Changed the Rules
The Pursuit of Wealth
The rise of
‘middle class’ values since World War Two (1946 – 1986)
- An abundance of
natural resources; the ability to turn them into wealth and prosperity.
- Business seeks
growth, rising profits: mass-production techniques, refined during the
war, look to consumerism.
- The (SA)
Government support efforts to improve white living standards.
- Businesses grow
and expand: after starting off as a small general dealer in Johannesburg
before the war. The OK Bazaars become a post-war giant with hundreds of
branches throughout the country.
- Vast resources of
cheap, unskilled black labour keep the wheels of industry turning,
particularly in the construction, mining and manufacturing sectors.
- Business takes a
paternal interest in employees: defines benefits for mostly white workers
(non-contributory pension funds, company subsidized medical aid, company
cars or car allowances).
- A university
degree or college diploma virtually guarantees a well-paid career for
- Employee loyalty
prized and rewarded. Pay packet sizes often based on the length of
- Near full
employment leads to stability in the workplace.
- Large corporations
provide job and social security for their employees.
- As demands
generally exceeds supply, customer service levels dip to abysmal lows.
Employees adopt a ‘like-it-or-lump-it’ attitude towards customers.
The economic juggernaut.
Excesses of the
- Business uses
advertising to develop a culture of consumerism to acquire rising
manufactured outputs as an endless stream of new products arrive on the
market. Shopping mall development makes shopping more convenient, more fun
and more comfortable.
- Pop music, the
cinema and TV give impetus to the ‘must have’ syndrome.
- People abandon
high-density central city living for suburban (one family, one home
standing on its own grounds) lifestyle.
- Two-car families
become the norm in white suburbia.
designer clothes and heavily branded products fuel consumer elitism.
- People become
obsesses with expanding personal wealth.
- Widespread belief
that hard work and loyalty to employers brings financial security, a
satisfactory level of affluence and comfortable retirement.
- Madonna, ‘The
Material Girl’, shrugs off conventions of good taste by wearing lingerie
on stage. She brags: ‘I dress to excess’. David Bowie, who also defies
convention, proclaims: ‘Too much is never enough.’
- Business tycoons
flaunt their wealth and power for their moment of fame/notoriety. In the
US, Lee Iacocco, CEO of the Chrysler Corporations boasts of his prowess in
TV and print ads. In South Africa, the managing director of Checkers does
his ‘trolley for trolley’ act in 30 seconds spurts on TV. Robin Hood,
chief executive OK Bazaars, follows suit.
- Then came the
latest revolution. People were gatvol of the hype, the emphasis on
materialism, the drudgery of life.
What Changed Us?
Bureaucracy didn’t deliver the goods (1986-1994)
The grand illusion
- The grand Vision:
all social problems would be solved; an end to business cycles, economic
insecurities, poverty and racism; limitless personal freedom and self-fulfillment;
the guarantee of a decent life for the aged, disabled, ill and unlucky.
From the Good life and its Discontents by Robert J. Samuelson. They didn’t
- Business and
political leaders cling to ineffective tactics in the face of new cultural
realities in South Africa. The ‘liberation struggle’ by blacks
intensifies. New demands are issued almost daily. International sanctions
- Cracks appear and
widen the wall of apartheid. The apartheid ‘regime’ falters and
- South African
business loses its captive market. Global competitors launch an invasion.
- South Africa’s
top-heavy hierarchical corporate and institutional structures begin to
- South Africa’s
first democratically elected government, led by Nelson Mandela, sweeps
into power on a litany of promises.
- Standards of
service delivery fall across the board in both the private and public
sectors as those with experience are retrenched or opt for early
retirement. Rising crime levels, black empowerment and affirmative action
lead to a ‘brain drain’ that denudes South Africa of the skills it can
ill-afford to lose.
Enough is enough
- People reassess
their priorities, needs and interest. The country’s Third World element
sets about enthusiastically pursuing wealth; the First World element
thinks more about preserving time and lifestyles.
- Foreign and
domestic fixed investment dwindles in the face of militant trade unionism
and inflexible new labour legislation.
A world out of control
- Law and order
breaks down; criminals reign supreme. The security industry thrives as
people focus on making their lives more physically secure.
- The 1985
Challenger shuttle disaster in the United States proves that not even
cutting edge technology is fail-safe.
- Medical Science
fails to find a cure for AIDS. TB, thought to have been wiped out, returns
with a vengeance. Viral infections begin to triumph over over-prescribed
- El Nino plays
havoc with world weather patterns. Hurricanes, floods, abnormal winds,
unprecedented heat and earthquakes cut a swathe of destruction across
- Degrees and
diploma count for little. They have become two-a-penny commodities in the
highly competitive job market.
- In the face of
massive lay-offs, salaries stagnate and even dip.
- A wave of
retrenchment and forced early retirements lead to people changing jobs
- The life-time
career with one company has been relegated to the realms of history. This
plus retrenchments and lay-offs have led to a growing sense of insecurity.
Politically-motivated thuggery reaches an all-time high during the run-up
to South Africa’s first democratic elections. Criminals take over the
retrenchments, right sizing and downsizing as business attempts to cut
costs in the face of rising foreign competition. Unprecedented rates of
unemployment fuel the spiralling crime rate.
- The scourge of
illicit drugs sweeps through South Africa. Policing remains ineffective.
Teen violence. Rape and teen pregnancies accompany the widespread of abuse
of hallucinatory drugs.
- People looked for
life’s meaning, simplicity, happiness, security, an opportunity to ‘do
How have we
The Personal Revolution
- Many formerly
coveted products – women’s designer fashions, status holidays, and other
brand-name consumer products ‘ lose their appeal.
- People place
individual career-building to validate self-worth and personal wealth
accumulation on the backburner. They seriously challenge the validity of
exchanging hard work for financial reward.
- People reject
transfers and promotions that command more money if they are likely to
impinge on quality personal time and demand too much energy.
- People reject the
old post-war ‘mentally’ that responds to difficulties by calling on
employees to work longer hours, increases the adspend , creates more
brand-name hype and cuts costs.
- More people opt to
work from home ‘ an option made possible by rapid advances in
telecommunications and digital technology. The growing sophisticated and
processing power of personal computers add to human capabilities.
career-for-life a thing of the past, people upgrade their existing skills
and acquire new ones to make themselves more self-reliant and
self-sufficient. They satisfy their need for more personal control by
going-it-alone in business as consultants and independent, specialist
- A lifetime of
learning to keep abreast of fast-breaking developments in the business
world becomes a ‘must’ for survival.
Get a life!
- People take time
out to ponder the meaning of life through feng shui, the Chinese art of
creating balance and harmony within the environment. It provides a
physical solution to metaphysical problems. Among the believers are Donald
- ‘Rabbi on a roll’,
orthodox Rabbi Nachum Shrifan, is a surf-ski fanatic. He has ridden the
biggest and most dangerous waves from Malibu to Hawaii. He also swims,
runs, is a triathlete and served as a lifeguard for 10 years. These are
not pursuits normally associated with a rabbi. Described by some as a
‘cool dude’, Rabbi Shriffan, who now lives in Jerusalem, explains the
affinity of his sporting prowess with deeply held religious beliefs in a
book. Surf and Soul: The Spiritual Journey from Malibu to Jerusalem.
- Companies around
the world are introducing a fun element in the work place to motivate
workers demoralized by layoffs and downsizing. At Clicks in Cape Town the
play Monopoly; at Mark and Spencer in London they write poetry; at Phelps
dodge in Arizona they attend Yoga classes.
- Ubuntu; a
celebration of collective ‘personhood’. In South Africa, business have
decided to go the ubuntu route be developing ‘caring souls’ – a quality
and dimension of experiencing life and individuals in terms of depth,
value, relatedness, heart and personal substance.
develops a new spirit of camaraderie with fellow road users. Hitching
junkie Iris, a 70-year-old widow in the cape, remains imbued with the
wanderlust. Armed with a well-used thumb, she finds that the world is her
oyster. When she takes to the road, she’s more concern with going than
with getting there.
- Money doesn’t buy
happiness. People who choose bucks are often more depressed then other
mortals. Tim Kasser, assistant Professor of Psychology at Knox College in
Illinois, says self-acceptance, meaning in life. Intimacy and strong
community feeling bring happiness. More people are voluntarily downsizing
life: rejecting a 60-hour working week, moving to smaller houses and
taking a salary cuts to spend more quality time with their families.
How does this impact on
- Brand appeal
diluted. Consumers want reliability, not old-style over hyped brand
- Product or service
effectiveness becomes more important than image.
- Ready availability
of products and services a ‘must’.
- The demand is for
high-quality but less costly products and services.
- Consumers want a
direct link between themselves and the marketers and manufacturers.
Middlemen get the heave-ho.
- Fashion and dress
becomes less formal.
- Conventional and
mall shopping takes up too much time. More consumers swing to electronic
shopping (e-shopping) on the Internet for some purchases. Doubts about
invasion of privacy and lack of security inhibit e-shopping in South
- To shop on
Internet, consumers require more accurate, factual product and service
information. And they’re prepared to pay for solutions to their specific
- With access to
Internet, customers will experience enhanced convenience, a greater speed
service. They will also easily be able to compare prices. On-line
subscribers can suck out cyberspace whatever interests them and ignore
- On-line customers
can order a product to be produced to their specifications. And almost
everything will be up for auction: products and services advertised on the
Internet will be available to everyone, irrespective of where in the world
- Smart business
people allow consumers to set all agendas, passing control to them.