Thursday, June 01, 2006

Car Talk

I step out of the shower to a ringing mobile phone. He tells me that the guys from BMW will be over in ten minutes and I'm going for a test drive with them- it's a midnight blue BMW 330 Diesel with chestnut wood panels and retro finishes on the dashboard. The power is immense and the machine is a vision- the new BMWs have rounded corners and softer lines but are extraordinary looking. I'm sitting in the front seat- no time to put on any make-up or dry the wet curls, but the car is the adornment and attraction.

Hips Don't Lie booms from the radio (incidentally, finally available on I-Tunes!) and I notice 6000 kilometers already recorded on the odometer. The BMW rep mentions that his last customer gave up the 300d because he is "very particular about motor vehicles. He didn't like the diesel purr."

South African yuppie men always refer to cars as "automobiles" or "motor vehicles." As in, "I love the power this motor vehicle gives me. Feeling the road beneath, the sun against my face." It's more elegant than the American "car."

The BMW rep mentions the enormous responsibility conveyed in choosing a motor vehicle- the absolute centrality of the selected automobile to your life. "After all nothing says more about you than the motor vehicle you choose to drive."

People here have fuzzy notions of the differences between choice, reality, and necessity. Has the gardener across the street making do with hellishly unsafe kombi taxis chosen not to purchase a BMW? Has the father sacrificing the quality of his children's education in favor of a BMW made the right choice to preserve the family image?

Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula has some interesting words about choice and reality vis-a-vis the escalating crime situation in this country. From this morning's news:

Cape Town - Stop bitching or get out!

That was Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula's message on Thursday to those that he called "constant moaners".

And to those threatening to leave the country because of the high crime rate, the message was: "Get a life!

"There are two options. You can complain until you are blue in the face or leave the country so that the rest of us can get on with our work."

Among those, he said, were the Democratic Alliance's Roy Jankielsohn and Ray King, as well as Pieter Groenewald of the Freedom Front Plus.

Nqakula said during the discussion of his budget vote it was significant that complaints always came from people with surnames such as Jankielsohn, King and Groenewald.

Townships used to fighting crime

"Why don't you hear complaints from township folk?"

Nqakula said the reason probably was because township residents had been fighting crime for years.

"The government you were part of left these people to their own devices when it came to crime.

"Now that you're also on the receiving end of crime, you start complaining.

"That's disgusting!"


Unfortunately his recommendation that ordinary citizens not protest crime but rather choose to get a life is a bit optimistic- they are protesting since so many have been gunned down, murdered with total abandon and bloodlust. Notice too his singling out of white Members of Parliament criticizing the ANC on their complete lack of effectiveness in getting crime under control (for township, rural, urban or suburban residents- really the whole country). The racial dimension is not a coincidence.

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