On Saturday, 28 November 2016 it was, I accompanied my friend to his communal dwelling in the rural areas on the outskirt of Windhoek. We occasionally go to this dwelling when we seek to position our minds where they should aptly be or when we seek to escape the overwhelming noise and fast life that characterise modernity – the modernity that has alienated us from nature in various respects, as Marxists would submit.
The place is so peaceful such that it has succeeded in making the list of tranquil to where I intend retreating to complete the chapters of my PhD that has suffered major setbacks due to activism.
Indeed, radical activism for social justice has occupied my personal space like a jealous girlfriend, particularly in and over the past four years. Since 2009, I had a target of being a professor of political science before I turn 30. It has now become clear that this will not be possible. I have since written a letter to Shipululo Kanandjembo asking for five years to accommodate this dream. He has agreed.
The new target, given this consensus, is to still become a professor before I leave my youthful years; that is before I turn 35. In this journey this communal place will be central. The birds of this place have a particular sound that I have heard before; indeed, they compete with the birds of Omaalala.
The wind blows as if we are not living in one of the hottest places in Africa. Megameno looks after this place on behalf of my friend. He is a brilliant young man from northern Namibia. He takes his work seriously. As such, this place is ever neat and welcoming. Realising that he is growing, my friend permitted him to bring his girlfriend to come stay with him. They have a beautiful daughter. They are a dynamic unit of rhythm and spirit. When I look at them, I realise how simplistic, and free, life can at times be.
Megameno has a talent of speech. There is never a dull moment with him around. Because of these skills, particularly in terms of interpersonal relations, his relationship with his employer resembles that of friends. It is his consciousness that captivated me ever since I met him three years ago. On this particular Saturday, we took along several goodies and food items in order to have a good time.
We went with several friends. We were all over the place. As others prepared the meat (of all kinds) others attended to the drinks and music. I must immediately submit that we bought all these goodies, we convinced ourselves, because we can afford. We work hard and do not spend our money on booty and booze. As we continued having a good time, one of the friends directed that we start dealing with the watermelon. “No, I will take this watermelon, I know you Windhoek people,” so protested Megameno as he confiscated the watermelon and hid it in another room.
This took us by surprise. Some of the friends thought Megameno is out of order and he has no business confiscating the things bought with our own money. As dynamic as he is Megameno took us on. “Look, I know for sure that once you start cutting that watermelon, you will not finish it. You will only consume a smaller part and leave it there. Since we do not have a fridge here there is nothing we can do with it but throw it away,” he told us.
“Tomorrow we will wake up hungry with little to eat. Looking at a spoilt watermelon the following day, which was fresh and nice yesterday, is a traumatising scene”.
His explanation was so penetrating; it got us thinking. After his explanation, an explanation of an embarrassing truth, we were forced to capitulate.
When you think about this narrative seriously, you begin to realise the extent of conspicuous consumption in which the majority of the Namibian black middle class in general and the young professionals in particular, are trapped. How much of our spending constitute the needs and the wants? Which of our ‘wants’ are necessary and unnecessary? If anything, the Megameno narratives bring into question conspicuous consumption in general and spending habits in particular.
Consider the story of the festive season. Christian days surrounding ‘Christmas’ are upon us. Many of the black middle class will retreat to rural areas to spend time with their families. They will engage in uncontrollable spending. If you do not check properly, you would think that the banks are a funeral of a famous personality; full and overflowing.
The ATMs queues will be similar to the 1989 election queues. There will be purchase and preparation of rice, for example, in five different styles. Much of the food to be bought and prepared will not be consumed because of their excessive volume. The pigs will be the happiest of the animal kingdom; much of the food will be donated to them. It is the same with drinks. Knowing the gullibility of people in northern Namibia during the festive season on days such as Christmas, people controlling Namibian Breweries and Coca Cola will triple their production volumes.
Despite embarking on overproduction, they will still run out of cool drinks and alcohol because the natives will be on an uncontrollable spending spree. Indeed, they will be spending as if there is no tomorrow. The results are obvious; most lives will be lost and the festive session of Christianity will soon turn into the festival of sadness. In a final analysis, Christmas will benefit white companies; Shoprite, Breweries, Coca Cola, Pick n Pay and others, given that their stock will be sold out, thanks to the natives’ undomesticated spending habits.
Unfortunately, there will be no Megameno to confiscate the goods (saving for another day) as he did to us – enabling us to capture the consciousness necessary to interrogate conspicuous consumption and the sustenance of white economic supremacy in most reckless and idiotic terms. In January, the employed natives will return to workplaces struggling to fuel their vehicles.
The cash loans will become popular zones characterised by queues. What is scandalous about this whole shenanigan is that it has been in practice for over the past 26 years. Idiotic spending during Christian days have been normalised so is the inability to fuel cars and pay school fees, without visiting cash loans. “It is January” clowns will openly shout and justify their acceptance of retrogressive tendencies.
Why they do not settle their bills and accounts, before reckless Christian spending, is the puzzle. While Megameno is unable to multiply himself to save the gullible black middle class from their idiotic self, we can help in spreading his consciousness to seek to behavioural change.
*Job Shipululo Amupanda
Political science lecturer: