I've often wondered if becoming morally outraged on a regular basis is a condition of employment for people who work at the Mail & Guardian. I ask this question in all innocence because I have become rather addicted to Twitter of late. It's not a particularly healthy addiction I know but I do try and restrict myself to no more than an hour a day and I never go to lunch with people and Tweet from a mobile device such as a smart phone or an iPad. That's not because I don't want to or because I have impeccable manners; it's just that the prohibitive price of 3G connectivity puts it way beyond what a poor pensioner can afford.
Here at home my laptop and iPad are linked up to a wireless service and I have about 20 gigs (whatever they are) to play with every month. Hence the Twitter addiction. Back on the first working day of the year I made a deliberately provocative comment about inequality (Inequality demonises the successful and celebrates the economically useless) which was picked up by Nickolaus Bauer of the M&G.
Clearly 2nd January was a slow news day and poor Nick had obviously drawn the short straw and was bored out of his mind. So after he Tweeted his earnest reply -"Inequality isn't made up. It's REAL, Mr Capitalism"- I thought we might be in for a decent debate on the topic. No such luck I'm afraid.
After a few other Twitterers had weighed in with comment young Nick decided that it was all getting rather complicated and did what any good lefty would do in the face of a robust debate; he legged it leaving a Tweet for me,- "I just thought I would try and waste as little of my time as possible on politically incorrect dinosaurs like you in 2013". Maybe he was overcome with emotion at the thought of all that inequality out there.
As I am sure you know we are going to hear a lot more about inequality in the run up to next year's election, mostly from politicians who drive very expensive German cars and think nothing of billing the taxpayer for their personal expenses. Sadly the irony will be lost on most of the electorate. The leftist press always speak about inequality as though it was a bad thing and a uniquely South African problem.
Then they talk about something called "privilege" which is presumable what everybody who doesn't fall into the inequality catchment area suffers from. Inequality is terrible but privilege is even worse because it has been gained through the theft of land and the colonial enslavement of an entire nation. Quentin Tarantino will probably make a movie about it one day.
My argument with Mr Bauer, if it had been allowed to take place, was going to suggest that inequality is everywhere, always has been and always will be. Inequality is what pushes people to strive for a better life. If there was a law passed saying that we all had to be equal with the same amount of money in the bank, the same salary for every job, all driving the same car and living in the same sized house then how happy do you think we would be?
Inequality can only be eradicated if you are prepared to accept the sort of zombie society favoured by North Korea. That ultimately results in equality of poverty, dreadful mediocrity and a crashingly dull social dynamic. After all, if you know that by excelling you can't expect to earn more or to live better than anyone else then what possible motive would you have for getting out of bed in the morning. It's no accident that the US, one of the most unequal societies in the world, has also been one of the most successful. I doubt if Steve Jobs would have been particularly bothered about developing the iPod if there had been no potential financial reward.
Hopefully Mr Bauer would have come back with the argument that inequality in South Africa poses a different problem in that it needs to be addressed to prevent massive social upheaval. In which case I would have agreed with him. But surely that's what we have been paying taxes for these past 19 years?
If the billions that have disappeared in the arms deal and countless subsequent corruption scandals had been correctly spent then there would be a great deal less inequality than there is. And if the government had spent our money more prudently over the past 19 years instead of frittering it away on overseas junkets and fact finding tours then there might have been a better chance of at least narrowing the inequality gap. It's all very well being a morally outraged lefty but only if you are also prepared to admit that it's not all the fault of we "privileged" exploiters of cheap African labour.
The current politically correct thinking is that privileged people (particularly whites) should carry an albatross of guilt around their neck. We should be ashamed of our pale skins and should refrain from making any suggestions as to how the country could be better run because, quite simply, it's not our country.
Fortunately, proponents of such extreme views are widely regarded as nutters with too much time on their hands. To misquote Gary Player, the harder you work, the more privileged you become. What the lefties don't seem to be able to grasp is that, by paying for things like private education, private medicine and private security, we privileged folk are removing a huge burden from the state. And don't forget we've already paid for the state run version though our taxes so we are paying twice over.
So when the child of a victim of inequality needs to go to hospital people like me won't be clogging the waiting room and soaking up the limited funds available. And for that alone I think the unequal owe the privileged a huge debt of gratitude.
Politicsweb contributors David Bullard and Eusebius McKaiser will be arguing about South Africa's future over breakfast at the Sandton Convention Centre on 30th January.....to book click here.
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