One of the chilling messages that came out of this weeks Virginia Tech mass-shooting was a rant against materialism. In a video-taped “suicide note” Cho Seung-Hui is heard saying;
“Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren’t enough you snobs. Your trust funds weren’t enough. Your vodka and cognac wasn’t enough. All your debaucheries weren’t enough. Those weren’t enough to fulfil your hedonistic needs. You had everything”
Materialism can refer either to the simple preoccupation with the material world, as opposed to intellectual or spiritual concepts, or to the theory that physical matter is all there is. (source : allaboutphilosophy)
While a significant gap exists between the “haves” and the “have-nots”, tensions will exist. When the “haves” are actively encouraged to flaunt it if you have it, tragedies like the VT shooting will occur.
South Africa has for many years doggedly stuck to the so-called “old-fashioned” school uniforms right up to Matric. Children of lesser means dread the “civvies day” when all pupils are allowed to arrive at school in their finest branded clothing, and I am sure that absenteeism on these days increases. These poor children (and especially their parents) just cannot compete financially with the spoilt “haves”. If we dropped our school uniform policy, tensions would boil over.
I am sure that we are not alone in South Africa, but boom times, low interest rates, an emerging and suddenly liberated middle-class and easy access to credit has fuelled a massive spending binge. The hangover is going to be devastating, and has real political and social consequences. The recent call for an amnesty on “black-listings” at credit bureau, and a wiping clean of the credit slate is nothing compared to the problems that we are going to be faced with when the “fertiliser” hits the fan.
I saw an interesting design for a humane mouse trap yesterday. It simply consisted of a drum with a small hole at the top. You ensure that it is propped up against something that the mouse can climb up to get to the top of the drum (let’s call it the ladder) Inside the drum one places really smelly and irresistible food. The mouse smells it climbs, up the ladder onto the top of the drum, and without a second thought as to how it will extricate itself, pops into the hole and is trapped inside the drum. I found a picture of a similar design.
My interpretation of this mouse trap is as follows;
Mouse = Newly-emerged Black Middle Class.
Ramp/Ladder = Political Freedom to access credit for the first time.
Smelly Food = Easy Credit and low interest rates.
Popping into the hole = Greed.
The drum with no escape = The Credit Trap.
Let’s fight against rampant materialism. Let’s start appreciating family and friends again, for who they are, and not for what they own. All these material possessions are so temporary. Let’s fight against easy and tempting credit. There are no free lunches in life. It all has to be paid back WITH INTEREST.