I aint no Mandela....hence my hustle?

2013-02-12 13:50

The grand daughters of Nelson Mandela have recently announced that they have their own reality television show, using their prominence to show off their everyday life to the rest of the world.

No, I am not excited that this might be better than the uninteresting Rolling with Kelly Khumalo.   However, it is apparent that in modern South Africa that a big name will get you far. It’s a pity that I don’t have Motsepe on my speed dial and I can’t just skype Zuma to holler at him to pledge a donation so I can escape my daily hustle.  Even worse, I don’t have a father who sits on a board of some conglomerate to sponsor my hobbies and to fund a “creative’ initiative I might have up my sleeve.

The announcement of Nelson Mandela’s granddaughters’ new TV show made it to international news slots as the two ladies were cheerfully announcing their claim to fame to the rest of the world. Watching the interview on BBC,  Swati Dlamini and Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway, left me with one conclusion:  prominence can take you far. If you have a “Madiba” name tagged to your identity you have a better chance of making it in this “cold world” than the average Joe on the street.

Watching the interview clip I was amazed to witness how the ladies seemed nonchalant about their association to the world’s most loved and revered statesman. The two look-alikes – in heavy makeup, glossy lips and crowned with soft dread hair extensions – kept on watering down the fact that they come from one of the most prominent black families in this now grey ‘rainbow nation’.

During a BBC interview one of the ladies, speaking in her US twang, mentioned that they were just from a “regular family”. She even referred to “Madiba” as their “grand dad” and Winnie Madikizela Mandela as “big mommy”, as if to give them synonyms that nullify their claim to fame and power. It was as if they were saying, forget that we benefit from the heritage of the man’s name and the other perks of coming from such a big family. Watching this made me wonder: Is it possible that these two elders are oblivious about the weight of their association because they are too familiar to the environment of access and reputation?

http://youtu.be/zGPri_DVJ18

It is true  that privilege gives people access to certain things that others will not have in their entire lifetime. Privilege can hand to you the comforts of a better education, life experience, more resources and professional connections.

I recently read an interesting piece by a community writer, Ally Fogg, who wrote on the subject of privilege in the Guardian.  Fogg says that privilege “is not the same as power, wealth or control, and is no guarantee of such rewards, it is better thought of as a mechanism which societies use to ensure power, wealth and control remain concentrated in the usual hands”. Fogg states that the “most important aspect to privilege is that we are often unaware of it.”

I have been surprised to witness friends, both black and white, who don’t understand how privileged they are. Some of them have jobs because they have been employed by their parents and others get to travel the world because they have a “trust fund” that allows them the lavish opportunity. Most of them dumb-down the opportunities to the statement: they worked hard for it and deserve it.

To be honest, I don’t think that privilege is wrong. I also don’t think that those who have this advantage are not hard workers and are undeserving. Then again, I do think with privilege there must be responsibility.

I think the responsibility starts with the privileged admitting that they have the upper hand. I have had conversations with people who have been made corporate bosses by their fathers dismissing the fact that choices were made in their favour.  Sometimes admitting that you were lucky enough to inherit a business, famous name or wealth is the best way to avoid pretence and superficialities.

The responsibility of privilege also depends on how people use this powerful force; do they use it for self-gain or for influence? Recently, South Africa’s mining magnate, Patrice Motsepe, announced that he would hand out a large sum of his money from his assets to fund education, health and social initiatives. Without understanding the reliability of this declaration and not knowing how the funds will be used, it has to be said that the principle of this idea is to be commended.  We can applaud individuals of great privilege who can think beyond the measure of their own gain to build the lives of others.

The challenge is also seeing the privileged creating opportunities to empower society with their influence, to inspire innovation to solve challenges and to affirm the human spirit that everyone can better themselves and fulfil their hopes.

Back to the "Mandela" reality TV stars. One of the granddaughters gets her turn to speak on the Mandela name; "Our grandparents have always said to us this is our name too and we can do what we think is best fitting with the name...".

Snap, pity I aint’ some white kid getting schooled to take over my father’s wine farm and clearly I aint’ a black girl who gets shares of some mega company because my parents are “comrades” of “the struggle”.

Well, I guess all I have left is my hustle.  As the cliche goes "Aluta Continua"...

(follow on twitter  @jazz2ben)

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