About six weeks back I took Clinton to apply for his South African ID Book. Last Thursday he got the text message from Home Affairs saying that his ID Book was ready for collection. He was pumped. I picked him up from school on Friday and we went straight to Home Affairs. Sure enough, after not too long of a wait, Clinton was the proud holder of an official South African Identification Document Book! We decided to go to Steers for some celebratory lunch.
For those of you who don’t know, Steers is really no big deal. I mean, it’s just a fast food restaurant, though I realize it is a tad bit more expensive than McDonalds. But our reasons for going there were not special, and mostly just a matter of convenience because that particular Steers was on our way home. But yeah, I mean, fast food or not, I guess Steers is still a luxury in a country where the masses live in poverty. But still, really no big deal.
So, we pulled up to Steers and got out of the car. On the way in three little boys approached us with outstretched hands asking for “Fufty cents for some bread.” I smiled at the spokesperson of the group, “Sorry buddy. Not today,” and Clinton and I went on in to order our meal. It came to just over a hundred rand (about 13$ U.S.). Wow! Steers is more expensive than McDonalds! We got the food, sat down at a table, and began to eat. Both Clinton and I immediately got sucked in to the television that hung high above our heads. MTV Cribs was on and they were touring T-Pain’s house, “Yeah, yeah! And this right here, this is studio A. I got three studios: A, B and C.” Three studios?!?! I mean, what on earth does T-Pain need three studios for?! Would one not be enough?
Throughout the Cribs tour, Clinton and I continuously shook our heads in disbelief, looked at each other with the “can you believe that junk?!” face, and then rolled our eyes as we turned our heads back to the screen, as T-Pain showed us his cars, his kitchen (that is bigger than my whole flat), his three studios, his game room, his pool, his bedroom, his club (yes, in his house), and so on and so forth. We could not believe this guy, and the likes of him! I mean, wasting all that money on all that stuff!! I mean, the whole of Khayelitsha could live in T-Pain’s bedroom! The nerve! “How can someone live like that knowing there are people living in absolute poverty?!” I complained.
And then something happened. In between the rolling of eyes, sounds of exasperation, and comments of how ridiculous T-Pain’s spending habits are, I looked out the large Steers windows and made eye contact with the three little boys who were still standing just outside, the ones who had asked for only “fufty cents”. They were watching Clinton and I scarf down a hundred-rand-meal with the exact same reaction as Clinton and I had to T-Pain’s overindulgent estate and lifestyle. To them, our spending was just as ridiculous as T-Pain’s was to us. As Clinton and I sat, eating and judging T-Pain with our good-Lord-why-do-you-need-a-flat-screen-TV-in-your-shower’s, the three little boys outside were looking in on us wondering why we could afford to eat such an “expensive meal” without even being able to spare them fifty cents. Maybe thinking, “Don’t they know a chip roll is less than ten rand?!”
And I realized, I may not have six cars, two pools, three studios and a lounge the size of the small town I come from, but my lifestyle, as humble as it may seem to me, can look just as luxurious to others who have less, as T-Pain’s does to me. I don’t have to feel guilty or sorry for it. Maybe just aware. And I have to take the responsibility that comes with the level of lifestyle I live. The whole, “the more you have the more is expected of you” kind of thing. And not judging others is probably a good lesson to learn to. We’re no better than T-Pain, though for a minute, Clinton and I had convinced ourselves we were.