I’m still lazy to write any original content, if I didn’t know my way around the ‘nets this blog would be doomed (if it hasn’t already). I found a well written article over at my new favourite site, Pambazuka News. here’s an an excerpt of it:
There is no doubt, of course, that the struggle against racial oppression in all its reprehensible forms compelled everyone to focus on the overriding objective of throwing off the yoke of racism. The mistake that many made, as we shall see, was to assume that the end of apartheid would bring about the end of class exploitation which, in this country because of the peculiar historical dynamics, continues to perpetuate racial inequality.
What does the picture look like today? Let me begin to answer this question by referring to the fact that when Evo Morales became President of Bolivia not so long ago, one of his first official acts was to get a law passed that reduced his presidential salary by 57 per cent. In post-apartheid South Africa, the very opposite occurred. The recommendations of the Melamet Commission of 1994 and of the subsequent annual increases recommended by the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, based on the principles of remuneration of the apartheid dispensation, were accepted without much soul searching among the new elite.
This, in my view, was the first signal that we were headed in the wrong direction. It sent entirely the wrong message to the youth of a poor, ‘third-world’ country, South Africa, to the effect that successful black people are people who earn in these brackets and who own fancy cars and houses. The role model effect of this kind of lifestyle and value system which, today, 15 years later, has become the accepted thing, will take many years and many alternative models of success to turn around. I cite the effect of the acceptance of the salary packages recommended by the Melamet Commission in its different instantiations as the first of a series of lifestyle signposts for the youth. Add to this the fact that during the struggle against the apartheid regime, everyone, including your ‘Comtsotsi’, was seen to be and treated as an equal, whereas after 1994, there was this sudden and very visible divide between those who were deemed to have been ‘successful’, on the one side, and the Great Unwashed, on the other side, the veritable underclass, victims of apartheid before 1996 and of neo-liberalism thereafter.
One does not need a degree in philosophy to work out the socio-psychological results of this situation. The thousands of ‘service delivery protests’ – a euphemism for localised mini-uprisings – the vandalism that accompanies them as well as ‘ordinary’ crimes such as hijackings, cash heists, kidnappings, armed robberies, etc: All of these horrendous manifestations of barbarism induced by the logic of capitalism in the 21st century, are payback acts of entitlement. ‘If you who, yesterday, were in the trenches with us or with our parents can now drive around in a Mercedes Benz or a BMW, live in a mansion or even a palace in the leafy suburbs, and generally live it up, why should I continue to be mired in poverty and filth in so-called informal settlements with pit latrines, no garbage removal and no proper educational and health facilities?
This is the logic that is playing itself out on our streets.The simple fact is that if young people in the townships and in the rural areas are unemployed, hungry, frustrated and angry, they will, under these circumstances, resort to theft and even murder in order to live like those few others who, by grace of birth or because of political patronage, belong to the new elite. Given the retreat of all the moral and political censors that kept things ‘looking good’ during the post-War years, one can hardly ‘blame’ this youth for behaving in such a reactionary manner. Drugs and Americanised TV are increasingly added to this lethal syndrome of social pathologies.
There have been many more or less sophisticated attempts at explaining the sociology of the current disaster and it is unnecessary to add another such attempt to this list. What is clear, however, is that if we fail to address the question of values with even a modicum of success, we will inevitably arrive at the edge of the abyss, pushed there by this logic of capitalism.
[check it: Pambazuka-Let us return to the source]
*I couldn’t think of an appropriate title