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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
Van Rooyen suddenly withdraws his interdict

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i Am middle class and proud of it

By unknown | Jul 13, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

IF YOU listened to some of the mainstream government communication and you were middle class or better, you would be forgiven for thinking that you do not matter.

IF YOU listened to some of the mainstream government communication and you were middle class or better, you would be forgiven for thinking that you do not matter.

It seems to me that there is an inordinate amount of talk about what the government is doing for the poor and the other marginalised, and nothing about how the rest of society - the rich, middle classes and the whites are part of the new project.

Now, before the ultra-leftist and black nationalists get excited, let me declare that any government that initiates programmes to help the poorest out of their morass, especially when they also happen to be in the majority, deserves to rule until whoever they wish to return returns.

We, the middle class, will never be completely free and enjoy the fruits of our liberation for as long as the smell of poverty and marginalisation hangs in the air.

But that should not make those of us who are middle class embarrassed to be in that category.

Instead of celebrating the success of the people who since 1994 have acquired the new status, placing us as close as possible to the realisation of the living wage demanded by the worker movement from time immemorial, we are made to feel guilty that we are in that class.

While I am happy that the government has built 2,6million houses for the previously homeless, returned hectares and hectares of land to the dispossessed and provided safe drinking water and electricity to communities that previously had none, I keep waiting for them to say something to me, who already has running water and electricity in my house.

One gets a sense that our government feels a tad embarrassed with its role in increasing the number of people belonging to this class, even though many of us are direct beneficiaries of its policies such as employment equity and economic empowerment.

Furthermore, instead of pointing to tarred roads (important as they are) and the poorly built RDP houses, the government could use us as living adverts of what is meant by how life has changed since we removed the yoke of apartheid rule.

The marketers seem to be the only people who seem to appreciate that we are middle class. That is why they go around calling us names like black diamonds and induce us to drink what Julius Malema once referred to as "dated alcohol".

Maybe government's coyness with middle class achievements must be blamed on this class' tendency to think itself better than the rest of society - like when they once sought the right to vote for the educated native.

But it is the same class of "chiefs and gentlemen" that formed the South African Native National Congress, and until the most recent ANC elections, led the party.

We simply have no need to pander to the whims of those who romanticise working class or peasantry circumstances.

This especially since such a lot are often intellectual converts to the life they wax lyrical about. If not, they are the people so trapped in a backward mindset that they think that you need to be dirt poor to be "genuinely" black.

One wonders what those who conflate revolutionary blackness with being poor and uneducated make of the many pictures of the likes of Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe looking all regal and sophisticated. One of my favourite Struggle pictures is that of Mandela dressed in a double-breasted suit outside court. Next to him is a gentleman in a three-piece suit smoking a cigarette.

Unlike some of our academics and "revolutionaries", I have been working class before and when I compare things, I really like being middle class and I am not about to start apologising for it.


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