by Sibusiso Tshabalala
‘I am hungry and my instincts are hungry for justice, for social equality, but instead the scale keeps tipping in the hoarders way’ – Starving Child Collection
In The Adventures of Pinocchio, (Carlo Collodi’s tale of a boy who was created as a puppet but dreamt of becoming a “real boy”), there’s an observable phenomenon that can be likened to South African society.
Collodi writes: ‘A boy’s appetite grows very fast, and in a few moments the queer, empty feeling had become hunger, and the hunger grew bigger and bigger, until soon he was as ravenous as a bear’
South African society is like Pinocchio, a hungry boy. With more than half of our young people unemployed, 85% of the country’s wealth controlled by 10% of the population and a sub-standard education system- it is no surprise that we are one of the world’s most unequal societies.
There’s a growing trend in South African society to dismiss inequality. This trend presupposes that in the ‘new South Africa’ inequality is a thing of the past. Conversely so, there’s also an inclination by the disenfranchised to remind folks living in the middle and upper class bubbles that inequality is still rife in our society.
These two narratives represent the estranged relationship between the privileged few and the disenfranchised masses. They are separated by high suburban walls, township shacks, private beach holiday homes, crowded public schools- the grand design of social inequality. This estranged relationship is the root of social uprising, division and discontent.
Yet, this estranged relationship often finds itself at odds. The hunger that South African society faces is not only material (employment, sustenance, jobs etc) but there is also a subliminal form of hunger.
This is the hunger that is exists, but often goes unacknowledged or even underrepresented. This hunger is for a more just society.
It is the hunger for a society in which economic growth is a precursor to upward social mobility; it is the hunger for an economy that benefits all its participants and is not controlled by a select few- it is the hunger for advancement in a society were systemic inequality is permutated by the actions of our body politic and big business.
This hunger knows of no origin. It does not classify itself as ‘black’ or ‘white’, ‘rich’ or ‘poor’, ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ because it knows that ultimately our destiny is interlinked as a people. This hunger knows that the middle class bubble of apathy towards the poor is paradoxical.
This hunger knows state welfare is unsustainable in the long run, that a proper education system and solid leadership for our country is the beginning of true progress.
This hunger is a hunger for societal consciousness. A hunger for a society where the social injustice is fought in dusty township streets, middle class suburbs, upper class mansions and outer space manors (for the extremely rich of course).
Until ALL South Africans (politicians included) understand that the quest for social justice and social cohesion isn’t an ideal to be admired but an obligation to be fulfilled; we remain a hungered people.
Sibusiso Tshabalala is a 19 year old; 2nd year B.Com Law student at the University of the Free State.