If I told you that the system of capitalism depended largely on the spinelessness of the individual, I would hope that you’d take my word for it. I would hope that you wouldn’t get all technical on me and start regurgitating outmoded Economics 101 textbooks from your undergraduate days circa 1986.

Capitalism depends largely on the exchange of money for goods, which, in turn, involves the creation of the desire for said goods. The fancy term for this is marketing. Granted; the desire for certain goods does not even need to be created, it’s so natural. I’m thinking of basics such as wheat, fuel and transactional sex here.

Marketing is that set of activities in which an entrepreneur convinces would-be consumers to spend money on items that they had not planned on purchasing or had any need for. This is how people leave home intending to buy a sack of potatoes but end up buying booze, hookers and bubblegum, for instance. It is the cornerstone of the capitalist system. And spinelessness rests at the very core of the success of marketing activities. People who are impervious to overtures from marketers mess with this delicate balance and threaten the very survival of global economies.

I am typing this from the comfy seats of the Hi-D Lounge inside Terminal 2 of the Singapore International Airport at about 6.15am Sunday morning local time (12.15am South African time). I’m waiting for a connecting flight to Kuala Lumpur. Let’s not go there. The reason I’m sharing this is because I have just had an epiphany: I am one of these enemies of capitalism. If the average person in the world shared the same characteristics as I, capitalism would have collapsed long before the Berlin Wall did. I guess you could go ahead and call me a commie bastard.

It has just hit me that Singapore is completely wasted on me. As I type this, I am surrounded by what I assume are the very best brand names in the world of couture, technology and toiletries: Louis Vuitton, Laurentia, Gucci, MAC, Rolex, Tissot, Cartier, Nike and so forth. Nothing inside me is stirring. Oh, I have an acute appreciation for what my eyes are taking in. I’m married to a human female, you see. But my appreciation for all the fine things I am seeing is completely cerebral. My viscera are completely untouched; a state of being that any salesperson will quickly tell you is bad for business. If brains were used in purchasing decisions, economies would grind to a halt. Viscera, emotions and lack of spine are critical pillars.

The words I am using might leave you with a negative impression of this phenomenon. Hardly. This is a good thing for everybody concerned. Where would Sandton City be if people stopped buying things they didn’t need? And believe me when I tell you that I wish I didn’t have this personality defect. For starters, I wouldn’t mostly get around town in my wife’s first car, a 10-year-old Opel. I absolutely appreciate the attributes of a luxury vehicle. I have a friend who bought himself a Lexus a few months ago. It’s a brilliant car, practical and absolutely wonderful. And, by cutting back on a few non-essentials such as education for the kids, utility bills and milk in my tea, I could get myself one quite comfortably.

One might read this and conclude that what I’m describing is miserliness, tight-fistedness or extreme avariciousness. I’ve given this a lot of thought and come to the correct conclusion that it’s not. I really do not have any problems spending money. As a matter of fact, I do not even have problems giving money away to family for useless things, such as R10 000 for sacrificial bovines, much to my wife’s chagrin. I just lack an inclination to purchase things. I just don’t have a passion for it. I do not get any satisfaction or high from a newly acquired item of clothing, electronic gadget or … anything material, really.

I must confess that I really envy the look I often witness in my wife’s eyes when she’s unwrapping a new purchase. Her eyes light up as she excitedly describes to me the ingenuity of her special purchasing decision;

“There was another I saw at Menlyn last week almost just like this one but it didn’t have these thingamajigs over here. And guess what? I got this one R150 cheaper, can-you-believe-it?”

I didn’t experience that kind of excitement even when I walked into my first home. All I could think of was all the paint, new tiles and furniture that needed purchasing and how long it would take for the beer in the fridge to get to at least 10 degrees Celsius. Material things just do not induce the passion or state of sexual arousal that I witness in other people. If you’re a member of the SACP politburo and a revolutionary in the struggle for a national socialist agenda, you might be applauding and calling me “comrade” or some other unsavoury names like that.

But I’m not happy with this state. I consider it a weakness and impediment to my desire of upward mobility and entrenchment within the new black elite. You see, convincing people that one is a smart, ambitious black man deserving of a BEE deal is complex business. It hinges on a perception that one is indeed on the way up — or at least arrived in some meaningful manner. But when you rock up at social gatherings in a 1998 1400 Opel, dressed in a Woolies jacket-shirt-pants-and-shoes combo (totalling R1 200) people mistake you for a maths and science teacher. Not to mention that I have an East Rand address.

That’s correct; my personality disorder ensures that I’m an extremely shabby individual. If, for instance, my luggage was lost here in Singapore, the most valuable item would be my wife’s bag — part of a set of three of which she’s extremely proud. I just did a mental itemisation of the contents of the bag and put the figure at about R1 500. And I’m here for a week. I do not want to bore you with the details, so I’ll restrict myself to the number of pants I have in there:

1. A pair of black Woolies formal pants, purchased in 2004 — R160
2. A pair of Jet used-to-be-off-white chinos purchased in 2001 — R79
3. A pair of Hang-Ten denim jeans (too long and needing to be turned up) — R129
4. A pair of Stone Harbour denim jeans (tlantbtu) — R110

The pants in my bag cost less the meal I’ll have at the Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers tonight. The other day I had lunch with a certain newspaper columnist and he looked much, much sharper than I did. That’s right; I was out-dressed by a freaking wit ou! We can’t have that. I think we can all agree that there’s something seriously wrong with this picture. Each time I’m out with Fred Khumalo (this namedropping is especially for TL reader Gugu Kunene), his snazzy outfits cost more than the car I’m driving. As a result, I have decided to make a change. I need to learn to buy … things and stuff to avoid being a laughing stock. Drum roll, please.

I think that my Zulu ass would look great on the leather seats of a Mercedes-Benz C-class. Fuck the kids’ educations. I went to a Catholic mission school in the middle of nowhere in northern KwaZulu-Natal and I turned out alright. Plus, this year is my 20th high-school reunion. I can’t possibly arrive there in a 10-year-old Opel.

Of course, I’ll be most grateful for a sponsorship deal. Is anyone connected to Daimler-Chrysler?

[email protected]


  • Once upon a time, Ndumiso Ngcobo used to be an intelligent, relevant man with a respectable (read: boring-as-crap) job which funded his extensive beer habit. One day he woke up and discovered that he had lost his mind, quit his well-paying job, penned a collection of hallucinations. A bunch of racist white guys published the collection just to make him look more ridiculous and called it 'Some of my best friends are white'. (Two Dogs, ISBN 978-1-92013-718-2). Nowadays he spends his days wandering the earth like Kwai Chang Caine, munching locusts, mumbling to himself like John the Baptist and searching for the meaning of life at the bottom of beer mugs. The racist publishers have reared their ugly heads again and dangled money in his face to pen yet another collection of hallucinations entitled 'Is It Coz 'm Black'. He will take cash, major credit cards and will perform a strip tease for contributions to his beer fund.


Ndumiso Ngcobo

Once upon a time, Ndumiso Ngcobo used to be an intelligent, relevant man with a respectable (read: boring-as-crap) job which funded his extensive beer habit. One day he woke up and discovered that he...

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