We become fakes when we wear fakes




In an appallingly tragic incident, a Johannesburg man was shot dead last week for his Rolex. A Rolex that turned out to be fake.

There are several things terribly wrong about this story.

First, wearing a Rolex is a risk in our country. Poverty and anger at this legacy of apartheid have stoked crime. By wearing a watch like that, one makes oneself a target. Yet it is a risk people are willing to take to impress their friends and colleagues.

When did we reach a point where it is worth risking ones’ life to appear wealthy? Even worse, when did our society become so competitive that people are prepared to risk their lives to appear wealthier than they are?

Status has become so important to us that our streets and malls are awash with counterfeit merchandise. This has to be bad for us. Every time we put on a fake pair of sneakers, or piece of jewellery or pick up a fake handbag, we are telling ourselves that we aren’t good enough. That we are, in some way, failures.

There is nothing wrong with not being able to afford designer merchandise, but every time we buy a counterfeit item we are telling ourselves that we should be able to afford the real thing. On a daily basis we are damaging our self-esteem and negating our worth. We are telling ourselves that we are not as good as we should be. We are building a world of shame in which to live.

There is nothing wrong with not being able to afford a shirt with a crocodile on the pocket. There are dozens of other outlets that sell other shirts of perfectly acceptable quality. When we wear the fake, we are stealing from those companies and making ourselves feel bad. Which is, ironically, the opposite of what we are supposed to feel when wearing a luxury brand. Wearing a luxury brand is supposed to make us feel good about ourselves. But when we wear a fake we are doing the opposite.

Yet our society has become so materialistic and competitive that we consider this a small price to pay for impressing our peers. How did we end up feeling that material success is the only thing we have to offer the world? That without it we are worthless?

The other thing that this murder tells us is that crime spawned by grotesque inequality is out of control.

This inequality is the evil child of apartheid who was then fed and fattened by the corruption that has crippled the state’s efforts to lift people out of the poverty into which apartheid threw them.

Schools, toilets, textbooks, electricity, job-creation. All of these things should be making people’s lives better. But the lootathon has made sure these efforts are stillborn.

Corruption hurts us all, but it hurts the poor the most. And fuels the crime that blights our streets.

The tragic death of one innocent man for a counterfeit watch may just be one crime statistic among many. But it also tells a tragic story about what is wrong with our society.

John Davenport is the chief creative officer at Havas, an advertising and communications company. These are his own views

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

John Davenport
John Davenport is the chief creative officer of Havas Southern Africa.

Related stories

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South

Sharp sting of the Green Scorpions

Crime busters secure a 97% conviction rate and register more criminal dockets for range of crimes

Peacemaking criminology as ubuntu: A reply to Thuli Madonsela

If the rich and powerful are afforded amnesty, then so too must the poor who are often pushed into lives of crime

João Rodrigues, apartheid-era crimes and the question of a blanket amnesty

The former Security Branch officer is asking the SCA for a permanent stay of appeal in the prosecution of the murder of Ahmed Timol in 1971

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

Real action on gender-based violence a pipe dream as women die every day

Backlogs, booze, testicular cancer — all factors blamed for the apparent ineptitude or unwillingness to tackle a pandemic that is silently killing women all over the country.

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

DRC: Tshisekedi and Kabila fall out

The country’s governing coalition is under strain, which could lead to even more acrimony ahead

Editorial: Crocodile tears from the coalface

Pumping limited resources into a project that is predominantly meant to extend dirty coal energy in South Africa is not what local communities and the climate needs.

Klipgat residents left high and dry

Flushing toilets were installed in backyards in the North West, but they can’t be used because the sewage has nowhere to go

Nehawu leaders are ‘betraying us’

The accusation by a branch of the union comes after it withdrew from a parliamentary process

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…