Thursday, 1 December 2011


"Mal" means to be crazy in Afrikaans. Today my mom, sister and I braved Menlyn shopping centre, because we are leaving for the coast on Monday and won't have time otherwise. It is always a somewhat insane environment to be in : the epitome of consumerism, sheltered from any thing that happens on the outside and filled to the brim with people intent on buying buying buying.

Normally, my mom takes us out individually, but today, due to lack of time, we had to go together. I hate it because my sister and I have different shopping styles. She wants someone to tell her what looks good and what doesn't and to constantly comment on her choices. She has often told me that I am not the sister she would have wanted, because she wants someone to share clothes and shoes with.

Well, we don't wear the same size, and I don't want any one to help me. I want to go in, try what has caught my eye on, and if it doesn't look right, I'll be moving along swiftly. Finding clothes that fit well is great, but if you don't, it is no tragedy either. So, we do not make great shopping companions, and my mother gets caught in the middle, patiently waiting outside changing rooms and trying to accommodate us both.

My sister also does this thing where she buys something and then has to buy other somethings that fit with it. For instance, if you were to buy a dress, and then say that you have no shoes that go with it in order to buy new shoes as well.

Again, I don't do that, which causes more friction. I buy things that will fit with what I have. I don't know how people can enjoy shopping? I enjoy finding something, not the journey through shop after shop and spending hours in centres that mirror a perfect, isolated little world. This year, one of our themes was malls and how they manage space to influence shoppers. Next time you go to a mall, look to see if there are any windows, any clocks, any reference to a real world just beyond the walls.

When we got home, I hung up my new clothes only to realize I have quite a lot of them already. It is always nice to have something new and every one wants to look good, but I am wondering how much the upper-middle class loses perspective in relation to what they have as opposed to people with a lower income. We ( me included) focus so much on what we want, what we feel we deserve, because after all, we work hard for it.

At the moment, the COP17 climate conference is happening in Durban. In the news they said that at the conference, the top 1% is representing the other 99%, but only focussing on their own best interests. My mother told me about how people are living in Langa, a township in Cape Town. To them, climate change and greenhouse gases and the Kyoto protocol has no importance, because they are worried where their next meal will come from and whether they will be able to support their families.

How can we go and justify spending so much money on so many insignificant things when the world is at need? On the one hand, I also want to buy my family something nice and have them be overjoyed when they open my present, but it does not feel right for us to indulge when other people have nothing.

Now, my question is, how do you balance this? How do you celebrate Christmas without feeling guilty for what you have? I mean, I am often quite ungrateful for what I am given. I think we all take things for granted  because to us they are an part of everyday life. I don't know how to change this either. Living more conscientiously? Volunteering? Donating? Giving something to eat to the newspaper-man that comes around on Tuesdays?

How can we change the world for all, not just for those who can afford to go to malls?

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