Bleeding at my typewriter

Why the sordid title for my column, you might ask?

Let me explain. Writing encompasses my life. I am a journalist, busy writing my debut novel and the occasional poet. At one stage I also dabbled in songwriting and even promised friends a theatre script or two. (I doubt though that I would have caused Athol Fugard sleepless nights.) And now this column. When the great writer Ernest Hemingway was asked if writing was easy, he replied, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”. Well that sums it up.

Anyway, I hope I will be addressing serious issues in a humorous way. The word for that is satire, which is defined as using “humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues”. Unfortunately my first topic is too grim to be dealt with in any humorous way whatsoever.

There is no such thing as an accident.

The first body I ever saw was that of a young motorcyclist barely out of school. Too many times I fought back the tears at biker funerals. A little baby boy, covered under the emergency service’s silver blanket, whose mother was hit by a truck, haunted me for weeks to come. When I cheated death on my own motorcycle twice, by no fault of my own, anger and fear started simmering within me. (The advice of a fellow Vespa rider came to mind – “when you get onto your Vespa, drive as if everyone is out to kill you”. I guess that is a good warning for any motorist to take heed of.) The final straw came this past week when a mother begged me to pray for her son, as doctors were deciding whether his leg must be amputated or not, following an accident in which a truck allegedly had skipped a red traffic light and hit his scooter.

And no. We can no longer play the blame game. It is time to become self critical in the most honest way possible. It’s not just the taxis. It’s me and it’s you. It’s the morose bully in the R250 000 bakkie and it’s the reckless garden service driver who has no regard for his employees being transported on the back of his truck. It’s you at the bar and it’s me when I am impatient. Here is the thing – when you decide to get behind the steering wheel drunk, when you decide to speed, when you make a turn after the green arrow at the traffic light has faded, you have made a choice. Choices are not accidents. You have decided to turn a vehicle into a killing machine.

There is no such thing as an accident. Making stupid choices makes you a killer. Full stop.

Riaan van Zyl

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