System-wide, it is not a pretty scenario: extreme poverty creating a huge pool of people desperate to be nannies and gardeners. On the level of the individual household, though, the matter is more complicated. Sometimes these workers practically become part of the family. Is it wrong to hire them and thereby participate in the capitalist system of privilege and exploitation? Or is it one's duty as a privileged person to offer employment to impoverished people who are desperate for it? In South Africa, as in many countries with a high degree of wealth inequality, many people consider it a social obligation to hire servants if you can afford them – even if you don't really need to. It is incumbent upon a person of means to take care of the less fortunate.
The same debate applies more generally, to the realm of philanthropy, charity, and any work that directly benefits the less fortunate without changing the system. A leftist critique of these goes something like this: “Sure, treating the domestic help well, giving to charity, housing the homeless, even walking an old lady across the street... these are all nice, but they do nothing to change the exploitative, ecocidal system of global capitalism. On the contrary, charity, philanthropy, and individual acts of kindness only perpetuate that system. Here's how:
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