It’s the third last day of the year, which means very little content in the world of daily newspapers. Ya, sure, we have three murder stories, another about police brutality, one about a mass wedding of over 500 people, a few celebs are engaged and the front pager: a woman who was forced to have sex with snakes by her sangoma husband.
For those of you who are not in sunny South Africa, a sangoma is what the western world calls a witch-doctor.
(However, where i”m from there are very distinct differences between a witch and doctor, but because all things spirit seem foreign or taboo in the western world – every thing other than vampires, Harry Potter and werewolves that is – I imagine the term witch-doctor was the only way Westerners could understand, or better still, lump together those whose work is greatly linked to a realm different to the one we currently occupy.)
Snakey sex sounds a bit weird for the front page of a newspaper, I know. But the publication I work for is no ordinary newspaper. We focus on the weird and wacky, the paranormal, the bumpy things we try to avoid in the night, or day…. Whatever.
“That’s a Popeye (our way of saying you’re an idiot) shop you work for,” people say.
“What’s next, aliens and tikoloshe‘s (a mythical – or real – character believed to be a witches familiar, much like a vampire’s ghoul) having babies,” people say.
“I don’t bother reading that garbage,” people say.
People say all this about a newspaper which has emerged as the most popular, controversial, and best selling in SA. Hell, I used to say the very same things (and worse) about this paper. I used to, up until I came to see and understand the readership. For most people all things that cannot be explained by logic or science is considered nonsense, such things are a hoax, they are said to be impossible even.
But for others, such things are as real as air… Never seen but always felt. The effects of such evil is as real as the small miracle of life. I know, I know… You think I’ve gone insane from working here but when you live in Africa, where mysticism and reality are one and the same thing, where people have the mystic power to control animals, people and the weather without the use of hypnosis, training or metal rods to conduct electrical current, believing in such is very easy.
No amount of western education and logical reasoning could ever dissuade the most educated dude who’s gone through all of the worlds libraries doing research for most of his life for whatever qualification is considered the most educated, like a PHD or whatever, nor could you convince the dude who’s educational qualification and experience constitutes herding cattle and smoking marijuana out in the fields for over 50 years that ghosts, witches and witch-craft do not exist.
These kinds of believers make up our readers. To them, the paranormal is as real as God or the Universe and all its galaxies or poop in the toilet bowl after you’ve sat there, in a painfully constipated state, for an hour.
Yup, reality is limited to or enhanced by our individual or collective perception. in the same way that a majority of the worlds population believes in a higher being that is responsible for the design of all things, a being which is given many a name based on how most we recognise ourselves in IT/ HIM/ HER/ THEY…. We cannot dismiss the fact that for others, there being mystical creatures whose purpose is to impose pain and suffering, or relief and joy is their reality; their right and their way of coming to terms with the day-to-day happenings of this mass we call Earth.
Wait… I was going somewhere with this post, and necessarily where I find myself now.
Oh! Yes, so a colleague of mine asks me to source some of the comments our readers leave on our Facebook page for an article she’s working on…
And this was for the more ‘normal’ stories we have. She wanted to know, because Hillbrow (which is the Johannesburg central business district) has been, with the highest prestige, ranked the forth place in the world to celebrate New Years in a weird way….
Not that kind of weird. Weird, as in people throw their old furniture and appliance out of their apartment building windows when the clock strikes 00:00.
Ok, so my dear colleague asks our readers to comment on how they celebrate their New Year, what’s the weird things they get up to, with whom?
Here’s what some of our readers said:
“Can’t wait 2 throw my old bed”
“Shooting of guns”
“Running naked in the street.”
And one dude goes….
“I’m going to kill myself”
In half a panic, my colleague rushes over to my desk (because my job is to monitor our digital stuff) and she asks, “Are those posts for real?”
Now i”m looking at her thinking “poor little white girl, takes things so seriously!” and I answered, “Not at all, relax. No one would ever their suicide note as a comment on the page of ridiculous paper on a social network.”
She walked away, half convinced that I was right, leaving me wondering…. I mean, hey… It’s the holiday season, people kill themselves a lot this time of year. I really hope I was right too!
Now i’m freaking out.