gail schimmel

The blog of writer Gail Schimmel: A bit of writing, a bit of parenting, a bit of thinking and some book reviews

My hope is losing power

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I wrote this last night by candlelight. I thought that in the morning, the power would be back on and I would laugh at my negative attitude and delete this. But the power is still off, and I have had to leave home to find wifi and electricity, so no, I haven’t cheered up.
I was philosophical about load shedding. Really, I was. It was what it was and I could deal with it. But now it’s not load shedding – now (as I write) the power is down because it is broken. Again. And I am trying to be philosophical about this, but it’s harder.

About ten or so years ago, I spoke to a man who had left Zimbabwe at the height of the troubles for white farmers and I asked him what the warning signs of a failing country are. “If you are thinking about buying a generator,” he said, “then it is time to go.” Oh how I laughed – the idea seemed so impossible. But his words stayed with me. . . and they resonate as I find myself thinking of buying a generator or an inverter (although I actually have no idea what that means) or solar power. We say words like “We must get off the grid” and I’m wondering if we should rather be saying, “We must get the hell out”.

Load shedding was planned, and it was an answer to a problem (albeit one we should never have had), and in a funny way it made me feel confident in a system that could say “you’ll be on at 6” and lo and behold, you were on at 6. Now they just say, “Our technicians are working on it” and you don’t even know if that’s true because there’s a hail storm and HOW are the technicians fixing electricity in the hail?

I’m a South African and I’m an African and really, I want to believe. I want to believe that the technicians are working on it and I want to believe that the power will come back and I want to believe that we will find leaders who care about the poor and desperate of this country more than they care about their gravy train cars. But at the moment I’m struggling. I’m struggling to believe any of it, quite frankly.

Back in the day, when a lot of white South Africans were Packing For Perth they would say – sadly, or triumphantly, or knowingly, or humorously, depending on their nature – “Turn the lights out when you leave”. At the rate that we’re going, it will be more like the punch line to the joke about how many Jewish mothers is takes to change a light bulb: “None. I’ll just sit here alone in the dark.”


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