules we live our lives by here are so often absurd and meaningless. More often than not. We take them so seriously, though, even though they rob us blind of all our joy, our capacity to be creative, to experience the new, to be happy and love each other, to spread our wings and fly. And all the while we're following them we're dreaming about the good life, the free life, the untramelled life, the life we're going to have when we've made enough money.

Until one day we die in our rule-bound prisons. Oops. That didn't go so well, did it?