Monday, June 19, 2017

How Much?

South Africa is on the podium for inequality. It is a visceral example of lives in parallel. Extreme poverty is right next door to opulent wealth. To be clear, South Africa is not at war, has a strong constitution, institutionalised checks on power, and a very vocal public who push back on abuse. A public that defeated Apartheid will not fall easily. There are many strong, resilient communities, that simply don't have enough. It is not a failed stateBut ... we tend to compare 'up'. To where we aspire. South Africa is one of the places in the world where it is most difficult to ignore people who are struggling because of the contrast, despite Global Apartheid meaning starker contrasts are real, but not as visual. Your immediate neighbours can't live in a war zone while you live in peace. Fire spreads. Global neighbourhoods are more like the frog in boiling water.

I am a big believer that you can't 'ignore Cape Town'. Like Schrödinger's cat, the boiled frog doesn't just disappear if you close the box by hopping in a plane. A 'Champagne Socialist' is someone who claims to be against inequality, and yet their belief is not reflected in their day to day life. They chink glasses while getting angry about the have-nots, 'someone should really do something about that.' We are our actions, not our intentions.

I also believe we are human, and have to look after ourselves. You should never be more than a half-hearted fanatic.There is no point in being a hero, because heros normally die. If you set yourself up as some pious devotee, but you aren't able to sustain that lifestyle, others will just look at it and say, 'wow, that is amazing, but there is no way I could do that.' or 'what an idiot'. Small, sustainable, changes on the other hand can have a multiplied effect.

Two questions I regularly ask, and have not yet found a comfortable way of answering, are 'How much is enough?', and 'How much is doing enough?'. The first question is a 'me' question. If the answer is 'more', then you will never be able to lift your eyes to the second question. You will end up living hand to mouth where you are lived, more than you are living.

There are knock on questions about Conspicuous Consumption, Conspicuous Hoarding, Shared Space and Community Building. The world we see may be the only world we know, but it is not the only world there is.

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