Cap­i­tal­ism’s debts ac­crue to the poor ‘L

CityPress - - Business - Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@city­

ow fuel,” a bright yel­low light sig­nals on the dash­board.

I am on my way to the air­port for a flight tak­ing me from Mex­ico City to Guadala­jara that leaves in an hour and a half.

I have stopped wor­ry­ing about other peo­ple’s busi­ness, so I do not ask the driver about what looks like a pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion.

I hatch a sim­ple plan: if we run out of petrol, I will call the ho­tel to send me an­other taxi. That is my way of iron­ing out the com­plex­i­ties of for­eign cities and the lan­guages I do not un­der­stand.

Just like South African driv­ers, Mex­i­cans do not seem to stop at red ro­bots, par­tic­u­larly at night. And here, the size of the ve­hi­cle de­ter­mines the right of way. Trucks and buses first, then come the SUVs, sedans, cy­clists and, fi­nally, pedes­tri­ans.

Taxi driv­ers have mas­tered the art of chaos, just as politi­cians of Third World coun­tries have per­fected the art of de­stroy­ing the econ­omy.

The peso is in free fall; the mood is som­bre. Many take Don­ald Trump’s win as a na­tional hu­mil­i­a­tion. His name pops up in many con­ver­sa­tions, but I sus­pect that Trump jokes are more hurt­ful than hu­mor­ous.

While the plane is sta­tion­ary on the tar­mac, I look through the win­dow and see a mis­er­able, misty dawn. The sky looks a pol­luted grey, show­ing up the weak­ness in hu­man progress. But as the US es­say­ist Henry David Thoreau ob­served: “Na­ture is well adapted to our weak­ness.”

Time to take off, and soon we’re fly­ing above the mist that has en­gulfed Mex­ico City, but be­low al­tocu­mu­lus clouds. The sky be­tween them is a spec­tac­u­lar or­ange-brown.

It is a 30-minute flight, and we land in Guadala­jara on the way to Ci­u­dad Guzmán in the state of Jalisco.

“We di­vide the cities into two,” my host tells me. “The half-full tem­ple cities, and full­tem­ple cities. Guzmán is a full-tem­ple city.”

The stat­ues of the Vir­gin Mary are ev­ery­where. My warm and wel­com­ing hosts treat me to a sump­tu­ous Mex­i­can break­fast.

But Guzmán, this beau­ti­ful city, and its peo­ple are over­shad­owed by the name Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, a no­to­ri­ous drug lord and leader of the Si­naloa Car­tel, whose base is more than 700 kilo­me­tres away.

Al­though the king­pin is in po­lice cus­tody, the drug trade – along with the vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion that go with it – has be­come en­meshed into the fab­ric of govern­ment. The re­sult: poverty for the masses. The late Mex­i­can pres­i­dent, Por­firio Diaz, used to say: “Poor Mex­ico – so far from God, so close to the US.”

Mex­ico has all the con­tra­dic­tions of a Third World coun­try. Its denizens hate the US yet use US brands, watch US movies and lis­ten to US mu­si­cians.

I am re­minded of an in­ci­dent which oc­curred the pre­vi­ous day, as I was tak­ing a walk in down­town Mex­ico City. An el­derly gen­tle­man ap­proached me, dressed im­mac­u­lately in a black suit and a tie pinned to his white shirt. He was still with it, but age and the econ­omy had claimed their pound of flesh. He greeted me with rare re­spect – a cour­tesy that is dy­ing with his gen­er­a­tion – and an­nounced proudly: “It’s my plea­sure to fi­nally meet a real n*gger.” Rap mu­sic, I thought, has messed things up. On my flight back to South Africa, buzz phrases such as “white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal” spring to mind. I think of the poor, who get left be­hind to in­herit the debt of eco­nomic growth but never get their share of its div­i­dends.

Some­times I feel that we South Africans have lost our way. We took the greed of cap­i­tal­ism and ig­nored the hard work that goes into cre­at­ing some­thing – be it an art­work or a busi­ness. It is high time we got back on track. Kuzwayo is the founder of Ig­ni­tive,

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