By Kyle Allan
In light (apologies for the ironic use of the word in this context) of the current Eskom shortage, and due to the great impact this is having on our national trauma levels, I have humbly submitted the following succinct guide to surviving, making it through, and even thriving under the current load shedding.
Talk to friends. No, not chat, talk to friends. Hopefully the power stays off long enough that all batteries go flat and we are actually forced to talk to each other. Start by looking in a person’s eyes. They will look back. Talk. Try and engage in authentic communication. It’s cathartic. It will solve most of our political deadlocks. It’s cheaper than a doctor.
Read. Not phone texts — read books. Go to the library. You don’t need electricity to open the pages of a book. To fill the long stretches, when Eskom decides to punctuate the ruthless bustle of everyday life with a 12-hour blackout, challenge yourself by making it your mission to read all the major long Russian novels by Christmas. Good bye hustling blues, hello Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and co.
Ask yourself, do we really need all that power? For all Eskom’s failings, let’s face it, many of us are absolute wasters. After years of having watched the schmaltz that is dished up on TV, I ask, why even leave a TV on? In what way is my life being improved by it? TV must be the greatest mind-numbing device available to society. If Karl Marx knew of it he would have repented and rephrased his famous saying to television is the opium of the masses.
Don’t watch sports — play sports. Watching sports on TV results in the unnecessary consumption of electricity and increases obesity. It also increases stress levels. Statistically, every time you sit down and watch a sport game, unless you are supporting an invincible team, there is a 50% chance you will not win. And this causes unnecessary depression. And if you are supporting a team that wins everything, there’s no fun in that after a while, and you turn into an absolute snob. Whereas if you play a sport, you will discover you lose weight, have fun and also gain a little humility as opposed to your godlike couch analyst criticisms of what players are doing wrong.
Instead of whining about being powerless, we can be happy for once we are unplugged from the madness of everyday life. Make a list of things that do not need electricity to do them. Then do them. Here is an example sample list.
Write a poem. Play cricket. Have a good round (or two) of sex. A deep and intelligent conversation. Pray/meditate/talk to your ancestors depending on preference, or all at once. Go cycling. Start a revolution. Climb a mountain. Paint. Sketch. Draw. Look at a sunset. Climb a tree.
And to repeat what seems clichéd, look at the stars. Sometime back I went to comfort a family living on a remote mountainside deep in KwaZulu-Natal’s Valley of a Thousand Hills. The place had no electric supply. The elderly told us stories of their departed son. We talked. We let grief take shape in the room, and felt its human form connecting us in a story of pain and yet the very affirmation of our humanity. We connected in our stories. Outside, when we left I looked up. Untainted and untouched by human ambition and contesting ideology in an electric-paced world, I saw stars spread out across the night sky. Beyond my reach, but their meaning was there for anyone. I thought of those who could hear the stars sing, and whose poetry testified to that. I stood there for a long while, and felt them sing across the dark in light, in a place far from electric light.
Kyle Allan is a 27-year-old poet, performer and recording artist who has released an innovative album titled Influences comprising a fusion of poetry with various genres of music including kwaito, house, R&B, Afro-jazz, rock and maskanda.