Frogs. It’s all about the frogs.
Or at least not just about frogs as such, but about what our little amphibian neighbours teach us.
Ecologists call frogs an indicator species because, with their highly permeable skins and living both in water and on land, frogs are among the first species to show if something is wrong with the environment. If there are pollutants in the air or toxins in the water, frogs will show it first.
And they do so in very committed way — they die and disappear. Check outside your home tonight and if there is quiet — aside from South Africa’s national anthem, the Wail of Sirens — where the evening chorus usually strikes up, there is something badly wrong with where you live.
I live on a ridge in Roodepoort, so I don’t normally hear the frog song, but down in the valley near my brother’s home there is a nightly chorus to rival Oppikoppi. Or at least there should be. He hasn’t heard more than an occasional ribbit for weeks. And that’s with all the rain we’ve had.
Something is wrong.
And next to follow are the predators that eat the froggies. Not French chefs, but the herons, storks, kingfishers and snakes. If you haven’t seen an egret or the normally ubiquitous greyheaded heron for some time, it might be because there are no more froggies in the pond.
We’ve had three days of warmish sunshine up in Joeys now, but I haven’t seen more than one or two lost mosquitoes buzzing about as aimlessly as a night editor at Sowetan. I also haven’t seen the swarms of swallows and swifts that usually turn the gloaming sky into a wild spirograph of birds. I haven’t seen too many bats about either — and bats can eat up to 600 mozzies an hour, returning doubled in weight to hang about where bats hang out.
Something is wrong.
Granted, this imbalance may just be temporary. We should jolly well hope so, because we have quite enough havoc and tragedy and chaos to deal with ourselves.
If nature gives us signposts and indicators of when something is wrong or out of kilter — and remember the balance is very, very delicate — what indicators are there in society when things go wrong?
Well, firstly the lights go out.
I did a little arithmetic — simple grade-three stuff most government officials should be able to handle — and I worked out that the few power failures that have hit little old me in my little one-man business have added up to R3 177,50 this month alone. That’s in the form of four times as much travelling because I couldn’t email urgent things, faxes, parcels, couriers, salaries, time wasted because I lost data, the cost of a UPS and cables, unnecessary phone calls, food that went off in the freezer and had to be replaced, driving five times the distance just to find a working ATM, and on and on.
And I am only one person with two dogs. Say we round that off to R2 500 a head (which is probably ridiculously underestimated), that means the joint ANC/Eskom fuck-up, before the really big costs (mines, industries, factories, accidents — you name it), has cost this country more than R120-million in a matter of weeks.
That is just the base figure. Now add all the other really big numbers and tell me how long before we get back to where we should be. If we ever will get back.
Already economists are ratcheting down growth projections from 6% a year to 3%. Watch the ripples in lost jobs, bankrupt businesses, inability to absorb graduates and further deterioration in public service. This is a Hollywood-scale disaster movie! And all we get is egg-dancing from an incompetent government led by arrogance, racism (who retrenched all the greybeards at Eskom 10 years ago in favour of lightweights who couldn’t manage a piss-up in a brewery?), misguided loyalty and a blind devotion to communist economic bullshit.
The bottom line: the ANC and its entourage of grotesque groupies are dangerously incompetent. And judging by Zuma Simpson’s childish pantomime performances so far, the downward spiral has only just begun. Or, put in astronomical terms, the supernova has collapsed and the black hole will gradually now begin taking shape.
“Oh, don’t be such an idiot alarmist, Kriel. You’re blowing this thing out of all proportion. We overcame apartheid; we can do anything. We must just look on the bright side and be positive, blah, blah, fishpaste …”
I say, take a look around, folks. This is nothing new, just the worst catastrophe these clowns have made so far.
My indicator species are friends and acquaintances who have been rainbow nationalists, glass-is-half-full, surely-they’re-not-that-bad, crime-is-everywhere-y’know, silver-lining loyalists, people of all colours and of the soil — and they’re the missing frogs now. They’re the ones who are saying, ‘Let’s get out of here while we still can. Or at least let’s get the children out.'”
My son’s largely shelved his plans to join the South African Air Force in favour of the growing number of opportunities overseas. At least, they are more than vague possibilities.
So, while darkness falls across Africa’s great dream, soccer dads are just shot for fuck-all waiting to pick up their sons, kids are brutalised by the minute, and thugs and killers and rapists do just as they please, I’m going to the museum to see what frogs look like.
That’s if the museum has power.