It’s time to fight the wave of materialism

2011-07-30 10:54

I respect Rastafarianism ­because it is the only religion in my view that has been able to reject the values that have come to be accepted as normal and universal.

Rastafarianism has been able to reject materialism, which has ­become one of the most disturbing values of today’s society.

It has become the norm in this country, and globally, that success and growth is measured in material terms.

This is a disturbing phenomenon in a country that is, according to the Gini coefficient, the most ­unequal society in the world.

It is ­also equally disconcerting that the poor and the working class have ­internalised and espoused the ­values of the dominant class.

Go to every shack and every ­village in the country and you will discover that the dream of many poor people is not to have enough to live on, but enough to show off.

It’s what Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist, was talking about when he spoke of cultural hegemony.

According to Gramsci, the ­working class needs to develop a ­culture of its own, one that will ­undermine the notion that bourgeoisie values represent natural and normal values of society.

Daily soapies, such as Generations and Isidingo, and other local magazine programmes, such as Top Billing and Pasella, perpetuate this kind of materialistic culture, which our people, especially the poor, need to reject.

The producers of the TV soapie Muvhango stand out because they are trying to champion another form of success – the notion of simple people living extraordinary lives.

As a result of cultural hegemony, fewer young people aspire to get ­PhDs, to write books or become the conduits of social transformation. The thinking in today’s society is: if it’s not going to make me rich, it’s not worth the trouble.

Mzala Nxumalo died at the age of 35 having written a number of academic and political papers, and a now-famous book, Gatsha Buthelezi: Chief with a Double Agenda. ­

Steve Biko died at the age of 30 as a world-renowned activist and intellectual with a number of academic papers and books under his name.

These individuals died without driving flashy cars or staying in ­expensive golf estates. Their contribution to the development of our people and this country cannot be measured in monetary terms.

Given that culture is ancillary to both political and economic objectives, poor people need to create and fight for their own cultural space, one where ubuntu, patriotism, hard work, intellectualism and academic excellence become the values.

These values will help produce ­intellectuals from within the ­working class whose sole mission is to change the status quo in favour of the working-class agenda.

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