Friday, March 2, 2007


When I first arrived, I was surprised, even disappointed to find that I had traveled 11,000 miles to visit what seemed like suburbia. Most of the rich (white) people here lead remarkably western, even American way of life. I wasn't expecting lions and monkey servants, but I had no idea that shopping in decadent malls would be just as much of a competitive sport, and a part of life, as the in the US. As we're becoming more integrated into the community, we're hearing more and more how much this way of life is an illusion available to those who can afford it. With 25% of the country unemployed (down from 40% a few years ago) and the upper income bracket beginning at R150,000 (about $22,000), the security and comforts of the mall centered existence are available to only a few. So it seems more than perverse that one of the largest, most expensive, and opulent malls in the city is dedicated to Nelson Mandela, complete with a giant bronze statute.

While racism certainly still exists, I can't help but think that the enormous class disparities are at play when people tell me that the country is on the verge of civil war. Although the new government has been incredibly successful in many areas, to the extent that social mobility has proven impossible for many, while whites continue to get richer, it's no surprise that many would feel tricked and betrayed.

From Joburg

No comments: