A Nation Of Pimps

I don’t listen to the radio too often. But twice in the last month I’ve had the luxury of driving with sound. The pleasure of tuning into, among others, Gauteng’s ‘leading youth station’, Y-fm. On the first occasion, driving past groups of protesting public sector workers making their way into Braamfontein on the first day of the strike, as a weird kind of respite from her banter about which playas should always carry condoms with them, dj, Pabi Moloi, turned on the voice of some learned white gentleman for Mzansi’s youth to take advice from. His advice – how to get ahead in life by trying to live like your boss. Firstly, observe how your boss behaves closely. Notice how he is different from other employees, especially how he always puts the company before himself. In the learned gentleman’s experience, bosses were bosses because they didn’t concern themselves with their own petty worries. Instead, the company came before everything else in the boss’s life. For me, as a young South African, to be successful in life, I too would have to stop worrying about my petty problems and consider the life of my boss and the company first. I can’t say I stayed tuned long enough to hear Pabi’s take on the whole spiel. It was all a little too surreal for me, what with the numbers of red t-shirts and their ‘petty grievances’ swelling around me…

Fast forward to June 16th – Youth Day. I’m driving through the streets of Jozi again. Y is celebrating with a festival that’s receiving commentary on the station from dj, Bridget Masinga. R3000 worth of pimp juice is up for grabs. Listeners have to call in and describe how they see Mzansi’s youth in the next ten years in order to qualify for the prize which will allow one of them to set up a small business. Bridget’s enthusiastic about ‘vukuzenzele’, the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ that is taking Mzansi’s youth, and all the potential out there for young people to succeed in life. In passing she encourages listeners to celebrate all that the youth of the past fought for and gave up for the youth of today. More importantly, she wants to know what the youth of today are doing for their future as this past should not have been in vain. It couldn’t be clearer – the spirit of the fallen young lions of South Africa is now to be invoked in service of the market. What else could there be for Mzansi’s ‘born frees’? And here is a respected one of these brave youth of the past, now a national leader, offering young people a chance at making something better of their lives and helping to advance the entrepreneurial spirit of the new nation with his pimp juice. How can we get the nation’s youth pimpin’? Callers are quick to bite – the first goes on about how bright the future is for the youth as a result of the many sacrifices and struggles of the youth of the past; so does the second. I switch channels. Three grubby little faces appear at my window, their arms outstretched. They’re shivering and the littlest one is crying. I fumble around for change…

Pimp juice – a green energy drink being brought into South Africa by well known politician, Matthews Phosa, and American mainstream musician, Nelly. An extraordinary partnership for an extraordinary drink. A green energy drink to boost your pimpin’ potential – your potential to sell yourself, your potential to sell others, your potential to sell. Pimp your way out of poverty – has a nice ring. Comrade Phosa says it stands for ‘positive intellectually motivated person’. Nelly says he’s giving a positive spin to something negative. I’ve tried but I can’t see the positive in pimp – not in the media hype behind the drink, not in Nelly’s song lyrics, and not in the lifestyle that pimp juice promotes.

I can’t say I’ve been able to get into this whole celebration of the pimp. The pimpin’ life and style’s never been my kinda scene. For me, bigger’s never been a guarantee of better. And bling’s almost always been proven to be hiding something scarier behind it – usually ignorance, insecurity and feelings of inferiority. But pimpin’s caught on really quickly in Mzansi. In fact, it’s quickly becoming a way of life. I guess what it boils down to is that you know you’re made when you can deliver the baitches to the bosses. And, I guess, that’s what makes me mad. It’s again about being some 1 in a bosses’ world.