People stand inside Menlyn Shopping Centre with their shopping trollies. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
When we see the word “tyrant”, we call up Hitler in Europe, Idi Amin in Africa and the bad boys of South America. These sordid reminders, called history, cautions us against repeating the mistakes that sit like scars on our humanity.

My piece this week speaks to other, smaller tyrannies that quietly eat away at our paltry attempts at happiness and serenity.

Let’s start with shopping malls. The very variety that attracts us in fact deceives us into believing that we have choices. It leaves us brain-dead. It makes spending orgies like Black Friday possible.

We are wooed into shops by cut prices - 50% off, the sticker screams. Yes, but off what? Did you have a say in the original price tagging?

Food-packaging is another tyrant. Cereals are bulk-packed in cartons that have games which dictate the choices made. No one points out that bulk leads to deterioration once the seals are broken. The same applies to fresh produce combinations which promote bulk-buying what appears to be a bargain.

The motor car industry must rate among the leaders of tyranny. Its selling slogans are awash with mantras that populate our roads with monsters that show no respect for the environment. The capabilities include off-road rampage that scars the green footprint. The sedate family car is for our grandparents. We need gas-guzzling monsters to convey our shopping and then tear up pristine landscape in off-road thrills.

Choices of school for your offspring are influenced by cost factors. As is the healthcare you are able to access. There seems to be a demoniac conspiracy that intones that only the haves can have while the poor grovel. The chasm between rich and poor widens exponentially.

The ultimate tyrant has to be the home loan, or bond, or mortgage. Look at the word “bond”. It smacks of inflicted tyranny and subservience. And mortgage literally translates into “grip of death”. Because, by the time you have paid off, at gut-wrenching interest rates, your family home, you are a husk of a human, drained by years of toil for this insatiable commodity.

There are other subtler tyrannies that plague us. Like self-appointed parking attendants. And beggars who salvage the discarded coffee cup and thrust it at motorists in their bid to achieve survival for the day. Even worse are the ladies who tout babies and appeal to your soft underbelly for food for her family. It’s a form of tyranny that wrenches at your humanity and leaves you feeling guilty because you have what they lack.

To close off my harangue, let me remind you of the home-grown tyrants that you deal with daily. They are called children. Children who are constitutionally protected against your sacred right to chastise. Children who demand more than they give. Who under-perform and expect rewards.

Miniature tyrants in situ.

* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus