The power of Powerlessness

I still wonder why they call it energy? I mean, I can understand in other parts of the world. When you have reliable power supply, it fills your time and your world with things to do. You can live, which is the “energy” of life; right? In South Africa we live in bursts and spurts; never sure of the ability of our grid to sustain our lives. In the rurals, well; those folks are strong! They live on wood fires and kerosene lamps and candle light. They are not even on the grid. Those rural folks that are on the grid, are worse off than the wood fire dependent types. They must have both electricity and stone age systems because their electricity supply is so unreliable it gets blown by a mild breeze…or washed off by a little drizzle. One minute the pot is cooking on the stove, the next your pot is half way cooked with a back-up plan swiftly required to cook the meal finished. Everyone knows that bogobe (mealie meal, porridge) does not handle that sort of interruption well at all…half cooked is just as good as inedible.

Here in the suburbs, we “think” we are better off. But no, we are actually in denial. Power supply is so bad that we can’t really count on it. We use all sorts of ways to mitigate the effects…gas stoves, braai stands, solar powered lights, candles and matches. We have every back up measure possible so we are ready for the inevitable next bout of load shedding. We play board games to pass the load shedding hours…Power banks are a lifeline! What are we ro do without a charged device? We kids can’t make a fire to braai, or remember to charge our phones. Our folks, on the other hand; are former rural types that know what to do to survive this thing. They are battle hardened and have the scars to prove it. Not so with us…they call us spoilt brats, the lost generation. We just get upset and “perform” for them when the lights are out and we don’t have solar lights charged up to do our homework. Homework on our laptops…if they are charged!

When we visit our grandparents in the ‘rurals’ we are grateful we don’t live here permanently. We would rather die! Our cousins there make it fun though, they make it all mysterious and ‘new’ to play hide and seek so we can enjoy the time spent there. Actually, they make load shedding seem normal. It is sooooo confusing! I mean, how can I have so much fun without TV, smartphone, tablet? Just playing outside like a bush child? But I secretly enjoy it, just don’t tell my parents please! In the suburbs, I need to have my rights observed in full. It is my life, not merely an opportunity for my parents to show me off to their parents. I am a real human with a need for power.

It is just incredibly sad to compare my unhappiness back home when there is a powercut to the fun I have in the rural areas. The people here have a real joei devivre that does not need power to stay on. Their basic way of life somehow has so much “energy” than what I can understand. My “soft life” amenities in the suburbs seem silly when I am here playing with real friends using ropes, bricks, tin cans and anything we can find. There is tremendous power in the powerlessness that a power outage brings.. the power of a resilient, innovative human creative force ro find ways to live happily.

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