Apocalyptic

I wrote this post looking back at the events that occurred around 3 weeks ago. It felt exactly as if we were in an apocalypse.

*Trigger warning*

Looting and unrest continue ahead of Zuma's case - Prime ...
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There seems to be a lot going on in the world rn, especially in South Africa. If being in a 3rd wave of the Covid pandemic wasn’t enough, we also experienced some intense riots and looting 3 weeks ago. It was quite strange, seeing how things spiraled out of control so quickly.

Today’s post will be another part of the Thinking Out Loud series. I just thought it would be interesting to discuss relevant topics and get insights from different people. First, I’ll give some background to the riots and looting, then I’ll go through the 3rd wave struggle, how we’re stronger together, and lastly, I’ll look at how these experiences serve as a turning point in our lives.

What on earth happened South Africa?

To give some context, the riots started off as protests in support of our ex-president Jacob Zuma.

“Zuma was sentenced late last month for defying a constitutional court order to give evidence at an inquiry investigating high-level corruption during his nine years in office until 2018. The decision to jail him resulted from legal proceedings seen as a test of post-apartheid South Africa’s ability to enforce the rule of law, including against powerful politicians.”

After his arrest, many of his supporters went out in protest to this incident (don’t ask me why people protested against imprisoning someone corrupt). The protests quickly turned into some kind of organised mayhem, where they chose a specific day to start mass looting and cause sporadic destruction in KZN and Gauteng.

https://www.autoexposite.com/world/death-toll-rises-as-violence-and-looting-spreads-in-south-africa/

This included supermarkets, warehouses, malls and all sorts of businesses. Highways and main roads were also blocked, paralyzing supply chain routes and causing a huge shortage of many essential supplies, including petrol. For the few days that the chaos occurred, people couldn’t buy bread, milk, order food online or refuel their cars. It was like a full on apocalypse; quite surreal if we’re being honest.

“What we are witnessing now are opportunistic acts of criminality, with groups of people instigating chaos merely as a cover for looting and theft.” -President Cyril Ramaphosa

The army was eventually deployed and things started to calm down. In the interim, we all kind of forgot that we were in the middle of a pandemic.

WATCH Looting at Shopping Mall in KZN, South Africa ...
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3rd wave of the pandemic

I’ve already talked about my personal experience getting Covid, but it seems like the waves and variants are just endless at this point. I don’t think we truly understand the impact on the economy of having another wave of Covid in addition to a week of looting and shutdowns.

The amount of damage that was done to infrastructure, to the modes of transport and to supply chains have only made things more intense.

What I love about this country though is the resilience. We are an incredibly diverse nation, with a very strong history. We’ve overcome immense challenges to get to where we are today. Despite the motives behind everything that’s happening and this 3rd wave, people are still giving it their best! We are not giving up. Not anytime soon, that’s for sure.

Coming together as a community

The most incredible thing that I observed in all this chaos was the way in which we came together as communities. I noticed how despite several Muslim businesses being looted and burnt, many of them still contributed and assisted in preparing hampers for those who were unable to get groceries, and for the poor/needy. I’m sure there were many non-Muslims who contributed in that sentiment as well.

Additionally, they were also many people who came together as vigilante groups and neighbourhood watches, to protect their families, areas and livelihoods. It was incredible to see the support from everyone at this dire time, and the all-nighters being pulled for our safety.

Yes I know certain people went overboard with these initiatives; fueling hate crimes and racism, but I’m focusing more on those who did their best to stay put and protect.

From an Islamic perspective, the prophet Muhammed (pbuh) taught us that we should never discriminate against anybody. There are several incidents from his time when he forgave, accepted and embraced people who were once his enemies, people who killed his friends and family, and people who were tirelessly trying to end his life/mission.

The lesson we can learn from all this is to continue being kind, caring and forgiving. It’s not the time to point fingers and start polarizing from different groups. It’s not the time for revenge. We should demand justice, definitely. But until then, we need to be compassionate and lead with an open heart.

Turning point

On the shortness of life. I’d like to leave you with a critical question:

If you knew the world would end next week, what would do differently?

Over and over again, I think of how I live assuming that I’ll wake up tomorrow. It’s quite an important assumption to make, obviously. But it’s also one that can make us incredibly complacent.

As I discussed in my previous post, we take life for granted. We get used to the way things are. We don’t anticipate change as often as we should. That’s why I propose that you deeply sit with the question above. Reflect on what you would do differently moving forward.

Expect the unexpected, without putting too much pressure on yourself. Stop being surprised at the fact that life is a roller-coaster ride. Its proven that to you many times already.

It’s so cold!

As many of you may know, I moved to Johannesburg (Joburg) at the start of the year. It was quite warm at the time, given we were edging towards autumn. We’re now peaking into winter, and it’s rather cold. Cold enough for us to dread even sitting on the toilet seat (like North America/Europe kind of cold).

I thought it would be interesting to write about how we adapt to changes in the weather as human beings. Or to even look at how we’re psychologically affected by it. Let’s talk about how we can learn to brace the cold, developing resilience, the effect the sun has on our psyche, and being grateful.

Bracing the cold

It’s a mindset thing really. Almost every conversation I’ve had with anyone living in Joburg has involved complaining about how cold the weather is (I’m guilty for contributing to that). That’s obviously what got me thinking… How can we actually learn to embrace the cold without just unnecessarily complaining?

I think it has a lot to do with mindset, exposure and breathing. Mindset is a bit of an obvious one, but important to bring up nonetheless. The more you tell yourself you’re feeling cold and are suffering, the less likely you are to effectively adapt mentally. The more you layer up, keep the heater on and stay inside, the less likely you are to physically adapt.

To juxtapose the mental and physical adaptation to cold, we should learn to focus on our breath. It’s interesting because if you think about it carefully, your breathing gets all shallow and rapid when you’re shivering. Learning to control your breath when you’re feeling cold will definitely facilitate some kind of resilience.

There’s definitely a limit to this and it can’t go on infinitely, as you have to avoid getting sick. It really is a fine balance, but you have to start somewhere.

Developing resilience

As I already mentioned, it’s about taking baby steps to avoid completely shocking the system and getting sick. So where do we start with developing some kind of resilience to cold? I think more than 90% of you will hate my answer to this: cold showers and less layers.

Before you panic and decide to completely ignore what I have to say, please know that I’m asking you to start small. You gain a lot of mental strength when you can put yourself through that little bit of discomfort, which enables you to actually deal with constantly feeling cold. Some of you may have biological or health issues that make it tougher, but the principle is the same.

When it comes to cold showers, I’m just suggesting that you try it out for 10 seconds or so while you wait for the water to get warm. This not only helps you save water, but it helps you adapt to the cold a little more! Essentially, you want to get your body used to that little shock. To overcome that mental fear. To learn how to focus on your breath while your body starts panicking.

Cold Garfield Quotes. QuotesGram
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The same logic can be applied when you’re deciding to layer up and leave the house. Instead of wearing 3 jackets and 2 socks, try and wear just enough for you to feel relatively warm. You can use your breathing technique to help you deal when it starts getting really cold. Again, I’m not asking you to suffer (well I kind of am), but I want you to strengthen your mental and physical capacity to deal with the weather.

Here comes the sun

The weather impacts our mood. If you don’t believe me, just go outside on a sunny day vs a cloudy / rainy day. You’ll immediately notice a difference. When it comes to getting enough sunlight though, we should really stop undermining the benefits (both from a mental and physical health point of view).

The most obvious benefit is vitamin D. Everyone knows that they need to get enough sunlight to sustain a healthy dose of vitamin D… But how many of us consciously put in those hours? I’m guilty of this myself, especially since I started working from home (also bec it’s freezing outside). But we should try to get in at least 15 min a day, to refresh our psyche and strengthen our bones.

The sun also gives us a serotonin boost. This means that it directly affects our mood, as I alluded to earlier on. There’s an added bonus to this though… Serotonin and Melatonin work together, so getting exposure from sunlight may even help you sleep better.

If you want to read more on the benefits of sunlight, check out the article below.

The point I’m trying to make is that the weather and season play a role in our overall attitude, our mood, and even our energy levels. We can use that understanding to ensure that we make the most of the situation we’re in and optimize our health.

Gratitude

As always, the most important lesson to take from all this is a little bit of gratitude. When it comes to extreme weather conditions, we should always be grateful to have some kind of luxury in place to help us deal with it.

Whether it’s the electricity that powers our heaters, the thick blankets we have to sleep in, the roof above our heads, the jackets and socks that we have. We should be thankful to God for all that he has blessed us with.

It’s crucial that we don’t forget about how many other people are less fortunate and don’t have a fraction of what we have. In order to truly live out the value of gratitude, I suggest you try and give out some of your old clothes that you haven’t worn in a while to people who would desperately make better use of it. Put yourself in their position and imagine how much tougher it would be to adapt when you have so little.

Gratitude Quotes - 23 Islamic Quotes About Being Grateful

It always comes back to the fact that God has given us all different circumstances and different tools to deal with those circumstances. You are truly blessed and you should never forget that. #LiftAsYouRise