I flew via Dubai to Kuala Lumpur for a ‘Sport for Good’ summit. I wont get into the merits of non-profits flying across the globe to inspire and share, but rather reflect on what I saw in Malaysia, how blatant it was and how similar it was. The inequality in Malaysia can easily be blamed on British colonialism. But reality shows that cash is king and the rich don’t give a shit about the poor. In Malaysia…
As an Afrikaner I do not live a week where I am not confronted with stories about the evil of apartheid and how bad our selfishness was and how it lacked moral integrity. I agree fully with those remarks of course and I am dedicated to play my small part in ‘paying back’. But whilst I am 100% anti-apartheid and 100% pro-equality I always have a funny feeling when people talk about such things. Being far from home in Malaysia, I realised and managed to articulate what I have seen and felt in South Africa. Sweeping statements and generalisations make us stupid and shallow. There are always a narrative and a counter narrative. When my white friends say blacks will always be stupid, I try to provide a counter narrative with stories to illuminate. When my black friends say all whites are fake and no white can be trusted, I try to provide a counter narrative.
My father was a white farmer, born during apartheid and farmed during apartheid. Yes his workers were black, yes they were extremely poor compared to my dad, yes they could not vote. All of that is bad and unfortunate. I want to reflect, however on my dad’s journey. Despite his ‘white privilege’ he had a journey and a battle, like the ‘a luta continua’ of liberation struggles. My grandfather was one on nine kids growing up in a mud house without electricity and they washed their clothes in the river; like a seen from rural Africa – which it was. Knowing where you are is the start of changing things. My family, 80 years back had nothing. My grand dad was a bar man without education. Growing up, my father had meat to eat once a week. They lived a humble lifestyle.
Even as he farmed and became wealthier, he was never ever flashy. My dad never went overseas. He bought his farm on a bank loan, his profits from farming just paid the interest on the loan. As a child we never went on holidays and never stayed in hotels. My dad drove a Nissan 1400 bakkie. Second hand. All our cars were cheap second hand cars. We never owned a new or fancy car like a BMW. The same goes for all my friends. Out of a hundred ‘privileged’ white kids, during apartheid, maybe three had fancy cars like BMW 3-series or Mercedes C Class. A few months ago my dad bought a new car. A Toyota Etios. The cheapest Toyota available and probably the ugliest car on the road. Clearly he sticks to his principles and clearly his ego does not demand the borrowing of money to buy fancy cars to impress people and feel the luxury as you drive.
What I saw in Malaysia reminded me of what I see in Johannesburg. People who in 15 years get what my family had to work for over 80 years. No, I mean surpassing my family and the 15 years is often 5 years and the Nissan 1400 is laughed about and a BMW is now considered ‘normal’. Yet, we love reminiscing about the evils of apartheid… And as new pockets of wealth takes shape, young people learn the vocabulary to rationalise and complain with extra vigour and drama. Yet, the things my parents are accused of, are perpetuated by our democratic millionaires. The problem I think is not one of colour or religion, but one of greed and lust for money, status and luxury. This in a world where 50% of our ‘brothers and sisters’ are starving and suffering.
I used to say the problem is not with making lots of money, but with how you spend it. To a large degree I still feel that way, but I also realise more and more that for one guy to get rich others need to stay poor. If you make money, you are making it from someone. Someone pays for your wealth. You call it smart and hard working. Hitler and Mugabe are also smart and hard working. So please don’t bring an economic knife to a moral gun-fight… The question is not of ability, but of application. You can, but should you? That is the question.
In Kuala Lumpur I paid R60 for a can of Coke. I thought it was crazy since for R60 I am supposed to get 6 litres of Coke, and then the factory, distributor, retailer, etc all still make their money. But the R60 can of Coke soon became ‘normal’ when I saw the cars parked outside our hotel: Two Ferrari F450’s, an Aston Martin and a Rolls-Royce! Walking in the mall looking at the Cartier, Armani and Louis Vuitton stores I realised the planet has a disease. And for all the evil of apartheid, at least the way I grew up I did not see this perverted addiction to Brands and superfluous luxury. No one argues about the quality of a Mont Blanc pen, the quality of a Hermes jacket or the quality of an Aston Martin. Sure, they are magnificently made. That does not make it right though. At the airport I saw a cell phone for R250 000 and a bottle of Whiskey for R40 000! Is this extreme and isolated instances of excess? Or is this merely the end result of a game which everyone tries to play? These examples are not anomalies, they are just the toys the people get who are the best at the ‘game’. Don’t play innocent or pseudo moral because you don’t buy those extremes, its probably only because you cant. Everyone seems to buy as much as they can. Where you are now, what TV did you buy, what kettle, what laptop, what car, what house, what clothes? We are all in the game… And it takes the winners of the game to reveal the stupidity, desperation and moral bankruptcy of the game.
So don’t come and talk to me about apartheid if you don’t give a fuck about the poor yourself. Don’t talk about religion and democracy if you are a selfish consumer living for yourself and your biological family. For every ass in a Ferrari or Porsche, there are 200 kids not going to creche or not having food. Does it feel that good to drive it?
Do I judge? Yes I judge. I judge myself to my own standards, but I surely also judge people who drive cars costing R1m or $100 000 and those who shop at the fucking baby Ralph Lauren shop. The little baby clones that will fit in their outfits for 6 months was perhaps what drove me over the edge.
So, let’s then just be honest and say together: FUCK THE POOR
– the pictures I took this week will excite or embarrass you.
You will look at them and say either WOW or WHY?
The very last picture shows us what we are sacrificing to have these nice things.