When the global financial crisis began to overwhelm what we have all known to be the formidable centre of economic power in the world, the United States of America, then I knew somehow that economic distress was not the exclusive preserve of us poor Africans. It has been a sobering realisation to see that the higher you climb up the economic ladder, the harder you will involuntarily hit the ground. Relative to the rest of the world, we Africans are used to being at the bottom end of the ladder, where the stampede for crumbs can be matched only by that of over two million wildebeest, gazelles and zebras as they trek in search for greener pastures over a thousand kilometres through the Serengeti.??
I looked on as the US government in a panic response chose to put together a rescue package for many of those failing financial institutions, with European countries hastily following suit. I had hoped that my government in South Africa would have the gift of benevolence and step in as well with a rescue package for the poor, but no, it wasn’t to be. I could imagine the almost morbidly obese bureaucrats rolling their eyes, thinking: “What bailout? When you’ve been in a recession your entire lives?”
In fact, I would vehemently oppose any insinuation that I am poor, and I refuse to be categorised with the wretched of the earth. At one point during the economic boom, I came to be known as a ‘black diamond’, one of those upwardly mobile black people who are well-educated and, most importantly, creditworthy! I was a member of the exclusive club of the emerging black middle class who lubricated the wheels of the economy with its unrestrained consumption, and often as conspicuously as credit limits allowed.??
Now that the credit crunch has bitten us the hardest, our cars and houses have been repossessed, and I’m forced to abruptly downgrade from the lavish five-star lifestyle to an undignified existence. What my government fails to appreciate is that we black diamonds have a penchant for the finer things in life and that this lifestyle is the medicine for economic recovery. I resent not being able to make my regular outings to those expensive restaurants to savour the finest food I once could not even pronounce. Gone are the Mozambican prawns and caviar, the cheese and wine, the single-malt whiskies, the Cuban cigars, the roaring Italian super-cars and the first-class travel wherever I wanted to go. I want to be the knight in shining Armani once again.??
Now I have to contend with that tasteless mealie-meal as my staple diet again, plus some occasional Mopani worms to assuage my sanity-altering cravings for those mouth-watering Mozambican prawns. My palate has taken this culinary assault with remarkable poise, but I will not even venture to comment on what this difficult period has done to my super-sized ego – if in fact there is any of it left. The lowest moment of all was watching the cockroaches from my house embark on their Great Trek over to the neighbours to seek greener pastures.
Perhaps I should remind the government that it is violating my constitutional right to dignity by failing to intervene as a matter of urgency. I need a bailout too!
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