The character of a society is determined by what people do with their free time

The writer argues that expecting people to be sober on Sundays is perhaps unfair. People have the right to blow their money - even on Sundays. /123rf
The writer argues that expecting people to be sober on Sundays is perhaps unfair. People have the right to blow their money - even on Sundays. /123rf

Weekends for most South Africans are party time but they could be better spent reflecting on the world we live in

Occasionally, I do visit Busy Corner in Tembisa for a Sunday afternoon braai.

It is always full of the black middle class, swallowing alcohol as if the next day is not a Monday.

The cars parked outside tell the story: these are people who have made it, clearly enjoying life.

To expect people to be sober on Sundays is perhaps unfair, for people have a right to blow their money - even on Sundays.

What excites curiosity is not the alcohol people consume on Sundays, nor the church sermons others attend; it is the intellectual character of our new black middle class.

When people have made it, should there still be room for their non-materialistic growth - a growth connected more with the mind than the body?

Such is the puzzle one grapples with whenever one is confronted with a bunch of dedicated hedonists.

In The Hedgehog and the Fox: Essay on Tolstoy's View of History, Isaiah Berlin reminds us that the great Russian thinker Tolstoy "lived in an environment exceptionally crowded with theories and ideas".

In that kind of atmosphere, the educated stratum of society - the middle and upper classes - would be found in public or private libraries saturating their minds with knowledge, not in shebeens drenching their bodies with alcohol.

The character of a society is not judged when people are at work. It is determined by what people do with their free time. Leisure is a choice, work generally not.

The finest products of the mind are outcomes of a truly free and self-driven will. In formal employment, the will languishes under the tyranny of an obligation. There are philosophers, a la Bertrand Russell in The Quest of Happiness, who imagine an ideal society whose enlightened citizens work four hours per day, and expend the bulk of their remaining time on leisure.

In such an enlightened society, people would not run to the bottle store the moment they exit the gates of their employer. The poets would rush to the most splendid rivers and picturesque mountains, to give the poetic spirit its highest inspiration. And technologists would pour time into the fascinations of private invention.

Let there be no confusion: there is nothing fundamentally problematic about the idea of rest. Even God gave himself a weekend after the draining task of creating heaven and earth.

The inescapable expectation is for he who rests to show the products of his sweat. God's majestic oceans, splendid rivers and prodigious mountains are there for all to behold.

Can we say the same about the black middle class who swallow litres of alcohol at Busy Corner every Sunday? Must we give them a Bells? Have they produced the luxury cars parked outside?

It may be true that God was assisted by His angels when creating heaven and earth, but there can be no doubt about God being the mastermind of creation.

In their defence, the black middle class could say that they work for Ford, VW or Toyota and therefore argue that the cars they drive are made by black people.

God's angels are much wiser not to advance such a stupid argument.

The cars we, the black middle class, drive are not the artistic expression of our creative spirit. We rest not to enjoy the fruits of our work, but to showcase other people's artistry and intellectual creativity.

A day has yet to come for the black middle class, and black people in general, to fully acquire the duality that gives man the uniqueness of his nature - as an animal, and as man. Everything that man does - that is, everything that justifies his rest - must constitute a valuable deposit into the bank of history, testifying to man's worth as a special being.

So, as you enjoy alcohol or go to church next Sunday, ask yourself the question: What have I created?

If the answer is connected to your formal employment, consider thyself historically worthless.

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