Thank you to the individuals willing to give their input regarding my questionnaire posted yesterday. It is specifically aimed at privileged South Africans (middle to upper classes) because in my opinion, we are are the ones who tend to complain most about trivial things out of sheer boredom. Trust me, I travel extensively, and middle class South Africans have it really easy compared to citizens of many developed countries.
The task was to answer yes or no to questions relating to a hypothetical South Africa, under an honest government, in 15 years from now. The point was to make people seriously reflect on our collective mentality as fairly privileged people, and to ask ourselves if change is indeed what we want. What exactly are we hoping to achieve, and how will we get there? It's one thing to vote for or against the government, but are we willing to change the current system? It seems that, minus my few regular troll fan club, many South Africans are indeed seeking solutions to some problems. Always good to know.
A reader asked what exactly I meant by 'change'. My answer is simple: I want to live in a just society, that is safe and supportive to all its citizens and kind to the environment. I want to see less corruption in both government and the (very scantily covered in the media) private sector. So here follows my questions again, with my answers, as well as explanations. Once again, feel free to comment, but trolls will be ignored:
1. Do you still want to have domestic worker and gardener? No
At present, since we have many unskilled people, there is definitely a need for these professions. However, I feel that South Africans have become very comfortable with cheap labour. Thus, although many complain about the state of education, few would seriously make an attempt to fight the system unless it directly affects their families. Do we really want more skilled people, which would mean less willing to scrub floors and clean toilets? Because let's be honest, you are not really doing charity by having someone work in your kitchen. YOU are benefitting here as well. Nobody in a developed country would work for R100 per day, why should this tendency still be the same in SA in 15 years?
2. Do you still want to be able to buy cheap imported products? No
Many people seem to agree that cheap imports are killing local industries and businesses. It also contributes to poor working conditions and low wages, because local businesses need to remain competitive. We need stricter market regulation, urgently.
3. Would you be happy to see large businesses paying only 28% tax? No
Since more money and resources are leaving the country than what is being put in by investors, I think it's only reasonable that big businesses, especially multi-nationals, should pay more than they do at present. As it is, white collar crime is rife, with many dodging taxes in anyway. 28% is simply not enough.More about big businesses later.
4. Do you still want to live in a security complex? No
South Africa remains the country in the world that spends the most money on private security per capita. But, since we are such a socially divided country, only a small percentage benefits from this. What is really heart breaking, is how many security guards go home at the end of the day to unsafe areas. How twisted is society, that someone willing to take a bullet for another doesn't have a place of safety to return to? It is also important to look at the real value these companies are adding to our lives, especially the multi-nationals. Plenty of them are operating here with dreadful track records abroad (such as fraud and running torture camps) and we are actually relying on them to protect us. And, let's be honest, South Africa's violent climate is beneficial to these people, and quite a few have been caught out operating crime cartels to manipulate people into paying for their services. Even in the case with companies with integrity, the fact that so much money is invested in security provides less incentive for the government to improve police services. Name me the government official who doesn't at least have a trelly and alarm system? Question is, how do we break the umbilical cord with this necessary evil? 5. Do you still want to drive a car without taking any passengers with you? No
We have become accustomed to a fairly luxurious and somewhat self-serving way of life, which entails hopping into the car and parking very close to your destination, without putting in much thinking as to what effect that has on the environment. Also, many South Africans are quick to whinge about traffic, but few would actually do something to change the situation. That's why I mentioned car pools. Also, quite a few people who contributed here said they'd like a decent public transport system. In my opinion that would solve a lot of problems. Thing is, how many South Africans are willing to pay extra taxes and make small sacrifices such as doing more walking?
6. Would you be happy to buy more second hand products and have less variety to choose from in shops? Yes
I don't believe that a consumerist culture is sustainable, especially when it comes to over-spending on products manufactured from natural resources such as diamond rings, cars, computers, etc. Let's face it, the mining industry is ruining our environment, and has a dire effect on social circumstances, such as communities not having access to clean water. I don't think we should completely stop mining, but there should be more emphasis on only extracting what we need. That's were the second hand thing comes in.
7. Do you want to work for a big company for an enormous salary as opposed to a small business with a comfortable but more modest income? No
It is well documented that big companies have the tendency to kill smaller ones, either through hostile acquisitions or through making it impossible for new-comers to enter the market. Small businesses often can't pay competitive wages as a result. Also, as I mentioned above, many multi-national companies have atrocious track records abroad. The list of businesses breaking competition laws, avoiding taxes and bribing governments is endless. Not to mention how much money is leaving the country because of our free trade policies which are supposed to boost 'investment'. What type of investment? What's more, many of these companies will conveniently convince us that they are doing society a favour by creating (terribly paid) unskilled jobs. Many may ask, but what about job losses when big companies are closed? I say, encourage skilled people with integrity working for these companies to take a leap and start their own businesses. We don't need these fat cats, only keep the investors here that are truly adding value and kick out the rest.
8. Would you be willing to have neighbours dependent on social grants? Yes
This has to do with freedom of access. In my opinion, service delivery protests are a mere symptom of a much deeper routed problem. Yes, the government are not doing a proper job, but I think a lot of the frustrations of people in impoverished areas have to do with the fact that they are cut off from the rest of the country. Many work so far away from home, having a negative effect on family life. Also, for many South Africans, it's futile to work, since transport costs more than their wages. Then there is the issues of shops. Smaller businesses such as Spaza shops often have to keep up with large supermarket chains, meaning that their products are really expensive. Thus, a person in an informal settlement has two options: paying an arm and a leg at the local Spaza, or paying the same for transport to the supermarket. That's why I think more affordable or subsidized housing should be made available in city centres and 'rich' neighbourhoods, so more people have the option to live close to work. A person living on grants would have a better chance finding a job if located closer to potential employers. That would lead to a larger work force which means a lighter tax burden per capita. Also, more people working means better social conditions which will lead to less crime. But in order for that to work, this entrenched classist thinking in our society has to end. Put people before property value.
9. If you have a business, will you be willing to do more of your own hard labour and pay unskilled laborers more? Yes
This is once again about our heavy reliance on unskilled labour. I really feel we should move away from the existing model that encourages hierarchies, and create jobs in new sectors. Also, once again, it should be made easier for people to start small businesses. Having less manual laborers, would mean that a business will have more funds to pay better wages. That would also mean for skilled employees and owners to occasionally get down and dirty, if mechanization is not possible.
10. Do you want to go through one single day without complaining about crap? Yes.
This does not need much explaining, but I am convinced that privileged South Africans (middle class and up) are the most ungrateful, draining individuals on the planet. It is hard to find positive people in this country, so if you are one of them, please don't get dragged down into this vicious cycle of complaining about everything. Stop blaming the 'maid', stop whinging about the SABC not showing enough good programs, bad traffic, beggars etc and count your blessings. Stick to the real issues and listen to those with reasons to complain.
11. Would you be happy to pay extra taxes both on your income and on certain products like alcohol and cigarettes to fund social benefits, such as free health care and education? YesHigher income tax is more aimed at upper classes, because I agree with many of the people commenting on my previous post that the middle classes are paying enough. Fact is,high taxation and generous social benefits are what make the most developed, safe societies function, and that's what we should aspire towards. The reasoning behind high taxation on alcohol and cigarettes is, that if good medical care becomes freely available, money spent on liver and lunge diseases should be covered by the main victims of these conditions: smokers and drinkers.
12. Would you be willing to learn to speak more than two of our official languages? Yes.
If you've read this far, I'm sure you can figure out why this is important...
In conclusion, my points above are things that should be challenged in our country, especially related to existing policies. I will NOT vote for a political party that doesn't try to address these issues....
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