Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The Rules we See

The way we see the world is path-dependent. Which means occasionally we have to reassess the way we remember seeing things. I didn’t grow up feeling like I was wealthy. I grew up with money fights and money anxiety. I felt like my life was quite simple. 

In retrospect, and in a South African, or global context... that is not true. I was part of the Durban Youth Council when I was 16 years old. In 1996, Theresa Mthembu was the mayor of the South-Central Durban Council and took me on a tour of some of the areas I had never seen. We went to her house in Umlazi, and though it was on the other side of the hill from where I lived, I had never been. 

In the Apartheid world I grew up in, you had the highway winding through Kwa-Zulu Natal, and you could drive from bubble to bubble. This is the same highway the Comrades Marathon is run along, with suburbs along the route. 

On the outside of the suburbs, you had the areas that supported them. In the whites-only areas, you would still have domestic workers, gardeners, and people working in shops. People who kept the system going but were hidden. Like in the connected world we still live in where we still limit the movement of capital, goods, service, and people. 

In that transitionary period when things started opening up, you could go over a hill and see an area that is home to half a million people. Something you can’t unsee. 

Wealth is always relative. When we consider how well we are doing financially, we tend to benchmark aspirationally against those doing better. This means people seldom feel like they are doing well financially, and are at peace with their finances. We are communal animals and our communities set the rules we see.

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