Today’s road race was at the Elkah Stadium adjacent to Thokoza Park in Soweto. While driving home listening to 702 Talk Radio listeners airing their humdrum concerns, it struck me forcefully that many of the denizens of Moroka now face a different foe from one endured during the turbulent 1970’s, the dreaded middle class woes.
Never fatal but its symptoms are overwork, stress and a lack of free time.
Main picture: Soweto is a symbol of the New South Africa, caught between old squatter misery and new prosperity
While still contemplating the fact that, at best, the organisation of the past few road races held in black townships, could at best be classified as mediocre, I cast my mind back 25 years to what life was like in this area. Firstly, the spruit and its dam in Ntuli Street was nothing better than a stinking sewer and the local residents were treating the area as a dumping ground.
While running through the area during the Soweto Marathon 25 years ago, many of the manhole covers – or are they called sewerage inspection covers nowadays – were oozing raw sewerage into the streets, which one had to gingerly slosh through. Some white runners would even berate the local inhabitants for not having any civic pride by allowing it to happen whereas it was clearly a municipal responsibility. Overflowing sewers is now a distant memory.
Apart from upgrading the road past UJ’s Soweto Campus, dedicated bus lanes are now also being built.
Aside from the upgrades undertaken by the municipality, the condition of the houses has visibly improved. The state of the gardens and the pavements now often reeks with a far different odour; that of unbridled pride. No longer are these buildings a series of warren holes where maintenance was clearly never a priority.
In terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, security is the foundation stone. The so-called Security Need has clearly been satisfied and by extension, these inhabitants’ basic needs.
In all likelihood, they now face what the academics would ostentatiously label as the Middle Class Woes.
What are the symptoms of this frightful affliction and how can one avoid them?
Disturbingly one of the related maladies derives from a common human frailty known metaphorically as Keeping up with the Jones, probably referred to as Keeping up with the Dlaminis in this area. The colour green is often associated with this disease. Amongst other things, its victims are often colloquially referred to as being Green with Envy. As an aside, no scientific proof has yet been obtained confirming that one’s complexion does indeed change colour as alleged.
Its source has been reliably determined as non-bacterial but rather psychological. It manifests itself in an irrational attempt at one-upmanship. Its manifold manifestations are revealed in an ever-increasing desire to prove that one’s possessions are the latest, the greatest so as to cause angst in another party. Whilst this may have positive benefits by driving a desire for promotions at work, by doing so one has to work harder. Furthermore, in the wake of the trail of unnecessary purchases, one can experience complications known as the debt spiral.
Next on the list of acquisitions for the Morokans, after smarter cars will come the need for pools. Like all acquisitions, other duties, costs and obligations are attached to them such as Sundays spent cleaning the pool, replacing the filter sand and the bane of all pool owners, keeping the dreaded algae at bay.
A new burden on these poor souls would now be shopping for Christmas presents, not just any present, but only the best gadgets on the market. Last year’s items would no longer suffice or be acceptable. Tired legs, empty wallets or burdensome debt are normally associated with this malady.
They need not be overly concerned, as most crucially, this disease is not incurable. Recently in a medical breakthrough, a cure for this normally lifelong disease has been developed. After extensive testing, it has been conclusively proved that by moving into the Upper Class, one’s servants can fulfil most of the basic tasks with party planners, personal shoppers, dog walkers, pool cleaning services and the like performing all the other time consuming and mundane functions.
This should instantly relieve one of these duties and its consequence; worrisome woes.
I bet that the worthy residents of Moroka did not realise what inconvenience, anxiety and distress they would be subjecting themselves to by joining the Middle Class.
Let that be a lesson to them.
One often gets what one wishes for, together with its negative consequences.