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South African celebration of wealth – I’m mad about it

Three key things happened recently. Elon Musk became the richest person in the world. Trevor Noah bought a massion in Bel-Air for $27.5 million. South African influencers were paid by SAB to make faux arguments against the Alcohol ban in South Africa.

What do all of these stories have in common? Wealthy South Africans. An incredibly wealthy minority in a country with an incredibly poor majority. Weirdly to me, the first two stories have been lauded. People are proud of Trevor Noah and proud that Musk is South African. My question is why? Their exorbatant wealth seems to me to be in and of itself immoral. I’ll explain.

SAB paid influencers to publicly argue against the Alcohol Ban in South Africa

Firstly, I want to deal with the influencers. I saw a weird tweet from a celebrity, Khanyi Mbau, arguing against the alcohol ban in South Africa. I saw her argument, and based on the opinions thought; “this is not as smart as you think it is”. Then on twitter more and more South African influencers/celebrities started making the exact same arguments against the alcohol ban. They all said exactly the same thing, and the arguments were not great. They all used the same hashtags in their posts, #alcoholban #level3 and #vaccinestrategy. If you go looking on twitter, you will find the exact same arguments from various influencers.

Khanyi Mbau’s argument was that the alcohol ban does more harm than good, and was not preventing the spread of COVID like it should. The problem is, the second wave started in early December and has been steadily growing since then. There were multipe super spreader events that happened during early December. If someone was infected by the virus in early December and that person infected a few other people, it could easily be the source of a huge number of positive cases today. That’s how SPREAD works.

I then saw someone tweet the brief from SAB. Here it is:

SAB alcohol ban brief

Do I even need to explain why this is wrong on a moral, logical and practical level?

The biggest problem is this. Most of these influencers are far wealthier than most of South Africa and they are questioning something that has had and continues to have a devastating impact on South Africa’s poorest people.

SAB has the money to pay influencers, the influencers are earning money to position the public against a good decision from the government. A decision that was taken to protect South Africans.

So in actuality, more than caring about people’s lives, SAB and the influencers in truth care about their own pockets. How obtuse and selfish can you be?

Trevor Noah buying a $27.5 Million Dollar Mansion

Here’s why this bothers me, $27.5 million equals R420844600,00. According to the SAB influencer brief this could have covered more than 5% of the cost of getting the COVID-19 vaccine for South Africa.

That is a massive amount of money. Trevor Noah, works in New York, Bel Air is on the opposite side of the country. So, he basically bought his mansion for vibes.

He spent that amount of money for vibes. Yet, The Daily Show is literally about going on television every day and telling America how immoral many of them are.

He wakes up every day to jokingly tell people how they should live. Through the jokes on the show he tells people what is moral and immoral. He is often very critical of the wealthy, and yet he bought a mansion.

The hypocrisy frustrates me, and yet as South Africans many of us are celebrating his wealth. In the hope, that we too can one day make it there. Which, we all know we probably won’t.

Our aspirations need to be realistic and attainable, while being focused on the South African collective rather than the individual. With that said let’s look at Elon Musk.

Elon Musk is now the richest person in the world apparently

Why are we proud of this? He named his baby, X Æ A-Xii. We should be embarrased of Elon Musk. Not only because of how out of touch he his, but also because he is the richest person in the world.

I would argue that being the richest person in the world is in and of itself unethical. I recently read an article on wealth that argues, “people who possess great wealth in a time of poverty are directly causing that poverty”.

So, as the most inequal country in the world we are essentially celebrating a person who is guilty of causing poverty. I know I didn’t really make an argument here, but I rate you’d hard be pressed to come up with an argument for the richest person in the world being an ethical position.

Oh, also did I mention he became the richest person in the world during a pandemic? How does that happen? Something seems unethical here.

I know I didn’t really make an argument here, but I rate you’d hard be pressed to come up with an argument for the richest person in the world being an ethical position.

That in a nutshell is why I am mad.

Why this all makes me mad

South Africa has the highest level of inequality in the world. Now we are celebrating two of the richest people in the world.

Two people who could help solve inequality in South Africa, but are buying mansions in the US and being celebrated for it. How are we celebrating them!?

To quote A.Q. Smith on this one, I am not arguing that they deserve their wealth or not. I don’t care about that, I care about what they do with their wealth.

Elon Musk, Trevor Noah and South African influencers are not using their money affectively to help solve the numerous issues in South Africa. So why as South Africans do we celebrate them?

Trevor Noah does have a foundation at least. The foundation though, does not absolve potential guilt. One of my favourite thinkers, Anand Giridharadas, argues that billionaires in and of themselves should not exist. According to Giridharadas, most hyper-wealthy people donate money in order to get tax breaks. What happens is through those tax breaks they end up losing less money than if they had just paid their tax. Essentially, reduced tax+donations is equal to less than normal tax.

That means that extremely wealthy people while appearing moral are intentionally decieving you to pay less tax. Whether Trevor Noah is doing that or not, I’m not sure. Elon Musk, I’m certain he does do that, but he lost the right to be celebrated as a South African the minute he named is child X=mc2 . You could make a moral argument for donating being more effective than tax, I would disagree with you, but I would take your point. That isn’t my biggest issue.

The biggest issue for me is the celebration of this wealth, and the celebrities that clearly care more about a paycheck than whether the alcohol ban is preventing the spread of COVID.

I am angry, because this represents a massive problem in South Africa, massive inequality. I am mad because we are celebrating the wrong things. We are celebrating and rewarding arguably immoral actions. Rather than celebrating South Africans truly making a positive impact on the world. I think we need to celebrate people that are looking for sustainable solutions to South African problems that have the whole at the centre and not the individual.

So you there you have it, that’s why I’m mad.