Sunday, September 18, 2005

Suicide Valley

About 15 kilometers away from my home is a little town called Fish Hoek. Like the whole of the Cape Peninsula, it enjoys stunning beaches, beautiful craggy mountains, and close proximity to the very happening cosmopolitan culture of Cape Town. It is not South Africa's most affluent town, but when you consider the millions in this country living below the breadline, it is certainly not an area of poverty. A perfect place to live a happy life right? Wrong!

A spate of suicides hit the Fish Hoek Valley last year, noticeable enough even to attract commentary from the press. Psychologists were polled for opinions. And what emerged is very much in line with what I was saying yesterday about societal expectations: With such perfect surroundings people feel this latent pressure to be living idyllic lives. When you're living in a crappy industrial area or ghetto, then you feel kind of justified in being angry with the world. But when you're basking in warm sunshine in your cosy suburban home a stonethrow from frolicking dolphins and whales, your sullen demeanour puts loads of guilt on your shoulders. And you can't avoid thinking, "Well if its not my surroundings - it must be me".

I think the problem is exacerbated in Fish Hoek, because most of the town's population have migrated from other parts of the country to retire to the seaside village or simply to seek better pastures. This puts even more expectations on happiness improving, and when it doesn't the failure is that much worse.

So what's the answer guys? Screw societal expectations, right? Right!!

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