Its chaos is a raw reality check of movement in, and the state of mind of, cities where homeless people are the evidence of the failure of an idea. The videos present asymmetrical rhythms and cracked-up wisdom as an insight into the movement and mind of densified urban living and its myriad problems.
In Cape Town, the legacy of apartheid and the “dop system” still permeate heavily through generations of people of colour. The common perception is that it is an individual’s fault if he or she is homeless and observers are quick to judge and slow to consider the broader context of a complex and cluttered society. But whose fault is centuries of strategic oppression by one power structure after another?
Most of my interactions with the homeless were with war veterans (who’d served in Vietnam era all the way to Iraq). They suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and turn to self-medication with illegal drugs or prescription drugs. Drug use, Christian eschatology enforcing the ongoing idea of the “Rapture”, heavy police presence and reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded-security state induce paranoia in victims. Talk of the end of the world is common, as is fear of authorities or the “all-seeing eye”. It seemed to me that there were more mentally ill ramblers here than the 24-hour binge drinkers typical amongst the homeless in Cape Town. These “loonies” are not catered for once they are back home and have lost their lives as they knew it after fighting for their countrymen and women in a foreign land.
Many people that I chatted with chose to be homeless by stepping outside of the societal pressures of their system or were facing a major crisis, be it a relationship or work-related. They were smart men and women, well-spoken with sharp opinions on the current state of their country. They spoke of social cleansing and illegal immigrants as though the privileged are disgusted by low-life homelessness and illegal immigrants and would have them rounded up, put in a container, and dropped into the ocean.