In South Africa there are many contradictory usages of the term "black person".

It is sometimes used to refer to all "non-whites".

But it usually means an indigenous African, which is a little awkward when used by a person of Indian origin.

Some Indians (and so called coloureds for that matter) are so richly endowed with melanin that they are actually darker than most indigenous Africans.

In this essay by blacks I mean indigenous Africans.

Thriving societies or communities always have elders who are repositories of the culture which has enabled the society or community to thrive.

But blacks have no experience of running a successful modern democratic state and so black society is like a rudderless ship without a captain.

Ironically, within the ANC there is a group of old men and women who have appointed themselves as the elders not only of the ANC but of South Africa.

They call themselves something like: stalwarts or veterans.

Unfortunately our stalwarts are only repositories of the culture which has fuelled corruption and led us to the brink of a failed state.

A black run state is primed or guaranteed to fail unless there is a drastic change of culture.

Unfortunately I do not know of any historical precedent for such a drastic change of culture.

What is patently obvious is that we have to first acknowledge that we have a cultural problem and identify it precisely before there can be any realistic hope that it can be solved.

The cultural problem we have is extreme materialism of the most obscene kind.

A "successful" career is measured in terms of the biggest house in the neighbourhood with the most expensive furniture and gadgets, a top of the range version of the most prestigious car make, the most expensive designer clothes etc.

In other words success is measured in terms of ephemeral objects that are of no consequence in the bigger scheme of things relating to the building of lasting institutions.

By contrast, successful modern societies which have evolved with the arts, science, technology and commerce have a history of attaching value to creations which vastly outlast their creators.

The origin of value dates back to the long era of craftsmanship.

A craftsman would become famous for creations of excellence which were unlike any other objects created by competitors.

Such works of excellence, such as the Stradivarius violins, tended to be substantial gifts to humanity which lived for many generations after the demise of their creators.

To this day we enjoy the excellence of the works of master craftsmen in music and the arts who died centuries ago.

The same applies to benefits we derive from the science, technology and inventions of brilliant men who lived centuries ago.

Craftsmanship includes the creation of lasting institutions which serve society in a variety of ways including manufacturing and commerce.

Steve Jobs is not remembered for the fancy car he drove or the fancy mansion in which he lived.

He is remembered for the lasting institution he built.

If you appoint, as CEO of ESKOM, a person who is steeped in the culture and tradition of craftsmanship he will try to position the corporation such that it will serve the country well with reliable and affordable electricity for a long time to come.

A CEO who is steeped in the dominant black culture of materialism sees his positon at ESKOM as an opportunity to enrich himself, friends and relatives so that they can drive the meanest sports cars in town and live in the largest houses imaginable and enjoy the most expensive oversees holidays money can buy.

That is what the new black lives for.

People do well that for which they will be recognised and admired the most.

In black society most recognition and admiration is reserved for those who possess the shiniest trinkets.

So society gets what it deserves by fuelling competition for the most conspicuous consumption.

The ANC and its daughter parties such as the EFF are adept at taking advantage of this culture.

It is election season yet again.

In rallies expensive motor bikes and sports cars painted in party colours are going to be revved up to impress the youth.

The subliminal message is that if you desire these shiny things come and join our party.

I know people will argue that it has nothing to do with culture.

They will say that the reason why the ANC is corrupt is that the voters are not providing it with credible opposition.

My response it that the reason why there is no credible opposition is precisely because the people have affinity for the rich ANC thieves precisely because of the culture of conspicuous consumption.

It is the same reason why there are very rich drug barons in Cape Town who are highly admired members of their communities.

Most of the so called veterans of the ANC who masquerade as "village elders" started their careers in highly paid government jobs and then joined the private sector as BEE beneficiaries who provided their firms with access to the higher echelons of government to facilitate a share for their firms in procurement contracts with government.

The so called elders are themselves steeped in immoral self enrichment all for the sake of conspicuous consumption.

They are the reason why our state is in the process of failing.

Themba Mdlalose

12 March 2018