Snitch or saint?

…The Americans call them tattlers.  The French word for them is “mouchards”.  In Spain they are known as “chivatos”.  We call them snitches, but in Afrikaans they are simply Klikkie-klikbekke…Covi-snitches.  Those meddlesome people who have made it their hobby these past 80 days to vigilantly keep an eye on their neighbour`s and local businesses` every move, and report them to the authorities “if they slip up.”

Yes, worldwide the lockdown has indeed revealed a few interesting character traits in people.  In the UK alone nearly 200 000 people have so far reported their neighbours for breaking lockdown rules.  In France, the emergency number has been overrun with whistle-blower calls and even in New Zealand a dedicated website was flooded with reports.

Look, we all despise “covidiots”, like Everton`s striker Moise Kean who recently threw a lockdown party with lap-dancers at his luxurious Cheshire apartment AND then posted it on Instagram.  Or popstar Madonna, who tested positive for Covid-19 and then reportedly still flew from the UK to New York to attend a birthday party.

But, when we saw Deputy Minister of Education, Regina Mhaule`s perfectly manicured nails on national television on day 60 of Lockdown, we just rolled our eyes and said nothing, because we wouldn`t mind visiting our favourite nail technician under the radar too.  And South Africans don`t snitch on each other, right?  We flash our lights at each other on the highway when we see speed traps, right? We look out for each other, and call “chips” as we did at school when authority was on its way, right? 

No, wrong.  In an article in Beeld, “Klikbekke gedy in inperking”, Marzahn Botha relates how a girl from Scarborough near Cape Point was fined with R8000 three weeks ago after she was reported to the police by a nosy resident with a telescope.  Another covi-snitch was the reason a young father from Dwarskersbos was arrested last week for walking on the beach with his son, and the list goes on…

Our whole society seems to be infested with the kind of people who, had they been living in Berlin in 1938, might have been inclined to whisper: ”Psst, Sturmscharführer, there are Jews in number seven…” The justification for each tip-off, of course, is that “if everyone just ignored the rules and did what they liked then what would the point of the rules be”? 

In our very own town, I`ve heard shameful stories of spiteful snitches reporting nail technicians, beauticians and hairdressers who have gone underground to make ends meet and assist their clients.  I keep asking myself: Why?  Do these aspiring watchmen and women seem to feel that their moment has finally come?  Do they sneak-and-tell out of fear for public health, or do their motives encompass jealousy, personal vendetta and paranoia?  Or are they simply bored?

I don`t know, but what I do know is that it`s the most shameful part of the pandemic so far, and if we aren`t careful, this enthusiastic embrace of spying can hurt the world more than the virus itself.  Most of us are trying to do the right thing, although we aren`t even sure anymore what the right thing is with this lockdown being shamed as unconstitutional and all.

But all of us need air, we need release, we need the world, and we need each other, more than ever.  The last thing that is likely to do us any good is to heighten paranoia and fear by turning neighbour against neighbour.  Or to help the closing down of every poor small business-owner who is just trying to preserve his or her livelihood even though it has been deemed inessential by the powers that be.

…We know what rhymes with the word “snitches”, don`t we?  And as much as I don`t endorse violence, I recognize the good reasoning behind the well-known “snitches get stitches…”  Because you know what part of Marzhan Botha`s article really had my blood boiling?  This sentence: “Die klikbekke is oral om ons.  Jy kan maar net om jou kyk om te sien wie die selfgekose hoofmeisie of hoofseun van die straat is…”

I have only one reply to this – “We`re not all like that”, as the late Jeanne Goosen would say.  Sies.  I know many former headgirls, I`m one of them, but none of us have ever been klikkie-klikbekke. 

…This Corona-coaster has caused most of us to miss those we don`t even know, or like, so why would we even bother to turn citizen spy, ratting out others for things like having backyard barbecues, tossing a football in the street, sitting on the beach, surfing, borrowing the gym-owner`s key or forgetting to put on a mask ?

I recently saw an anonymous quote that reads: “Being a good tattletale requires exceptional attention to details and then blowing them out of proportion…” Who cares where Sally next door got the cigarette she is puffing on in her backyard, just because you saw that she said on Facebook that she had the last of her tobacco a week ago?  Who cares?  

In his book “Don`t hurt people and don`t take their stuff”, Matt Kibbe outlines six principles for living in a free society.  One of them is to mind your own business.  You are free to shelter-in-peace and take as many precautions as you feel are necessary to protect yourself from disease.  But when you extend your sphere of responsibility from your own actions to the actions of others, you risk becoming a tyrant in the name of safety.

Let`s all rather save our breaths for things that really matters, like the sad fact that in just eight weeks, 88 percent of blondes will have disappeared from face the earth…Let`s all mind our own business, and if all else fails, consider the Golden rule – “Love your neighbour with your crooked heart.”

Because after this is over and the long months in lockdown become just a grim memory, you`ll still have to live with your neighbours and your acquaintances and your fellow-workers and your colleagues.  And you`ll pass the beautician that you have reported, and I can promise you one thing – she won`t be the first one to look away,

The famous neuroscientist Abhijt Naskar recently said: “It’s my America, and its problems are mine.”  This is our South Africa, its problems are ours.  This is our Ermelo, its people`s struggles are ours.

The pandemic will pass.

What will remain is what we’ll allow ourselves to become –

Friend?  Or foe?  Fit?  Or fat?

Snitch?  Or saint…?  You get to choose.  Every day.  Isn`t that an empowering thought?

Yours in fitness


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2 comments to “Snitch or saint?”

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  1. Colette Barnard says:

    Ive also heard of klikbekke in Pretoria that reported people that were a bit late returning after a run in stage 2, the cut-off time was 9h00. Its terrible, and wondered why they did it. Well written!

    • Mirna says:

      Dis so onnodig, né Colette!