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August 11, 2007

Comments

Joey

Harvey,

I find myself wondering what the purpose of this blog is when I read bizarre statements like:

"Consumerism is inherent to human nature and to some extent its probably quite healthy."

I guess it does justify the Beamer.

Harvey

Joey,

Thanks for your comments. There's a lot of grey.

My colleagues went from "war" to plush leather seats. From race based townships to smart flats in trendy neighbourhoods.

Consumerism may have a much different connotation and meaning to once deprived societies as opposed to very wealthy and stable ones like the West.

Edson Castilho

I'd like to echo Joey's sentiments. Consumerism is a western invention. It benefits the wealthy and keeps them that way. Last time I checked, South Africa is actually worse off now in terms of standard of living for the black majority than back in the wonderful days of apartheid. The mistake they made was to believe the garbage that markets and capitalism was the way to go. South Africa could have chosen a different path (like Venezuela) but chose instead to enable a few former revolutionaries to afford beamers and have the vast majority continue to live in third world conditions, not to mention enabling one of the worst AIDs epidemics in the world because of government inaction. Unbelievable that you can write such stuff!

Chau for now

Edson

Harvey

Hi Edson,

Thanks for the comments. I don't disagree with some of your points. It's incredibly tragic that South Africa has one of the highest HIV Aids rates in the world. This looming economic and demographic disaster is mind boggling.

I found it extremely difficult to debate consumerism with my ex colleagues in Joburg given their past suffering.

Family members machined gunned by government agents, fathers incarcerated on Robben Island, police raids at the middle of the night, brother shot down in the Soweto riots, a gun firing blanks held against my landlord's temple and etc., In meetings with one co-worker, his mind would drift away in the middle of a discussion. I subsequently discovered he was tortured. On the other side of the coin, I've met white South African's who were drafted in the army and were sent to destabilize neighbouring black sovereign states. The things they did were scarring on themselves.

I suspect people who have experienced extreme trauma over long periods of time view BMW's, sharp flats, and nice phones a little differently than Westerners. To be frank, given their unimaginable suffering, I was always a bit sheepish of calling them on their fascination for luxury cars. Wouldn't you?

Edson Castilho

Hey Harvey

To answer your last question, of course I would feel sheepish. Especially as I was a white South African who benefited from the exploitation of black people by a racist regime. However, I still think you completely miss the point of my post which is that a decision was made by those who ascended to power post 1994 to follow the neoliberal path instead of a path that would benefit the majority. Now you have a country where some of the former leaders of anti-apartheid action (your friends you write about) have the luxury of affording beamers while the vast majority languish in abject poverty in a country that is still immensely rich in resources! That is the unbelievable part about what you write, to take this trivial little issue of the newly well-off wanting what we want while ignoring the larger ramifications of a society modelled on the west in which the rich prosper and everyone elsi gets screwed!

Chau for now

Edson

Harvey

Hi EC,

I won't get into the debate about who interpreted what. It's not worth it.

What your bang on is the path the ANC took which is what the IMF, World Bank and every other development bank is forcing the developing world into.

Personally, I feel Capitalism is the least evil of all our economic systems. There are no hunting and gathering societies nor primitive economies left. Hence it's either crackpots like Kim, despots like the oil kingdoms or communist dictatorships.

I rather take my chances with Capitalism where the state doesn't hound me because of this blog. Don't get me wrong, our economic system is ruthless with the vulnerable. We're all reduced to cogs in a huge widget machine. Check out "You're Fired" on this blog.

Venezuela is bit of an anomaly right now because of the oil boom. It's becoming a dictatorship something that South Africa is far from. It may not be the best model.

Penetrating comments - thanks.

Edson Castilho

Harvey

Thanks for your responses to my posts. Glad you've kept it civil, something I have to work on a bit but these issues do get me riled!
Why do you say you believe capitalism is the best economic system. The evidence is all around us that it isn't. And it wasn't capitalism that Winston Churchill was talking about when he said this is the worst system except for all the others - he was talking about democracy. I'm rather more inclined to side with that argument than your contention that capitalism is the best economic system. A worker run system has never existed. Hunter gathering won't come back for a while yet, at least not until global warming and environmental destruction kills most of us anyway - thanks capitalism. Then we'll be back to those "ideal" primitive societies. There are alternatives to capitalism and they need to be tried, now more than ever.
And one more thing. Please don't believe everything you read in the corporate press about Venezuela. Without any sense of irony I can state that the US and Canada are much closer to dictatorships than Venezuela currently is. You're probably basing your thoughts on the Venezuelan government's decision not to renew RCTV's license for perfectly legitimate reasons. The reason you don't see it here is because the CRTC is a paper tiger that routinely lets Canadian broadcasters get away with violating the conditions of their licenses. In Venezuela, RCTV openly supported the US-backed coup and deliberately doctored footage to make it look like pro-government supporters were responsible for the shootings that occurred during the mass protests that resulted in the democratically elected Chavez being reinstated. The responsible party were pro- coup thugs. I'd say that's a pretty sound basis for revocation.
Anyway, we probably won't be able to reach any kind of agreement on these issues, but I'm much more inspired by Venezuelan efforts that have resulted in millions of poor having access to education and health care that they never had before, rather than the results in South Africa where there appears to be much hand-wringing about whether it is right to condemn the lucky few for buying beamers!

Harvey

EC,

Capitalism is the least evil of our economic systems - when properly regulated -because it permits individual choice. No other system works because the vast majority of humans won't allow it to naturally emerge. Instead we have shocking experiments where a few individuals decide for the majority like Pol Pot, Communism and etc.,

Chavez is slippery. It's highly admirable that he's doling hundreds of millions to the poor and is encouraging an alternate system. The real test of his conviction for humanity is the relinquishment of power. All signs point otherwise. Often "the fight for the oppressed" is just a bridge to dictatorship. Mugabe and a host of other despots are classic examples.

There are a handful of leaders who understand the necessity of finite leadership. Mandela is one. Castro is not. Neither were Blair, Chretien and Chirac. Maybe Chavez? I doubt it.

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