Safe, who’s safe?

Like death, angst is a part of life.

I’m really worried about my wife’s brother and family in Melbourne, where 170 have died in a most hideous conflagration. He’s a helicopter pilot for Exxon and, I imagine, might well have been called in to assist.

I have visions of Patrick landing amid fireballs to pick up the threatened, the wounded and the dead – just as he did 30 years ago, as an 18-year-old in the Rhodesian Air Force.

We don’t have their phone number because they recently moved. All we have is an e-mail address and we await a reply as to whether they are okay. I suppose no news is good news and it is fanciful to worry about one family in several million who live in the fire-threatened city.

My query might have been similar to those in the UK who phoned friends in SA to see whether they were okay during the post-election riots in Kenya.

Still, it got me thinking about fear and angst.

My daughter, Soul, and her three little kids, are coming down for the wedding of kid sister Nicky on the 28th. Having grown up here with hardly a thought for her safety, she says she feels a bit fearful about her visit. Poor kid, all she reads about SA in the Dutch media is crime and violence.

And we live in Murdersdrift, where the neighbouring family were bludgeoned to death  four years ago by an irate gardener!

I wrote back to her pointing out that she lives in a four-storey wooden house, which could burn like a candle – and there’s no fire escape from upstairs. Much of the Netherlands is below sea level. If, for any reason, the dykes are breached, as in 1951, she and her family would have to swim – unless she attaches a rubber duck to the roof. Right across Europe angry extremists are eager to plant bombs.

These are unseen risks that become evident only when disaster strikes from the blue, as in Melbourne now.

My Dutch darling is so obsessed about safety that she won’t drive 8km down a country road without all the kids strapped into their car seats. She won’t use mom’s car at all because it lacks air bags.

I reminded her that just a few years ago she jumped off the Bloukrans Bridge with just a bungee rope to halt her dizzy fall. She has parachuted and once obliged her terrified father to paraglide off a 2 000-metre mountain in Turkey. Soon her kids will push aside the cotton wool and also expose themselves to instant death.

A great friend and colleague at the Financial Mail way back in 1976, left SA for Australia because she didn’t want her boys to be forced to join the SADF. They have grown up to become supreme risk takers. One has just become the youngest Oz to climb Everest and now wants to climb all the other peaks over 8 000 metres. The other has been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan off and on for three years.

It was quite ironical to receive as a guest an old colleague from my days at Business Times. He’s a fund manager in Germany.

Dirk tells me that country is undergoing not just economic but psychological Depression. The car plants and their suppliers are working short time, tens of thousands are being laid off – and there isn’t any infrastructure left to build in make-work schemes!

But the biggest cause of worry is the invasion of aliens – people from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland and even Russia to the east – and people from Africa to the south. The German equivalent of Home Affairs is under deep suspicion of unproven corruption. Where do all these strangers come from?

The illegal immigrants are accused of being behind rising crime. Their methods of stealing from an automatic teller machine are more subtle than ours. We use dynamite. They run a steel cable around the ATM and yank it out with a bakkie.

How do they know the culprits are alien? Because they stole the machine that gives balances and bank statements, not the one that dispenses cash. The thieves couldn’t understand the notices on the ATM in German.

This week I had a final reminder that in life we are, as the Scriptures remind us, in the midst of death.

Curt von Keyserlingk, who took over from me as editor of Business Times and was, I believe, the fittest journalist of his age in SA, was killed in a fall from a mountain bike this week. I extend condolences to all who are bereaved.

The sudden demise of Curt is just the latest in a long string of untimely deaths that have visited friends and colleagues throughout my six decades and four.

The moral of the story is to live carefully, not fearfully, oh, of course, and to insure!

Write to David Carte:


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Surely you are not that thick that you think the reason most people didn’t want to do National Service was because of the danger involved?
There is a difference between being compelled to do National Service for a cause which is morally indefensible and taking a risk by climbing Everest. It is called choice. Perhaps you don’t understand democracy either.

God forbid you turn out like your average pom – terrified of soft cheese and unpasteurized eggs. People will always find something to dread – in some cases the expiry date on the yogurt in others the swaart gevaar. Without fear there is no contrast to highlight life and joy. That said I would rather get my thrills by bungi jumping than dodging lead in my lounge. I’m with your daughter on the buckling up bit though – thats just plain sensible.

i think the biggest difference is that people living in the developed world can choose to take on more risk. In contrast, violent crime in South Africa is forced on innocent civilians (incl children) every day. Its hard to reason why a skilled professional should bring a family up in South Africa instead of a safer country.

People are always paranoid about something, regardless of where they live.

If there’s no crime then there is invariably something new to stress about!

Good article Dave…

David you are missing your own cognitive dissonance (Wiki the term). It flows from being religious. On a rational level you recognise that the world is a dangerous place and life is but a very precarious and fleeting thing.

But on the other hand you sincerely believe that there is an omnipotent and benevolent (and invisible) supreme being who has counted each hair on your head – which is of course plain superstitious nonsense. The dissonance and paranoia start developing when your brain is unable to reach a logical and coherent synthesis between these conflicting views of reality. As already pointed out – one of these views is simply false – but you are unable to confront this reality as it will threaten every sacred belief you so dearly hold.

I suspect your daughter may suffer from the same affliction – that is why she is becoming ever more paranoid.

There’s a fairly interesting idea floating around that our fear is based not only on what we perceive as risky, but also on what outrages us.

The prime example is a shark attack versus a car wreck. We are appalled when a swimmer is eaten by a shark, and many millions of people refuse to swim in warm or murky water because they fear meeting a similar fate. And yet the vast majority have no qualms about driving in cars which slaughter thousands of us every day, in circumstances just as horrifying as a shark attack.

It is the outrage of the shark attack – the fate of being eaten alive by an animal – that is absent from an “ordinary” car wreck. Somehow in our minds its better to turn to pink mist against our dashboard than to end up as shark food.

Another case in point is the international outcry over Israel’s use of white phosphorous in Gaza. The moral of this story: it’s fine to blast another human’s flesh off his bones with bullets of explosives, but burn it off and it’s a war crime. Why? Outrage.

We are strange little animals

Hey Chuck, you’re missing the point sitting there in your flaming chariot of agnostic righteousness (Wiki the term ;-P). It’s not about religion, its about reality (Wiki the term… am I being condescending (Wiki the term) enough yet?) – the point made is that whatever you do, wherever you go, there is danger (Wiki the term); some of it is obvious, some not, some people even seek it out for fun (Wiki the term)… but it’s always there.

It seems to me that you are using this article as an excuse to use the term cognitive dissonance, since David’s cognitive dissonance has nothing to do with the oint of the article. Maybe there’s a girl or a guy you’re trying to impress?

Ask any black person in the townships

They were taught to hate whites by their parents/peers

They still are as recently a 2 year old told me to F***** off

When I ask his father he told me that he is teaching his children to say so to “white”

people and he was very proud of doing so!!!

We all have an innate yearning for freedom of choice, subject to the dictates of our environment. Pursuing this elsewhere is quite natural – look at the Hugenots.
Nature is in the throes of abnormal patterns and unpredictable forces. Whatever the reason, global warming or astrological movements, the world has never been more unpredictable than at present. Metaphorically the fires that have been sweeping through various parts of the world, destroying everything in their paths, are not only sweeping through nature, but also through systems – be they financial, political or religious. Moulds are being irreparably broken and new forms are taking shape. We have to adapt – sometimes going with the flow, bending with the wind – other times resisting with all our might. Seems to me that the war between Good and Evil is intensifying. Cast your vote wisely, and be unashamedly ethical !

Cognitive dissonance – big words signifying nothing. You go on believing everything came from nothing and is going nowhere. Rational people know that the universe, the earth, all life, our knowledge of good and evil, our ability to reason and our belief that life has meaning do indeed come from a benevolent Creator.

This article just demonstrates that people will believe anything, then come up with supporting ‘evidence’. Dave, why have so many of your family moved?

Are you a “white people” or a white person? Enough with the generalisation… That kid deserves an upsized MacDonald happy meal…Now F-off

Great article David, but your daughter is wise , do not hold it against her. She should be worried coming for a visit as you yourself said that your neighbours were murdered.Thats your neighbours right, not someone in the next county? Darwin get a life, tired of your whining, or maybe you can evolve into some esoteric creature , an alien maybe. PS next time you have an out of body experience, please bring back a pizza.

I love this writing, David. Straight from the heart and straight from the hip.

But can someone please explain to me why half the comments on any given blog end up either missing the point, hurling insults or going off on a racial tirade? It reminds me of anonymous drivers on the highway: that deadly mix of anger and cowardise.

“missing the point, hurling insults or going off on a racial tirade” – all this has been wired in our DNA post 1994

I don’t know about that TT; I’ve noticed similar on non-SA generated sites – only the racial tirades are replaced by gender/class/intellect tirades. But I suppose it’s all much of a sad muchness, isn’t it? The human condition of our time: little understanding = greater anger.

No idea why other countries don’t. Fire risk is low in wet cold climates like the Netherlands.

What did you say to the 2 year old to prompt him/her to tell you to jerk off?? tell us the whole story not the abridged version

With Zuma dancing, Malema shouting and Crime completely out of control things in SA look very very unsafe. 2010 visitors, you have been warned.

In my nice little middle-class (aka ‘formerly white’) neighbourhood, ADT is kind enough to send out a monthly email detailing ‘crime events’.

According to ADT’s stats, AS AN ADT CUSTOMER, i.e. with alarm, armed response, all, electric fence, beams, dogs etc, I have a 12% chance of being a victim of (violent) crime per year. That means that violence will knock on my door once every nine years or so…

My guess is that incidences of death due to bungee jumping or skydiving are a 100 000 times lower.

As you point out, the Grim Reaper lurks in every country
Here in Bermuda (6 month job here), we have 2 road deaths a month on this tiny island nation of 65 000, 45 accidents / week…..? = young male, alcohol on board, speeding on motorbikes, night-time,… oh yes, and some interesting habits, like not tying the strap of the helmet, checking sms on cellphone while riding,etc.
And on TV (mainly USA)….lots of violence and murder/crime in Big Brother next door.
So, live life to the full.
You never know when your time is up

The good news is that the ADT crime stat email is working. It means that you continue to pay your subscription. It is the same reason that I am wary of why my anti-virus software tells me EVERY time I’m under attack. Scare me enough and I’ll continue to pay for it…


david, i think gail emigrated in 1978 and not 1976 – memory old man!!!!

David there is a world of difference between the career risk of a helicopter pilot engaged in an inherently dangerous profession and your daughter getting mugged / shot/ raped / killed whilst walking to the corner cafe whilst visiting you. Whilst these things do happen in other countries too I humbly submit the probability of them happening in a country like Holland is somewhat lower by an order of magnitude and that this is what most peope experience as a feeling of ‘safety’ however illusory it may be.

End of comments.




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