The ramblings of a Commercial Baby

My name is Olwethu-Thando Klaas.

I am ordinary, superb only in the depths of my self-deprecating nature.

I live in South Africa, a country often classified as having moved from African countries archetypal “Third World” classification to simply “a developing nation”.

Until social stratification is eradicated, is the whole world not in a “Third World” state?

I wish to write this only through my eyes, refusing to make blatant assumptions on the situations or perceptions for others.

These are the ramblings of a post-pubescent youth, at the brink of 21.

I sometimes humorously refer to myself as a “Commercial baby”, purely to bypass the argument that I have prophesied are always nigh. If I simply refer to myself as having been an “Apartheid baby”, I am usually de-identified as nothing of the sort having been born in 1993- at the pinnacle of revolutionary changes towards 1994 democracy. They say because I could not recognise the poignancy of the sharp urgency and danger in the South African air, I do not bear the right to class myself as anything so meaningful- “An Apartheid baby”? The cheek.

So I wonder the line and find myself, through my education, a product of a new autonomous entity in the new South Africa. I am a woman who received private education in grade 1-a solid foundation my mother felt imperative in the post-Apartheid South Africa. What followed was a jump between numerous good public schools, some with rigorous disciplinary actions and others which cared to only willingly endow the bare minimal. I found myself aching for the escape of books. I found solace in the magic of JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter” book series, and an idyllic family structure in those “7th Heaven” books, as well as the show that followed. A longing for a typified family I was often told was important for a child. I eventually graduated to the emotionally dense Jodi Picoult books, the incredibly woven fantastical stories by JRR Tolkien, Nora Roberts and Anne Rice, who remain my favorite authors, and the incomparable Stephen King who made terror a captivating distraction.

 Beyond literature came television and the subsequent visual representation of adolescent fun in lands unknown, recognized as being where the zenith of human existence prospers, and the subtle indoctrination of Capitalist ideals and western ideology- undeniably addictive to this day.

2 Cartoons have always stuck with me because of what they said, as well as what they didn’t say- “Courage the Cowardly dog” and “Pinky and the Brain”.

“Courage the Cowardly dog” was a cartoon that began its episodes with a TV Anchorman’s announcement about an anthropomorphic slight agoraphobic dog living with an elderly couple in the “Middle of Nowhere” Kansas. It used the genre of supernatural/paranormal/surrealist imagery as the nucleus of the plots, articulating the representation of the problems that arise when USA government keeps secrets regarding anomalies concerning the people they are sworn to protect. One of the views that people have regarding the show, one which I ascribe to at times, is that all the “monsters” Courage encountered were merely humans that Courage saw through warped eyes because he lives in such utter isolation from civilization. The idea of humans as monstrous, and few actually being genuine and humane, is an idea people in today’s society may choose to ascribe to.

“Pinky and the brain” were two genetically modified (spliced) mice, one smart megalomaniac and one of below-average intellect representing the masses, which live in a lab. Brain constantly makes plans to take over the world, with little success due to the feasibility of them. The timeline fluctuates and we encounter historical figures that have helped in the founding and rationalizing theories of the world, human knowledge, and behavior like Sigmund Freud, H.G. Wells, Merlin and Ivan Pavlov. The show was an incredible critique on the Capitalist agenda such as looking at expanding global conglomerates like Microsoft, the uncontrollable rebellion of scientific development like Gene therapy and splicing, and the satirical rationale of celebrity’s like Christopher Walken and Bill Clinton.

It had so much Pop Culture I was in perpetual heaven!

Following the clarity I encountered learning of the propaganda evident in every facet of contemporary existence, I found my way to the realm of fashion, media and lifestyle, and I have never looked back. My abilities to write have gotten me places, my taste and ability to not be sucked into labels has made evaluating fashion easy, and understanding the extensiveness of different cultural practices has made me astute to defining different lifestyles.

My potential as a scholar and the gradual progression towards the title of “respected academic” has made me realize that while I am a student and a tutor, the world will always force me to learn new things. Understanding that I have lived a blessed life, filled with materialism and western-centric rationale, has made me constantly conscious of the socioeconomic situations around me. The political sphere seems too much a complex entity to be entirely understood, but it can be argued from many perspectives, and being a commercial baby has endeared me to the threshold of Western thinking and that thought process which I hold as my own, as I refuse to call it “indigenous”, “primitive”, “African” or the like. It is not as if the two are homogenous, these are thinkings that flex their potential reach and can be hybrid.

I am a commercial baby because I am born to a world offering me stupendous wonders I have been willed to crave as necessity.

I know my culture as my own.

I know the traditional practices I know, or participate in, are that of the Xhosa clans I was born and hardwired to respect through famial ties.

I know of the Apartheid age where the dogs of war battered bodies which wept red tears marring the streets, inconceivable losses were lived through, strength of conviction became paramount, and the basest sentimentality of humanity was everything, and I still hear the pain that cannot be forgotten echoed in this period.

South Africans are restless in their freedom.

I know the post-Apartheid era where gross human violations still occur justified under the guise of bureaucratic jargon and skewered united consciousness. I know commercialism because I buy and sell it, speak it and write it, I walk it and I know it as me. It is twisted into the fabric of who I am; I am choked by it so tightly I gasp for the remnants of air of an idyllic life dreamt of, but unattainable, till I embrace the blackness of this dystopic reality.

This is the inescapable reality- that I cannot be separated from the Juggernaut others consider despicable; that to attempt to separate me from it would strip me of a part of my identity.

The sad truth that it takes embracing a factor of this commercial body in order to birth the consciousness that finds its existence vile.

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