Ghost Stories

One of the unfortunate features about the international student crowd here in Joburg is that, almost invariably, whenever we get together the conversation eventually drifts onto everyone comparing tales of all the things they were told be various sources (often of disputable reputability) about the dangers of South Africa and the strategies for remaining safe.

Now after two weeks here I have gotten relatively used to the swing of things and am comfortable in my percieved level of personal risk (I’m not doing anything stupid, and to use that stupid australian government anti-terrorism phrase I’m “Alert but not alarmed”), but the conversations kind of feed off the collective pool of fear and misinformation, and I always leave the conversations in a state of quite unreasonably intense anxiety.

In the post-match analysis it seems depressing that as kids we were generally afraid of stereotypical things like monsters and boogey men under the bed*, whose motivations seemed perfectly reasonable (ie. they were monsters, so of course they wanted to eat little kids, because that was just what monsters did…) whereas as adults we worry about the unpredictable and morally grayer threats posed by the actions of other humans. As an adult the stories we tell to scare each other no longer involve ghosts, but rather normal flesh-and-bones humans.

*For a particularly amusing take on the bogey man idea, read Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett