Thursday, April 21, 2011
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Pardon me friends of Middle Class Concerns, I am currently writing an academic paper on theories pertaining to authoritarianism. This has me tossing and turning, buzzing on espresso and praying that the 26 letters of the English alphabet will miraculously compose themselves into a well structured, coherent and analytical look at North Africa’s transition from authoritarianism to democracy. As such, my latest offering comes as a short but delightful break away from Huntington and O’Donnell (theorists):
What do you call a poor person? There should really be no thought about this, the answer is- ‘a person’. To avoid any more confusion I hope you’ve all done your homework and read up on Oscar Lewis. If you haven’t, open another tab and Google ‘The Culture of Poverty’. Kudos to friend and Anthropology Masters student Nosipho Mgomezulu for introducing me to Mr Lewis. We had a ragging session about his work, which then turned into this blog post. One of the many statements that enraged us was: “I found most of the poor decent, upright, courageous and lovable human beings”. Well Mr Lewis, why don’t you just build a petting zoo for them in your back- yard? This kind of rhetoric is common and pitiful.
Not to get all Martin Luther King on you but he put it best: “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” I wouldn’t trade my middle class problems for anything but I never want to forget that poverty is everybody’s problem. Break the status shackles that imprison many middle class South Africans.
I have constant reminders of how middle class is simply a game we play. I had a smart phone two weeks ago, now I don’t. It was stolen and I’m stuck with a phone reminiscent of my first cell phone (Nokia 6110). I went out for dinner at a rather posh restaurant last night and then drove past a man that hadn’t eaten in days. As soon as the winter chill crept in, I threw an extra blanket over my bed. In the coming months, there’ll be news reports about several homeless people who froze to death. I might catch flu because of some snot nose that forgot to wash their hands but I won’t die for not having money to buy the necessary meds.
Middle class existential crisis aside (I’ll save that for another blog post), I hope that your bank statement is not a measure of how deep or shallow your thoughts are. The culture of poverty is no more self- perpetuating than the culture of affluence that defines itself against art, theatre, vintage red wine and anything else which rings to the sound of false sophistication. After all “In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of”- Confucius
Posted by Phakamani at 7:04 AM