Young boys grow into men. Young African boys sometimes grow into brats. After years of growing up with needs (not to mention, wants) unmet, the temptation to gorge themselves surfaces. Suddenly plenty replaces scarcity. Showing-off replaces modesty. New money joins old in the realm of larger-than-life living and spending. Law and morality become casual casualties.
It’s early evening at one of Jozi’s fly spots. My friend is late meeting us. It’s a big bunch of the newly employed and newly moneyed. And he’s desperately looking for parking. None exists, except on the red-lined periphery of where we are.
The only thing preventing him from parking there is the possibility of a traffic fine, or worse, the car being towed away, although the latter is unlikely in these parts. “Look, just budget an extra 300 bucks or so for the evening. That should cover the fine. And just park on the red line. What’s 300 for convenience?” someone exclaims.
A moment of pondering. Yes, 300 for convenience. Besides, it’s raining.
This is the value of money: Its ability to buy us conveniences. To allow us to live outside the rules, the rules of the road, of speed, of drinking or parking.
There is a proportion of good police, as there is of bad ones. Which is bigger is anyone’s guess. But we know that in Joburg, a few notes with Ms Marcus’ signature get you immunity. Not a lot of signatures though, even 50 bucks. What’s 50 bucks for convenience?
There is a proportion of citizens who are good, and those who are bad. The bad ones drink and drive. They speed. That proportion can be assumed to be bad. And when that proportion collides with the same proportion in the police – all in the path of money and its conveniences – the law, morals and life become casualties.
As government steps up its efforts to reduce road accidents due to drunken driving and speeding by placing roadblocks and stopping more than a million drivers, money will get in the way. The buying and selling of convenience will render those efforts futile. People will die.
Young men and women, raised with decency and morality, will defy their upbringing. This year’s crop of rands will most likely shield them from responsibility. The more money we have, the less we live within the rules. The less we need obey authority. It’s an old law from before we had the money.
The ministers of transport and of police will try. Their efforts will likely be shown as failures when the tally of road fatalities is completed after the holidays.
For those who have held on to their mother’s morality teachings, who still have some respect for human life, we wish you happy and safe holidays. It is you who are our heroes.
For the rest, money may buy you some criminal immunity, but a peaceful conscience cannot be bought. Even if it could, the price is not yet low enough. Happy holidays! DM
Xhanti Payi is a writer short of a few best selling books and a Nobel Prize. He works as an economist, researcher and advisor to various institutions. A staunch believer in clever blacks and would-be clever blacks short of opportunity. Proper pronunciation of the click is optional.