Equality of poverty as the ultimate in democracy

David Bullard asks why scorn is poured on those who make something of their lives

Last week's column (The Western Cape is a different country) attracted a large number of reads according to my esteemed editor. Quite why a piece contrasting the well run Western Cape with the appallingly badly run Gauteng province should strike such a chord I have no idea. But that's one of the great mysteries of column writing.

Something I think is terrific is often dismissed as "not up to your usual standard" by discerning readers and a piece I am ambivalent about (not that I don't try you understand) will be hailed as the greatest thing I've ever written. Go the Ayatollah Khomeini never said. After all, who would have thought that "50 Shades of Grey" would be such a sizzler at the book shops? Benoni housewives are, if the tabloid newspapers are to be believed, emptying sex shops of toys and discovering their inner sex slave.

One interesting comment on the column came from someone called Gavin Silber via Twitter (@GavinSilber). Mr Silber describes himself as a "co-ordinator at the Social Justice Coalition" which sounds terribly virtuous but may just mean that he puts stuff up on their website. His profile picture is of a face wrapped in a scarf suggesting that he would rather not be recognised.

Faces wrapped in scarves are more often than not associated with looting and with people lobbing petrol bombs into buildings but we should on no account make that association here. It's possible that Mr Silber is attempting to grow a moustache and is not yet ready to reveal it to all and sundry via social media. People can be terribly cruel on Twitter.

Unlike so many of you, Gavin Silber wouldn't recognise a well turned sentence if it bit him on the backside but he does make an interesting point. He Tweeted thus: @lunchout2's drivel on "Cape Town" would be comical if not shared by so many living lives of privilege & isolation.

I'm still crying myself to sleep over the "drivel" jibe but what really interested me is that there are still people who believe that privilege is wrong. So I pointed out to Mr Silber that what is perceived as privilege tends to go hand in hand with hard work. The denizens of Twitter were having none of it. What about inherited wealth they screamed? What about all those idle buggers hanging around doing nothing and living off what their parents left them? What about them indeed?

I have absolutely no problem with the concept of inherited wealth because those who inherit it either grow it or lose it all. Either way there is a trickledown effect. Those who object to the notion of inherited wealth are generally those who are not in line to inherit any I suspect. But I honestly doubt whether a significant percentage of the population can really look forward to vast inherited wealth so it's hardly a widespread problem. Most people I know might be in line for some family silver and some bulky furniture if they're lucky. The family money has all been spent on medical care, old aged homes and bailing out spendthrift grandchildren.

So who are the many that poor Gavin fumes at for living lives of "privilege and isolation" I wonder? Well he probably means boring old farts like you and me who always pay our municipal bills on time, file our tax returns, don't hide income away in dodgy tax havens and are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain our "privileged" standard of living. Of course we are aware that many people live in shacks and share inadequate toilet facilities but would giving up the en suite bathroom help matters? Of course it wouldn't.

But you can explain these things to a lefty until you're blue in the face and they still won't understand. That's because they simply cannot grasp the fundamentals of man's desire for self improvement and why they prefer to label those who have made something of their lives "privileged" as if that is something to be ashamed of.

The reason this country is in the mess it is in is that people have been encouraged to believe that the government will provide and they need do nothing. The result is that far too many just give up and wait for this miraculous delivery of all sorts of free goodies. And when it doesn't happen the likes of Mr Silber can only wring their hands and whimper about the unfairness of life and the widening gap between rich and poor.

Maybe he should encourage some of those he pities to become privileged (unless of course he believes the situation is completely hopeless in which case the Social Justice Coalition is nothing but a boondoggle). By so doing he would give them a purpose in life and would be helping to create and distribute wealth.

Instead, he and his ilk pour scorn on those who have made something of their lives, arrogantly assuming that living in a nice clean suburb in a well run city and striving for a better life one is, in some bizarre way, a betrayal of fellow South Africans who are less fortunate. It's an idiotic point of view because it promotes equality of poverty as the ultimate demonstration of democracy. It's the politics of envy. So thank you Mr Silber but pandering to the lowest common denominator hasn't got SA very far in the past 18 years and I doubt if it's a recipe for future success. And good luck with that moustache.

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