Today, the 27th of April 2019 we celebrate 25 years of a democratic South Africa. For some there’s much to celebrate but there’s a sense that for the majority democracy has been a big let down. Those who are celebrating and those that are seeing today through the lens of disappointment have their reasons and I have mine too. Earlier this month I came across a quote along these lines “We can never consume our way to equality but we can produce our way to equality’.
Reading this in April, which carries a significant anniversary milestone for our young democracy got me thinking. Are those South Africans who are let down by our democracy using consumption as a metric to measure equality? The car one drives, their home address, where they shop for their suits, shoes & bags, where they party and spend their holidays. Essentially using lifestyle to measure equality. If lifestyle is the metric then increasing one’s productivity is a much better way to demand an upgraded lifestyle rather then demanding the consumption habits of people on a different productivity level then your own. The beauty of emphasizing productivity over consumption is that it forces one to focus on the fruits of ones labor rather than the unfavorable comparison to other people’s fruit that a consumption bias lens produces.
Productivity focuses your lens to what you can give, your contribution rather than what you can get. Remember what we focus on magnifies our experience therefore as a young democracy that is still laying its foundations, everyone’s contribution matters and it’s needed in order to build South Africa into a glorious nation with a future that betrays the consequences of its dark past. Building a nation requires each one to build their own life by making a contribution to their community and the economy through their productivity.
If we, as South Africans decide to be more productive and become contributors, will our productivity lead to equality? If equality is your desired end, ask yourself these questions- is there a true measure of equality of outcome? What metric does one use to measure equality of outcome? Why does equality of outcome stir up the strongest emotions when it comes to the distribution of wealth that results from productive economic activity and yet in other spheres it doesn’t get as much attention? For example, all 400m sprinters at the Olympic finals put in the work required to prepare themselves for that 400m final race. Yet all of them and us watching accept the outcome of the race without demanding that Wayde van Niekerk share the victor’s spoils and the endorsements that come with being a world record holder with the other runners. Maybe we should spend a lot more time thinking about these questions before we lose the opportunity we have of building South Africa into a beacon of hope for our globalized village.
Today is Freedom Day. Just think about your freedom and the comforts you enjoy because of your freedom. But beware. Comfort breeds mediocrity and it’s the very thing that binds us to the chains that keep us enslaved. I’m sure you’re seeking freedom in one way or another so another question for you is – are you comfortable in your search for freedom or are you dealing with the discomfort of navigating your way into freedom?
In your quest for personal freedom, have you considered how you would free yourself from these three – the lust of the eyes, the insatiable desire of the flesh and the pride of life? Or have you not realized that you are in bondage to these three? Breaking free of these three could be the only way of finding freedom from the idea of equality of outcome. Is there someone greater than Nelson Mandela to free us?