Sometimes all it takes is a bit of perspective

A Day in Diepsloot by Nicki Ki
A Day in Diepsloot, a photo by Nicki Ki on Flickr.

Step out of the comfort of your paradigm and see what happens when you try something new, or see something from a completely different point of view.

Perspective Emerges

Diepsloot is home to an estimated 150,000 people, most of whom live in 3mx2m shacks made out of metal, wood, plastic and cardboard, lacking access to the basic services that we probably all take for granted. Running water, sewage containment and refuse removal would be welcomed in this place that started out as a transit camp of people waiting for land to become available and has become a permanent settlement, a town springing up from the makeshift cabins.

Most Diepslootians use paraffin stoves and coal for cooking, and candles for light. Some shacks have electricity and use a prepaid meter, but this is expensive, and so used sparingly. Also with the load balancing (to compensate for the lack of foresight to prepare the electricity grid for wide scale town expansion) this is probably the best way to limit the power consumed in this high density area. City officials estimate that about half the population in the settlement is unemployed.

There are so many settlements like Diepsloot out there and there are horror stories that occur that you would not believe. But amidst the poverty, violence and chaos that arises out of an extreme lack of anything, fuelled by unattainable aspiration continually pumped out by the media wagon, exists a home that is loved by its inhabitants who have collected together as a community against the onslaught of the world at large.

These are the people who have very little more than a makeshift roof over their heads, family, friends, and often too little food to go around… and from these meagre foundations these Diepslootians still manage to live long, and love.

These are the people who the broken promises affected the most adversely, and this is also part of what makes Diepsloot so inspiring. The seeds of a brighter future are already here — once people figure out how to bring it all together they can only grow from strength to strength.

In our day-to-day, we spend way too much time complaining about trivialities and forget that our comfort and luxuries are not a birth right, but a privilege – an accident or a karmic predestiny even, of location and luck.

What happens if it turns out that karma is true, what then? What are we going to do to ensure that the world you’re born into isn’t a lot more like this one, and a lot less like the one we’re desperately holding onto?

The more poverty grows across the globe, the more likely it is that a future incarnation of you could end up in a transit camp that becomes your home, while waiting for the promised land. I often find myself wondering why those with all the resources don’t invest in creating the promised land to which we’ve collectively aspired on an archetypal level?

Truth is none of us are here forever, not everyone is going to heaven or hell, some will continue with their own beliefs and quanta makes it all possible. Is anyone actually prepared to face the future they’re in all likelihood coming back to fix?

Often we complain when we feel that we have too little, or when something isn’t fair, or when we have to push a little harder to get what we really want out of life. Yes, I’m sad that tax credit cuts are going to affect a lot of people, but at the same time where is the entrepreneurial spirit of people to rise up and take back their own personal power that they relinquished when they fell into the arms of the state?

Nothing is stopping anyone really, it’s just not easy and that’s a given. It’s just that people have relied on the help of the state without pushing for fairer wages and now that it’s not going to be as easily accessible, baby bird needs to leave the nest, and seek their fame and fortune in the big wide Britain.

This doesn’t let the state off the hook however. There are iniquities that should not exist and it is good there’s a democratic process in place for people to heave-ho and push back on. But seriously, people need to pull up their socks and apply their wonderful British education that is a thousand times better than anything on offer anywhere in the world, and certainly not in Diepsloot. Be thankful for your schooling, don’t take it for granted. Apply it as best you can.

Is a job in an office with air-conditioning really more secure than a business run out of a tin shack, sprawling out onto a dusty front yard? The rent is higher and if you’re not generating profit, you’re a business cost (aka the first out the door when the client can’t pay). If you are generating profit, you have to do it continually, it can never end or you’re out the door. Whatever line of work you do in fact, if you aren’t passionate about it, it’ll make you unpleasantly stressed.

Cycling is a global thing isn’t it?

Cycling is the one mode of transport that just never gets old. It’s the most genius of all the inventions ever invented. Why doesn’t everyone have a bike? The thing about Diepsloot is, when you see someone riding a fancy, shiny bike, there’s always a possibility that they didn’t buy it, you want to be charitable and sometimes these things get donated… but for a kid in Diepsloot, a bike is something they really need and unless they get given one, they might never learn to ride – it’s true freedom. Maybe we could help heal the world by teaching everyone how to manufacture their own bikes by the millions. Make billions of shared standard bikes available like in Amsterdam, so that it’s just not worth anyone’s while to steal them.


Running a business doesn’t have to be complicated, or expensive in terms of marketing. Especially when you’re situated on the main drag through a blooming town. What you learn, can never be taken from you and even if you don’t have a formal education with a piece of paper qualifying you for a long term desk job, it doesn’t mean that you can’t succeed – it just means you’re not going to pass a corporate screening test any time soon.

So, what is the definition of success? I’d argue that in many ways, the gents in the picture above are freer than most. They tinker with cars, hang out in the shade and share their varied and sometimes profound philosophies of life. The guy lives in the back and literally only has to roll out of bed to get to work, where everyone comes to him.

Isn’t that most people’s idea of a dream job? 🙂

Sitting at a desk, typing, taking calls all day and getting stressed out by the way your manager eyeballed you in the corridor last week is hardly hard work. If you don’t have to have a serious bath at the end of your day, or buff some thick callouses, it’s really just cushy busy time. In the paradigm of reality creating work for people to do pushing papers around to count everything that happens, this can be stressful. But try explaining that paradigm to the guy who in his paradigm is assigned the practical job of laying poop-pipes to keep it all flowing.

Try to stress less about it.

We talk about first world problems as a joke – a bitter truth – and sure they’re equally valid for the stage of civil progression and worth talking about so that we can all learn more about what we’re all about… And sure there are things that happen that wind us up, increase anxiety and stress levels… But really, when we take a look at the reality of what’s happening elsewhere, maybe remembering that it’s just a paradigm and you can change it, things aren’t as bad as they could be and this is a viable comfort, and there’s absolutely nothing on Earth stopping you from doing anything.

Except you.

Start at figuring out what it is you want to do, and work out from there.

Nicki Ki ©
All Rights Reserved



    1. I was feeling a little creatively blocked, I wasn’t sure that I said it as well as it could be said. But whenever I see the poverty in South Africa, and the all-consuming bitterness that abides with it, I feel like being comfortable is luxury that we take for granted. It’s the same feeling I get when I try to consider what life with chronic pain must feel like. Where instead of the inner pain, it’s all everywhere.


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