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How to keep the riff-raff out

February 9, 2005

The easiest, and most politically correct, way to keep undesirable elements out of what you want to be an exclusive venue is to charge for access. While doing this, you should engage in rhetoric about the equality of man, about how all are welcome in your venue.

I remember when petty apartheid was scrapped in the late 1980s in South Africa – suddenly, it was no longer legal to restrict people of colour from public libraries, swimming pools and other civic amenities.

Racist white municipalities around the country adopted the transparent tactic of introducing membership fees: where library membership had been free, suddenly a steep yearly fee was charged. Of course, the talk was all about reconciliation, that it was time to share the good things. But everyone, EVERYONE, knew that 99% of Black people couldn’t afford, or at least wouldn’t pay, the required fees.

There: nice, legal apartheid, with the added benefit of raising money.
The City of London does something similar: to cut down on traffic, they introduced a system where you have to pay five pounds to bring a car into the inner city.

It’s a great idea, of course, to encourage people to use public transport, but the consequence is that the inner city becomes reserved for the rich, who don’t mind paying a little to have the streets cleared of rusty old skorokgoros (that’s a lovely Tsotstitaal word!) so that their Jags can sail along like they do in the ads on TV.

And that’s very much how I feel about South Africa today. We have, apparently, the most liberal and progressive constitution in the world. But the police are still thugs, so that doesn’t help you unless you can afford a lawyer.

You have the right to health – if you can afford to buy your own anti-retrovirals, otherwise sorry for you.
You have the right to an education – if you can pay the fees. Etcetera etcetera.

We preach the brotherhood of man, and transformation and empowerment, and the whole country being a treasure house for all its citizens – especially the previously disadvantaged – to share. But the reality is, there’s a big, fat entrance fee on the new South Africa, and most Black people can’t afford it.
The most amazing thing of all, though, is that the gatekeepers of the fruits of our glorious new democracy are not the racist whites of the old guard, but the bossboys (Tsotsitaal again) of the new regime.

It boggles the mind.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    February 14, 2005 4:32 am

    I’m going to give you a similar scenario: Pres. Bush wants to put a part of Social Security taxes into individual accounts that the government can’t touch. Democrats propose a system where these individual accounts would be made available by taking additional money, above Social Security taxes, from people’s paychecks. I would gladly sign up for this, but lower wage earners are unfairly penalized again. Bush will have to give in on taxes, unless he can push it off to the next (Clinton?) administration.

  2. Chris permalink
    February 14, 2005 4:32 am

    I’m going to give you a similar scenario: Pres. Bush wants to put a part of Social Security taxes into individual accounts that the government can’t touch. Democrats propose a system where these individual accounts would be made available by taking additional money, above Social Security taxes, from people’s paychecks. I would gladly sign up for this, but lower wage earners are unfairly penalized again. Bush will have to give in on taxes, unless he can push it off to the next (Clinton?) administration.

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