The great middle class debate: Ditch the armchair for open activism

2014-01-22 10:00

I hold a PhD, live in a predominantly white suburb and enjoy all the luxuries that most middle class people take for granted.

Each day when I drive to the university campus where I work, I am greeted by young men who line the streets around my neighbourhood.

They have their fingers pointed up, as we do when hailing a township taxi. Except they’re not signalling for a taxi, they’re asking for piece jobs from local white people – a grim reminder of the harsh reality of what politicians have come to call “youth unemployment”.

You suggest that given the absurdly high taxes we pay in more ways than one, it’s about time we as middle class people demand better services and improved infrastructure.

We have not only tolerated poor services and decaying public infrastructure, but have become silent in view of daylight robbery by government.

There are reasons for this silence and the apathy that we see in middle class people, one of which is that as black middle class people, we are expected to be loyal to the ANC government even when it fails to deliver on its constitutional mandate.

Our identity as black middle class people seems to be associated with blind loyalty to the ANC.

Those of us who criticise government are called names such as “educated blacks” who don’t appreciate the changes the ANC has brought to “our people”.

Those who are in power have launched scathing attacks on black middle class people who are critical of some of the policies and actions of our modern-day politicians.

The other reason is that government has used patronage in the form of high-paying jobs and business tenders to keep the black middle class in a state of perpetual servitude to those in power.

Black middle class people who have corruptly benefited from government business are seen wining and dining with big-time politicians.

As they say, you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you.

The other reason is that the black middle class is guilty of leaving politics to the politicians. We have become so trapped by the material possessions of middle class life and we wake up every morning hoping that someone else will fix the mess for us and get this country on the right track.

We have become armchair critics and only speak ill of government over glasses of fine wine and premium whisky.

I’ve abandoned being an armchair critic and have shifted my political action to a political party that is committed to creating an open-opportunity society for all of us, irrespective of race, political connections and socioeconomic class. That party is the DA.

Our silence will not help our country. As Irish statesman Edmund Burke points out: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

I have chosen to take the path of open political activism.

»?Faleni is a lecturer at the School of Educational Sciences at North-West University’s Vaal Triangle Campus

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