I am often astounded by the ability of impoverished and oppressed people to survive daily life. You have not had a bath or a shower for weeks, your stomach is aching barren and your skin shrivelled from the sun — yet you still find the drive to get up and take your fuct-up 1980s Casio keyboard to go serenade commuters on the Stellenbosch line for their small change. Inspirational is the word.
There are countless examples in South African history of our people overcoming adversity to survive their lot. Today the great South African car-guard is perhaps the best example of how our people will unknowingly create a new culture and industry in the name of survival. Yes sir, the poor can survive, and Africans are masters at it.
It is however a dilemma if the vast majority of your body politic comes from homes where survival strategies were the only game in town. The African National Congress as an institution is almost a monument to survival. Unsurprisingly then the key policy directive of this organisation has been from day one to facilitate the survival of the masses. South Africa is a giant welfare state but we made a plan to survive and live another day.
How in Jacob’s name however will we ever prosper if our ideological Xbox is forever set on survival mode? Take the issue of urbanisation for example: our government acknowledges our cities are unsustainable mammoths that daily consume way more than they are able to produce — creating an environmental footprint so large the entire world wonders how big its dick is.
Yet our solution to urbanisation is to help make rural people plant mielies in their backyard so they do not die of starvation — or worse, move to the city. Once more those who have made a career out of survival are in charge of helping others survive.
Why does the government not incentivise with tax breaks those industries that do not rely on massive industrial infrastructure to relocate its workers to the platteland instead? Here I am referring to artists and computer programmers, call-centre attendants and designers. In other words, young economically active middle-class educated people. Why do we not make our little dorpies a little more hip and happening so that the hip and happening want to live there? Soon there will be theatres, little coffee shops, fancy gyms and yoga centres — all requiring the labour of those who otherwise would be planting mielies as a means of survival?
The simple answer is that our government is staffed with people who never belonged to an upwardly mobile educated young generation of pioneers. Our governments frame of reference is one of depravity and oppression and its only “add water” solution to every problem is survival. Our unions contribute to this scenario as they themselves are staffed with people from a similar historical epoch. Cosatu would much prefer your business employs 10 unproductive people at R20 an hour as opposed to employing two at R100 an hour. As a result not one of your employees will ever be able to afford a proper home or a car or in any meaningful way be economically liberated. No-one is allowed to prosper as long as we all survive — and no-one understands why the R100 an hour workers all prefer to live in Canada.
It is almost as if we have rewarded a generation of opportunity-deprived ”strugglers” with the privilege of depriving another generation those same rights through downright shoddy management. Our democratic system did not have any other alternative and this result is totally understandable given the context. Yet nothing forces us to tolerate this situation for eternity? Surely at some stage we can choose to have our great thinkers lead the charge while our great fighters are honoured in museums?
My wish for this country of ours is that our governing and opposition parties be flooded soon by a generation of people who demand prosperity as a basic living condition. I want to then see this generation focus almost entirely on making the educated middle class the catalyst of economic growth while the government’s job is merely to find ways to move more and more people from the working to the middle class, and not the other way around — as is currently the case.