Two Fridays evenings ago, as I was relaxing at home, recovering from the aches and pains of a hectic week, I heard a loud fracas emanating from outdoors. Those who know Welkom well, will know that it is one of South Africa's most peaceful towns, so the fracas seemed misplaced and called for investigation.
A quick window peek revealed a twenty-something year old man engaged in verbal and physical warfare with his girlfriend near a liquor store. Both were visibly and audibly intoxicated as they swore at each other, slapped and shoved each other. The young lady seemed to be at the receiving end for most of the time and when she lashed out, her blows were ineffective to say the least. The "boyfriend" would at times decide that he is done with her and walk away in the opposite direction, only to change his mind and return to carry out more "justice." What crime had she committed, and anyway what crime warrants this public abuse and violation of dignity?
After about twenty minutes, the drama came to an end. Together they made their unsteady way to the nearby filling station to hitch a lift home. It was sad to note that what had just happened was normalcy within abnormality. This was clearly not reconciliation, but an acceptance that what had just occurred was a way of life, a means of problem solving and a definition of roles and power.
In my judgmental moment of criticising the brutality of the man on the lady and her acceptance of it all by not turning her back on him, a twinge of guilt crept over me. By choosing to be one of the spectators, deriving some weird and twisted form of entertainment value from this incident, calling my wife to "come and see," and seeing a possible story for my next blog posting, was I not condoning abuse and violence? How many of us are without realising it, condoning and allowing gender and family abuse to thrive in society through merely watching and criticising from a distance?