Vote with your conduct

Ignoring every dustbin along the way someone walking through the town would claim to create jobs by dumping a plastic package in the middle of nowhere. On one hand, there is not much of a consistent pattern when it comes to how and where dustbins are located in small towns, and neighbourhoods. There is, however a pattern in the way people throw things around uninhibited. Getting rid of it in a way that begs someone to bend over and pick it up in an orange overall, facing the sun, and captive to a skill-less position. Each time the phrase “job-creation” is spat out in the political economy the young people washing cars, picking trash, clearing informal dumping sites and employees burning assets comes to mind.

Recalling Moeletsi Mbeki’s argument that after 1994, South Africa only has a bourgeoisie, but not a true middle-class reveals the debt-laden, asset-less and artificially constrained “middle-class”. Frantz Fanon’s argument emerges regarding the role of a middle-class being a class of educated individuals with interests in industry, innovating systems and an acute awareness of the state of the nation. He posits that the “middle-class” shares knowledge through mutual education, and does not separate itself from the plight of households with different circumstances. Furthermore, Paulo Freire contends that the oppressed must devise curricula that is responsive and reflective of their plight, ambitions and structural qualities. An approach to education that is mutually devised and aligned with practical problems, circumstances and one which enables the formation of behaviours that are fertile ground for genuine development.  In order for households to participate in the “middle-class”, they may need to shift away from consumption without production, creation and innovation. In this sense it could be feasible to induce a “middle-class” that serves as a body of influence beyond the flamboyance of Rococo, but into three major themes:

  1. An in depth awareness of the practical economics, logistics and politics involved in identifying, developing and distributing services;
  2. A critical understanding of their circumstances and the individual, household and community psychology which influence the environment and propensities toward self-determination;
  3. A long-term praxis for the industrial, agricultural, administrative and technical needs to manage the future in a manner that brings as much food as ethics to the table.

When there is a collapse in municipal administration, and rubbish collection contracts fall short, no trash is collected. Families turn to open spaces in the middle of the neighbourhood to dump their hard-earned junk. On hot summer days, windows gape open and the stink leaks into nearby homes. Some people burn the rubbish in order to reduce this stench, while each day more and more families bring their impatience with the municipality to their distant neighbour’s doorstep. Even without a collapse in garbage collection contracts, or such market failures, households randomly pile the dump somewhere and vote. They vote to inconvenience their neighbours; they vote to not collectivise and rent a truck that could collect and dump the excess more responsibly. We vote to be irresponsible by tucking that empty snack-pack on the road somewhere. That vote says: this is how the next person, and I deserve to live.

This is a pattern which lent one minister to some humour when he purported that Kigali in Rwanda just doesn’t experience such. Rapidly growing, ambitious and small, Kigali is on a development roll that many small towns and big city dwellers may need to study more deeply. Rwanda emerges from deeply rooted conflict to navigating through the global stage with ambitious results in city planning, information technology and agriculture. Citizens there, as elsewhere in Africa, vote with their actions not just a ballot.  In Zimbabwe, the crises unveils the underlying motives that dominate the decision infrastructure households, families, industry, politicians and the media use to address their predicament. In South Africa, higher education students are in conflict with the institutions they are meant to participate in building. Where violence is equated with demonstration a pattern that reverberates an inarticulate public emerges. In other words, a public that is unaware of how it votes through its (1) conduct, (2) self-determination, and (3) long-term accounts might ignore the inconvenience of the process because gratification is difficult to delay.  I remember hearing my parents say “when you’re out there, people see us”, therefore conduct yourself appropriately. Somewhere between then and now in this far from ideal world, it seems more vivid than ever that conduct, self-determination and long-term abilities to respond weigh much more than a ballot box tick.

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