South Africa: Human Dignity for Sale?

4.12.2013

A “long drop” from propriety

A hotel resort in South Africa insists that this is ‘an experience of a lifetime’: staying at their imitated Shanty Town! This offer is cynical, tactless, disrespectful and simply outrageous and it mocks the destitute population living at the margins of native society. The related website shows more than 2000 likes!

goodmeetings.com draws two equally disconcerting scenarios for phoney-poverty seeking guests, whose contorted assessment of the actual conditions inside a Shanty Town seems to be light-years away from reality:

1. Poverty – the fake: ‘Becoming poor’ as a pastime

Yippee! Isn’t that exciting?! Contain yourselves, please! Not really poor, of course, just pretending to be poor for the „fun“ of it, inside a hotel Shanty Town established especially for those hopelessly saturated by affluence. Those now craving to sample the gourmet side of poverty for the ultimate kick. With invisible floor-heating, running water and wireless internet access for the comfort they would not miss for anything in the world – not even when voluntarily poor, albeit mercifully temporary! After all, this is ‘the only Shanty Town in the world equipped with such luxury’! They also provide you with a ‘long drop effect toilet’. Emphasis on effect. It’s not the genuine thing, but then again: genuine is not what you are looking for. Moreover, you are probably being given some candles and old-fashioned paraffin lamps to help you douse your hut in a romantic light and – just like in any truly desolate slum – you can kindle a crackling fire in a rusted old barrel drum and leisurely ‘braai’ yourselves senseless open-air every day in any weather…
(quote hotel)… within the safe environment of a private game reserve that is ideal for team building, braais and fancy theme parties. (Quote ends)

 

Critical comment:
Perhaps the responsible hotel management would like to swap living quarters with inhabitants of the most dilapidated shacks in the most forlorn authentic townships – to wring the utmost out of this crude exercise for themselves? There may even a handsome certificate to be gained. Why lessen the euphoric effects of an experience of a lifetime? For them, only this prototype should be good enough:

2. Poverty – the original: Pray that you are only dreaming!

Urgently want to be deprived of your human dignity? Then: how about becoming poor instantly? Really poor. So much so, that there’s no proper roof over your carefully styled head, no decent floor under your pedicured feet and no running tap water to quench your thirst. Remember: no funds for Champagne! Instead you’d have a decorative crust of dust from unpaved streets travelling at all times through every nook and cranny of the corrugated makeshift carcass your ‘house’ resembles. It was crudely cobbled together in a concerted action with your cooperative neighbourhood buddies, using debris cast away by someone better off. That’s recycling! Do you have cooperative pals in your posh reality-neighbourhood? See!? You do not mind your shabby metal box turning into a furnace in summer (some like it hot) and into a fridge at night, nor do the garbage heap fermenting outside and the same iridescent cluster of flies buzzing over your food later on, worry you in the least. You gladly absorb to the fullest the distinct aroma of a veritable township with no sewage system to speak of and uncomplainingly accept the vermin and the disease relentlessly prospering in malodorous puddles. Please bear in mind that these are the source for your drinking water and the site where you attempt to wash your laundry.

Avoid the pains of civilisation!

And electricity! Pha! Who needs a naked light-bulb dangling from a leaky ceiling perforated by corrosion – in the only room you’ve got? Take candles instead! They create a much more cosy atmosphere inside your inventive home and they make you happy by stirring all kinds of emotions in all kinds of unspeakable body parts. You don’t want to destroy your home’s extraordinary ambience by the presence of something as alien as an in-house shower and toilet. Too much hygiene is bad for your skin. Such sophisticated – one could even call them superfluous – gadgets like bathrooms in one’s own quarters are an affront to the personal and individual style in which your home has meticulously been charted out by you and your loved ones. Wouldn’t it be a capital sin to tamper with the pursued purity of your otherwise rigid designer scheme? Please do not throw your principles overboard lightheartedly when it comes to your state-of-the-art interior, just because you encounter minor problems! Once in a while one has to leave one’s comfort zone. So, you better also take good care of the single ‘long drop toilet’ in the yard. After all, you are not the only ones who use this latrine.

All movies live

Living in a hard-core Shanty Town may mean being confronted with sickness, crime, illiteracy, cheap synthetic drugs, alcohol abuse and unabating violence with not much protection. You don’t own a TV set, so be grateful to experience the thrill live. And your shack! How incredibly practical it is. So tiny – and self-cleaning, too! A miracle! Is there anything more advanced than that? Just wait for the next downpour – torrential at best – and your hut is being given a thorough scrub inside out free of charge. Like in a car-wash. And since you’re at it: just expose yourself and your entire family together with the stray dog and the only threadbare hen you then possess and get a generous rinse in a luxurious soft rain shower, all in one go. You don’t even have to leave the house. In your regular lives you pay lots of money for the chrome variety of a rainwater-emitting shower head installed in your spa-like bathrooms. Yours here is even bigger. Don’t you recognise the privilege?

A long walk from dignity

Since no household chores are keeping you busy, there’s plenty of time for you to go forage for food. With no money in your pocket, you muster all your haggling skills to return home with a kilo of yams and a sick old chicken for the barrel drum. Since you don’t own a car that takes you places, you’ll have to leave before dawn to be back before dark. Walking barefoot is good for your muscle tone. Moreover, please put some more effort into finding a job by the wayside, so you can offer your family an adequate standard of living. Because then you’ll soon have under-floor heating and running water installed and W-LAN access established to make your shack a copy-worthy affair. The benefit is all yours: you can rent it out to yourselves!

Wake up!

All our decadent phoney-poverty seekers had to endure these past few minutes has been a disturbing – yet harmless – bad dream.

Do we hear their sigh of relief?

The actual nightmare entirely remains with those they mock!