Obscene lesson for the youth

2010-11-06 13:26

It is no surprise that the bling brigade have used everything at their disposal to fend off criticism of their extremely lavish lifestyles.

They know only too well that a disapproving public will make it difficult for them to carry on with their naked display of wealth.

Over the past few weeks an ­unprecedented spotlight has ­revealed the extent of their oligarch-type non-stop spending that must startle those whose biggest dream is just to have something to eat and proper sanitation.

The bling brigade have protested very loudly that they are being unfairly targeted, and that they have every right to spend their vast fortunes on the most eccentric of their whims.

They may be right legally, but they are no fools and they know that if the social contract that has allowed them to spend as if they were living in the enclaves of St Tropez and Monaco were to disappear, they would have to restrain themselves.

Even as they carry on partying they know poor communities are praying for the miracle of ordinary services.

Bankrupt municipalities are telling them that there is no money for some of these services, and yet all around they see some people partying ­non-stop.

One thing that seems to escape many of the nouveau riche is that they are not the first to burst on the scene like dazzling new stars, only to peter out a few years later with nothing but shame written all over their faces.

Some of the biggest spenders of the past few years have gone bust, and are now penniless after a frenzied period during which they wanted to be known to have the hottest money in town.

They invited the media into their lives, letting it be known what they spent on every party?– even the price of the decor and the flowers was not overlooked.

Those who caution against this mad rush to spend it all are merely saying beware you don’t become the latest victim of your own excess.

But there is no doubt that the rush to become known as the most lavish spender, with the biggest, flashiest possessions is holding sway among some of those with the means to join in on this race.

And no doubt sizeable fortunes will continue to be ­squandered in a competition with no winners.

It is telling that they refuse to acknowledge the stark contrast ­between young children studying under a tree and the rich spraying each other with the rarest, most expensive champagne in the world. But their spirited fight to pretend this is merely an economic issue when it is clearly about social values shows that deep down they must grasp that something is amiss.

It must be demoralising to young people who still have no jobs, no skills and bleak prospects to see a small clique spend vast fortunes on trivia and newly found indulgences, like 50-year-old single malt whiskies.

The vigorous defence of the right to spend stupendous fortunes in such a highly public manner reveals the extent to which, for many of these members of the wealth sect, showing off is an essential reward of their achievement.

They must draw great pleasure from seeing glossy photographs of themselves indulging in every known luxury, and this seems to have added to the rush to host the most lavish parties and weddings.

It is fascinating to hear claims by some of the bling brigade that their out-of-control spending makes them role-models for the youth.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The majority of the youth just want someone to teach them how to make something of their lives, not how to spend like there is no tomorrow.

The youth may be impressionable, but they are not fools and while they may aspire to wealth of their own, they know many of these ­oversized parties are just meant to impress, not inspire.

If the new rich really want to be role-models, they must come out of their own bubble for a moment and inspire the youth through their hard work, not hard spending.

Yes, the rich can do anything with their money, but in a country such as ours with such dire poverty, how can they say that they have a right to do as they please without any sense of the shame at gluttonous excess?

Even the flimsiest understanding of ethical conduct suggests that our behaviour must not mock those whose circumstances are worse than ours.

Those with wealth to spare have a great opportunity to contribute to the strengthening of our democracy.

It may be worth pointing out to the bling brigade that even during the height of colonial segregation some members of the then black elite and middle classes built schools like the Ohlange Institute.

They dipped into their own ­resources to uplift the poor instead of leaving it to the state.

This is something that today’s über-rich should emulate.

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