Last night i saw a middle aged man park and get out of a R4m Lamborghini Murcielago… Everyone was impressed and stood around this super-car. With good reason, since the car looks like a mechanical beast from the future. The driver, did not bother greeting the onlookers. The Lamborghini left me feeling a bit weird, with a mix of jealousy, resentment, admiration, social indignation in my heart. I joked, and told my friend Doc: “Ja, clearly apartheid’s legacy is gone…”
Two minutes later, as I was standing in the KFC about 400m from the Lamborghini, an old and dirty looking man, walked up to me and smiled, mumbling something I couldn’t hear. Just as I was about to tell him that I did’t have any money and that he should ask Doc for cash, he stretched out his hand and with a smile and gave me a pie. I shook his hand and thanked him, it was as if someone pressed the pause button in that KFC, everyone starring. A minute later, two security guards ‘removed’ the old man from the KFC, saying he is done buying and eating, he should now leave.
I think I received a quick Reminder about who I should get impressed by. I started this web site with the question: who needs who? And in daily life, we cannot solve all the problems in the world, but we can life an alternative story, and recognise others who reveal something true and beautiful of life and development.
“I’m sitting here in Double Shot Coffee Shop, a delightfully earthy and arty place that sells all the right things, most notably: freshly roasted coffee from fair-trade sources. Most people that frequent this part of Braamfontein on a Saturday shows up in brand name outfits and have cash to burn. It’s starting to be the place to be: fancy, like Sandton with an air of relevance and ‘now’, since it borders that great suburbian other: the inner city. This part of Braamfontein is full of little posh pleasures, with Neighbourgoods Market the heart of the buzz.
I’m sitting at a wooden counter and through the large glass window I can observe and write. I see young Natalie, from Freedom Park, Soweto; she is with her friends, carrying large white papers husstling and begging for support of their drum majorettes. With monotonous regularity the same sequence repeats itself over and over: she asks, the trendy consumers decline… they are here for coffee and delightful little things. Natalie and her friends are neither delightful nor trendy enough to make a tourist brake a stride.
I’ve always maintained that guilt is a good thing, as long as it convicts instead of paralyse.
I leave my coffee and notebook for a minute and I go outside to write my name on the paper and add my financial contribution. It strikes me that of the six names on the paper the highest amount given was R3. As I write my name and give my R10 I’m happy to push from R3 to R10… Yet, as I write it feels like I’m writing a sorry note, apologising on behalf of all the obnoxious, rich creatures of comfort that walks by or that sits and stares from within coffee shop windows. My R10 is a pitiful penance, my R10 is embarrassingly insufficient and hides the hug, home, scholarship, inspiration and friendship that this girl deserves.
I cannot help to think that we are missing the point.
What is a human without humanity.
If a street-kid becomes invisible it does not reflect on him or her, but on those who lost the ability to see. I pray I don’t grow up to be blind.
And there are so many things to spend my money on that is known to increase the risk of blindness.
There is bad luck, then there is our reaction to that bad luck.
The so called trap or cycle of poverty is not about the actual bad luck or unfortunate circumstances, but in the way we respond to it by dulling the heart and mind and moving into a life, dominated by our bodies.
Sex makes us feel powerful when really we are powerless, beer makes us forget what should not be forgotten and food gives us a feeling of fullness to ignore a deep emptiness. In sex, food and beer men satisfy their heart, body and mind- cheaply, immediately, sadly.
In this state, apathy rules. Yet, when confronted with the success or ambition of a peer, the hidden soul peeps out to slander, gossip or complain. The desire for unity or cooperation is long gone and the impulse towards change has withered.
The trust in hope, and the hope in trust have made way for resentment and self-pity.
Yet, the eating, drinking and fucking goes on… it dampens the hurt of the hungry heart.
I read the 195 small pages of the concise version and I’m very grateful for that choice, since this little book contains so much nonsense and such diverse themes with contradictory advice that a larger or more comprehensive version of it, might have prevented me from finishing it! Nevertheless, I gained and learnt much from it, I gained because the content drips with reality and applied knowledge. The ideas and advice is applicable and implementable; the readers only choice is whether to take and employ the advice or not.
This choice boils down, for me, to a decision of whether you view yourself as a human or an animal. Clever people will immediately say we are both, and Greene constantly uses the phrase ‘human animal’, but that emphasises the animal side. The debate about to what extent we are animals is not really the issue though, the question is, when we employ metaphors and set moral and ethical ideals, do we construct these ideals to become the smarted animals or the best humans? So, never mind genetics and evolutionary history, we are faced with choices where we can act like animals or humans. Personally, I fully recognise my animal nature, and that is why in theory, reflection and ideals, I have to go 100% towards being a human being. Just because I have teeth does not mean I have to bite other people.
I found the book helpful for a few reasons. Greene reveals and promotes sneaky tricks to get to the top, and just as we find it disgusting, we discover chapters that act as mirrors, we discover how we learnt to automatically do many of these clever and manipulative tricks and strategies! Society and experience taught us to play the power game. Greene makes the pensive reader aware that we all play the game to some extent. The book leaves you with a choice: do I try to stop the tricks and live an alternative innocent naive life, or do I become a master tactician in the games of power. We live in a power jungle, and to some extent you need jungle law in the jungle- or you die. Followers of the New Testament Jesus (and I don’t mean church going christians) might find the predicament more acute. How sincere, how naive should we be and does naivety equal sincerity? If I think of Jesus, he played many social games: the silence before Pilate, the answering questions with questions, the naughty metaphors of turning cheeks, the embarrassment of writing in sand… Jesus was constantly playing people. Yet there was a grounded purpose to his games and it was not popularity, it was didactical and strategic. Innocent like a dove, sneaky like a snake: wow, hardcore cutting edge advice, 2000 years ago. It is not easy to operate in the grey, we are addicted to black or white answers, we are addicted to the creation of opposites; it makes us feel clever and in control.
Greene, thought he is writing an assured money maker, by providing selfish people with ammunition to trample on others. Yet, as was the case with Machiaveli, he supposes such a hyperbole of unpretentious animality that his ‘tricks of the trade’ manual, becomes a profound philosophical workshop, an ethical shakeout. I’ve been reading one law each day, for 48 days. I did this as ‘bible study’ and the irony is, by reading such a dirty little bible, it did a splendid job of reverse psychology, increasing my hunger for unselfish goodness. Sure, I picked up many tricks along the journey and if I can stay grounded or rooted, I will do well to implement many of these tools, not because Im in a war against others, but because I need to influence people addicted to silly rhythms and beliefs. THe tool can be the key to unlock a door, then friendship and love will be the actual door we walk through to explore the rooms of deeper life.
I would definitely advise the little book, for naive people to sharpen up, and for sneaky people to reevaluate their moral stance.
An unedited thought space – not for sensitive whites