Yesterday, on my way back from an indefinitely shut SARS office I witnessed a line of people, going around the block, to the SASSA building. These people expressed in physical sloping, the unlikeliness of success. I saw a line of desperation. A line of hunger. A line of no future, just a bleak and terrifying present.
And while I was looking at this line I was listening to an economist on the radio talking about how the COVID pandemic was highlighting the importance of life insurance, and how we all need to be frightened into making the right investments. This white, educated, articulate man was talking as if the country was made up of people like him. Only people like him. Life insurance? There was no hint of irony in this man’s perspective. There was no vague nod to the fact that he was talking for and to the 1%. He spoke with the authority of pure blindness to the reality of our country and its suffering majority. And it was terrifying. Because in that moment I saw that hunger trumps decency, that crime is a desperate act, and that life can be not worth having. This is wrong. This is fundamentally, hideously wrong. This conversation should not be had on public radio at the same time that desperate people are queuing for R350 that they have already been told is not there for them.
We have to shift. We have to move. We have to transition. It is far too late. There is no more time. Life insurance? No. We need a new plan for the poor, the desperate, the unseen. And we need those who talk about life insurance to keep quiet for 5 minutes and listen.