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Black people better not watch Kondo lest we get ideas to say goodbye to poorer kin

Fred Khumalo Columnist
Marie Kondo's book on how to remove clutter from your life has sold millions of copies.
Marie Kondo's book on how to remove clutter from your life has sold millions of copies.

It's amazing how a TV programme about such a banal subject as cleaning up your home can suddenly become a world-famous Netflix series, backed by a book that has sold five million copies.

I am of course referring to Tidying Up with Marie Kondo which has taken both the US and the UK by storm.

The show is hosted by the Japanese-born entrepreneur who guides people through the process of getting clutter out of their homes.

These might include antique furniture left them by parents, photo albums dating back generations, clothes that haven't been worn in months, and all other manner of stuff that might be considered "clutter" by those rich enough to continue buying and buying.

Not only does Kondo give you on-screen advice on clean-up operations that will "improve your life", you can even hire one of her consultants at a modest fee of $150 (R2,300) an hour (travel fees excluded) to come to your house for a clean-up operation.

For the simple reason that the economic divide between rich and poor in South Africa - this divide largely underpinned by race - the series wouldn't make much sense to the majority of local people.

Many South African homes are proud hosts to mismatched furniture items. When you visit such homes, the owner would proudly crow: "This chair I got from Baas Mitchell, and that sofa over there, I got from Mesis Bosman, and the coffee table from my younger brother's daughter's son, the one who lives in Sandton."

As a result, to the average lower- and middle-income South African - assuming they even have access to Netflix - the series would be one of those: "the-rich-people-are-at-it-again!"

Remember how we used to laugh at Kenny Kunene and his friends as they ate sushi off the naked bodies of nubile young women?

As a middle-class suburbanite myself, I look at the show as pure entertainment. I cannot for the life of me hire a person to come and advise me on how to get rid of clutter from my home. I don't buy junk anyway, but that's not the point.

Recently, the show got more interesting, with Kondo and her crowd suggesting that the same principles that are used in getting clutter out of one's home should be used to get rid of unwanted people in one's life.

Kondo says the principle should be applied to both friends and family. If you believe your spouse, siblings, or even your parents do not "spark joy" in your heart any longer, you must hug them, kiss them and thank them for all the things they've done for you in the past. Then leave them for good. Tell the maid not to open the gate for them in case they come unannounced.

It's a tempting proposition. There are some relatives who'll be more destructive to you than the friends you make at university, at work or even at the local tavern.

These relatives will take advantage not only of your generosity but will also not hesitate to sow discord between yourself and your spouse.

Just to bring you "down from the clouds", to use an isiZulu expression reserved for uppity people.

I have been intrigued by this latest development in the series because it contrived to remind me of what we call Black Tax.

In terms of Black Tax, a materially successful person is naturally expected to subsidise the education and financial wellbeing of her less lucky siblings, and even distant relatives.

Maybe black South Africans should be banned from watching Kondo's series as it might plant nasty ideas in their minds, ideas that might spell the death knell for Black Tax.

Like all taxes, this "tax" does get abused every now and then. But I believe it still serves an important social purpose and contributes, not insignificantly, towards black self-upliftment.