In Cape Town’s street youth culture there is a word for a particular state of consciousness induced through methamphetamine or Tik. Tony defines the term tokkie as a mode of preoccupation: ‘You want to do something but you don’t know what you want to do.’ It has a double meaning of being completely absorbed mentally while at the same time being absent-minded and withdrawn.
‘You just do something to keep you busy,’ 22-year-old Marc points out. Five years ago, he tried Tik for the first time. Now hardly a day goes by without him and Tony taking puffs from the ‘lolly’ the little glass pipe used to smoke the methamphetamine crystals. The tokkie marks specific moments under the influence of Tik usually experienced after excessive use and sleep deprivation. ‘You are thinking of everything at the same time,’ he notes. ‘Maybe I go to the toilet to get a piece of toilet paper but then I take the toilet paper out and sit down and watch TV or I sit here and clean my shoes for half an hour.’
When Marc mentioned the example his friend Tony laughs and jumps in ‘There is many things you wanna do but you end up doing nothing.’ Then the young men give a materialized example. They point to a red light bulb placed at Marc’s desk. Their friend Johan, an electrician, recently installed it when he caught a tokkie. He connected the light to a switch nearby. What normally would take him minutes, they argue, took him three to four hours. ‘You got the productive tokkie and the not so productive one,’ Tony asserts and concludes ‘It’s a bad thing. I think it puts your mind in a strain.’
‘You over-think everything and then you just start to do…’
‘The wrong thing.’ Johan who until now played a computer game interrupts abruptly. The other two young men indicate that he’s an expert. Johan uses and abuses Tik for almost ten years.
‘How does it make you feel when you catch a tokkie?’ I want to know.
‘Stupid,’ Marc points out.
‘When you see it the next day,’ Johan agrees partially while the others broke out in laughter.
‘You ask yourself why you did it,’ says Tony.
‘And when you do it?’ I push.
‘You’re just loving it!’ Johan frames his skinny cheeks with a wide smile.
‘Yeah, this is the right thing to do.’
‘So you’re excited?’ I inquire.
‘Yes, that’s why you keep on going, keep on going. Nobody can interrupt you or something you’re just focused on that thing.’
‘He knows all about it,’ Tony looks at Johan and ultimately disagrees ‘I don’t feel actually excited. I’m just bored out of my fucking mind.’ Then he gave another example ‘Inside I really don’t feel like I want to do drugs but I still do it.’ Silence.
Later I look at other accounts. Some Tik users describe tokkie as a state of being ‘empty’, ‘frozen’ or unable to do anything. For Tony and his friends, however, to ‘catch a tokkie’ means to act for the sake of acting in the here-and-now. Repetitive behavior is a common feature and its purpose tends to be fulfilled by the action itself rather than by the outcome. More specifically it could perhaps be characterized as an undirected desire in search of a purpose. Broadly speaking tokkie is another term for being stuck in the rut of Tik addiction.