Going to the Highveld in the winter is an anomaly for a Cape-resident, particularly if it is not for business. Most Northerners are trekking to the KZN coast or to game reserves for their mid-year break. Those that are brave enough, head down to the Cape, contending with our notorious winter weather for some good wine, green landscapes, snowy mountains and rough seascapes.
As a person doing the opposite, something strikes you: We’re spoilt, spoilt to the point that our environment becomes the overriding factor in many of our decisions, our ability to adjust, our collective psychology and how we interact with people and our surroundings. This may sound like hyperbole, but when you meet recent Cape migrants seeking better employment up north, or even as a visitor, you’re confronted with the “northern” lifestyle, you realise how reliant we are on these seemingly trivial physical geographical aspects of the Cape: weather, scenery, diversity of agriculture and landscape, Winelands Lifestyle and the like.
Sociologically, we are aloof. We hear it repeatedly from our northern cousins: Capetonians stay in their cliques, tend to be a tad dismissive and aren’t good at venturing out of their comfort zones. You may ask as a Capetonian if this is not a gross stereotype. A Northerner may ask why this stereotype is often valid. It’s our environment. The Winelands Lifestyle means one’s comfort zone is as comfortable as one can be without a financial infusion. There is little need to venture beyond one’s province, usual urban-or-rural stomping grounds or even one’s clique. It’s just all too nice. Why does the Gauteng bar have a buzz of activity about it even before the social lubricant (read: alcohol) begins working on the inhibitions? The patrons of these bars seek out the company of others, even those beyond their cliques, as the people they surround themselves with, creates contentment.
We use our environment as a sociological and psychological crutch. When all else fails, the mountains and vineyards remain. We use the environment to bring about the aforementioned contentment. Having a glass of wine on your own in Johannesburg can feel lonely. Here, having that same glass with a gorgeous view fills this void. However, the void is still there, the mountain in front of your eyes is just masking it.
What am I getting at? The question is do we collectively live in a fool’s paradise, where our personal issues are glazed over, professional and personality flaws are masked and where comfort is so easy to come by, we fail to take risks, either professionally or personally? Are we truly happy or is the environment forcing our happiness; contentment coming from the external, rather than the real, internal contentment?
In Afrikaans they say, “Elke huis het sy kruis.” For those less well versed in our other language, it basically states idiomatically, that every home has its cross to bear. Upon returning to the Cape after a short stay in the Highveld, it becomes evident. It is not evident in the fact that the Cape is a bad place, but actually in how great it is. The effect this has on its residents and how those who don’t live here compensate and how we’re often too complacent.
It is perhaps the hyperbole of the sociological and psychological consequences of living the Winelands Lifestyle, but there are definitely profound affects. As the Highveld has its crosses to bear, so do we, although often fail to realise it. We gloss over so much ugliness, we are content with so much less because the environment provides so much more. We often fail to see our fellow humans because the mountains blind our eyes. Perhaps in all our intrinsic arrogance, we can learn something from these Northerners. Perhaps if we can analyse our glamorous Winelands Lifestyle with some introspection, we will see that we don’t have it all. What we have externally, we sometimes neglect internally.
Don’t let the Winelands Lifestyle blind you: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.