News / Opinion / Columns

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
3 minute read
1 Aug 2020
10:00 am

Rich folk are the problem

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

It’s almost as if something the affluent are doing is affecting poor people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saw his wealth grow by a third during the COVID-19 lockdowns. AFP/File/SAUL LOEB

What is keeping you going lately?

From the confines of your narrowed, filtered and sanitised physical reality, there are a number of new ways you may have learned to exist. In no way that is unique, the answer, for me, is YouTube – loads more than is healthy and enough to create the illusion of infinite knowledge and wisdom, which I will now inflict upon the masses.

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Since I have the attention span of a goldfish, Netflix has truly become a waste of R169 a month. But, boy, has the endless stream of videos of various lengths and tastes become the perfect portal to alternate universes in a time when other forms of social media appear to be the sleep paralysis monster that never went away.

A waking nightmare. I have become quite the YouTube sociologist, analysing the decaying state of society’s moral fibre from a distance.

My first theory is that divided societies are bad for global health. Where a population is raised on the ideals of selfishness and superficial capitalist pursuits, this virus is spreading uncontrollably.

Wearing a mask and staying indoors has become an existential attack on the wealthy socialites and Instragram philanthropists, the gun-wielding 4×4 enthusiasts who own a pair of Oakleys as part of their personalities and the “doomed” TikTok generation.

Reacting to scared US residents who claimed 5G towers were giving them “the Covid”, citing data showing a supposed link between the number of cases in an area and its proximity to a 5G tower, Late Show host John Oliver recently pointed out that map diagrams shown on US TV stations indicate the virus was very prevalent where there were 5G towers because that is where the rich folk live.

The unintended consequence of this pandemic is that its elimination relies on a sense of collective responsibility which has to be shared by the whole population, or it doesn’t work. But I may have conflated correlation with causality in concluding rich people are the problem.

A 2011 study, backed by the UK government, looked into the effects of social divisions on access to healthcare by measuring child and maternal mortality rates. Researchers found that a higher degree of social division, especially ethnic and linguistic fractionalisation, was significantly associated with greater mortality rates. Even in democratic states, greater social division was associated with lower overall population access to healthcare and lesser expansion of health system infrastructure.

In the US currently, the pandemic is disproportionately damaging to communities with people of colour and immigrants, despite the most rampant rises in cases are being seen in more affluent parts of the country.

It’s almost as if something the affluent are doing is affecting poor people. Recently, my YouTube feed has been filled with reports of young, reckless YouTube and TikTok influencers possibly causing an outbreak after throwing a series of parties in Los Angeles.

The underlying message here is that selfishness, narcissism and a lack of connection to reality flourishes. It is becoming glaringly obvious even in SA, where we are not as divided as some social media data may suggest.

But pockets of our society are extremely divided and harbour hatred that supercedes the need to come together during a crisis. Those who act selfishly are any society’s biggest threat.

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni.

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