After the cold sweats have dried and the gasps of disbeliefs have sucked your immediate space of oxygen, you blink your eyes uncontrollably to realise that this is a not a dream: Donald Trump is the USA President-Elect.
How did the self-proclaimed “greatest nation on earth” move from electing its first black president, born of immigrant parents to the wall-building; immigrant deporting; women genitalia grabbing Donald Trump?
How did the home of Martin Luther King disintegrate to nationalist fascism?
How did the inventive nation that gave the world the evil belly-building doughnuts, the aroma-filled Starbucks and the imaginative geniuses of Jobs, Gladwell, Potter, Collins and Christensen amongst many others elect a man who can only be described as the single most vile public voice of recent times?
How did the home of free and the land of the brave migrate its global high-ground (admittedly it hasn’t occupied that chair since Gitmo) to hatred, bigotry and racism?
Answer: its simple. Trump is the manifestation of what results when you ignore the poor and disenfranchised and convince yourself that you are where you are and have what you have because of your own hard work … and nothing else.
The emergence of the more determined (what the mainstream media would term ‘radical’) black voices has been part of the SA news and social reality for some time now. Whether it’s illegal land invasions, service delivery protests, wage related protests, illegal electricity connections or #FeesMustFall, the amplified voices that have said enough is enough have been making so much noise that to not know of them would be to have been living under the rock of middle class, SUV driving, Sandton frequenting tomfoolery.
The lesson here is simple for any willing to observe it: the world of Keynesian and Smithsonian model of economics is quickly and unceremoniously grinding down.
When the global economy grows, we tell the world that the markets are growing; company earnings are buoyant and share prices increase. Yet, the only real term beneficiaries of this buoyancy are executives (who are in truth overpaid as it is), bankers, economists, corporate lawyers and the owners of the means of production. What does a GDP growth of 6% mean in real-terms to the single mother of three living in a shack in Diepsloot. At this point, I imagine the economic students reading this will try and create some long-winded link between GDP, currency strength, FDI, inflation & finally prices that this same single mother pays at the tills of township spaza shop. This is my exactly point: the chain of causality is so long and so academic that frankly it does matter to the average poor black person.
The election of Trump and the nomination to Brexit is the rejection of the school of economics under the globalised world as we have come to know it: GDP means nothing to those that are unemployed or earn slave wages.
If the instruments of capital and those that control those same instruments do not change their ways in SA, their Trump will not be an election. It will be the nationalisation of enterprise & resources as well as the destructions of laws that delay instant and meaningful transfer of wealth.
Radicalisation of the educated and middle class
The myth is that parties like the EFF attract the uneducated must be dealt with. Many educated and employed black professionals are attracted to the message of EFF because of their lived experience of marginalisation in white corporates. In financial services you are more likely to find black CAs in back-office support functions like risk and credit than you are to find in the dealing room. In mining you find a plentiful of blacks in HR and corporate relations yet the company bemoans a lack of black talent in engineering, geology and other core functions of the mine. In hospitality you will find the waiters and ushers are black yet the manager of the establishment is white. In insurance the brokers are black but the insurance agency owners are white. In construction and civil engineering, the situation is so dire it deserves its own article. Drive to the site of any large private construction project and count the number of black firms you will see on the notice board as engineers, architects, electricians or any other core part of the project. SAICE is filled with black engineers looking for work yet large and listed construction companies would have us believe that they cannot find black engineers. Odd much?
All this have a single result: even the ‘educated more acceptable’ blacks are looking for an alternative to the snail pace empowerment model of the past 20years. The deliberate exclusion of black faces from white spaces has created a radicalisation of the “educated middle class blacks”.
The Road ahead
Each time I come home (and I spend more time living in hotels and travelling the world than do I in SA) I feel like I am being immerse into the biases of yesteryear. How is it possible that white SA can complain about the “radical” voices of EFF and the events associated with #FeesMustFall yet completely silent on the real issues that plague the majority of citizens in the SA; the exclusion of black voices and talents in white corporates, the poor quality of life and services that those black people are afforded and the growth of economy which is neither owned by nor benefits THEM?
The lesson Trump and Brexit is simple, if you do not listen to the poor and marginalised sooner or later they will simply take that which they have been asking you for.
Dear white SA: learn from Australia, the UK and now the USA.
Include, consider and uplift the poor and disenfranchised … or else.