Hypocrisy and the forever gray.

You can tell a lot about someone by looking at their stock portfolio. Or what share they happen to be punting. Example. People who own gold shares or define themselves as ‘Gold bulls’ are basically cunts. You should totally unfriend them, lest they taint you by association. They need to walk off into the wilderness, think about all the evil they have wrought and then die alone. Basically they occupy the same moral landscape as gun-runners, human-traffickers and child pornographers.

This is what you’re doing when you buy a gold share. You are, with you money, endorsing a industry, that is, to call it gray, is only to reference the layer of slime that floats on top of its thick indeterminable darkness.

Whenever you’re having a shitty day, think, at least I don’t have to pull on gumboots and don a headlamp and travel 3.9km underground, which takes an hour in a tightly packed cage, to go work in a tight narrow claustrophobic corridor, where the rock face temperature is 60C. All the time knowing that if ANYTHING goes wrong with any of the mechanical equipment that keeps you alive down here, you are basically fucked. Lets add explosives, dust, rockfalls, earth tremors and extreme stress into the mix. At the end of your crappy shift where all you have been doing all day is hard physical labor, you get to look forward to another hour long ride in the packed cattle cage on your way to the surface.

But you don’t get to go home to your family and friends, cause they live in 500km away in another province/country. You’re doing this for them. To put food on their table and pay for your kids school shoes he doesn’t have to follow in your footsteps. So you head back to your shitty  hostel (*cough* Lonmin *cough*) or your congregated tin shack on the outskirts of the mine thats been cooking in the sun all day, hopefully no-one has stolen your blanket or your bucket that you’re going to use to give yourself a quick sponge bath.

You head towards the local shop, but have to backtrack to avoid the micro-lender thugs whom you’re indebted to for 120% of your wages every week. Holding your breath you quickly squat in the pit toilet, before making a beeline to your domicile. Its noisy, dusty and you don’t have electricity. But at least you can get a couple of hours sleep before you have to wake up, and do it all over again tomorrow morning.

And yes. These people are not slaves. And yes, free will. And yes, they get paid. And yes, supply and demand. But really, it doesn’t make you any less of a cunt when you tacitly support these practices with your money.

My portfolio is basically DBXW, CTOP50 and PTXTEN. Which I weight 50-40-10. I was thinking it needed some international property… There was a Coreshares S&P International property that briefly peaked my interest. DBXW already has some property in it though… and thats fine for me. I like the way I’m weighted. Its mostly off-shore. ie. most of the top 40 companies in SA earn their money off shore these days. There is one thing I am going  to change. I’m moving my CTOP50 into equally weighted CSEW40. Well thats the plan. I haven’t actually gotten round it to yet. Oh and I have some bonds still. But really that’s it.

So what does this say about me. Well… that I’m financially lazy. Maybe lazy in a bit harsh. Uninterested seems like a better term. It also means I’m a local earnings skeptic. And that I am a least partially a cunt. But mostly I think I’m a hypocrite.

That’s the problem with ETFs. It doesn’t allow you to pick and choose. You have take the whole basket or nothing. So that means in buying an ETF I’m supporting evil gold mining companies. I support addiction, cancer and big tobacco. I support open cast mining. I support big banks and big finance. (I’m sure glad no one went to jail for the 2008 financial crisis) I support big pharma who make unaffordable aids drugs. I support the amazon rainforest being chopped down, monocropping and pesticides. I support oil spills, gas pipelines and the gazillion metric tonnes of air pollution from the production of petrochemicals as a necessary inconvenience. I support retirement firms (gah!) I support pigs being gassed to make my bacon and ‘chickens’ being kept in row cages and force fed to satisfy my paleo diet. I support child labor. Minimum wages. And war.

All these things means dividends for me. And ergo, take-away coffee, netflix and lego. Which helps with my internal validation and ego. But let me make a small donation to oxfam or deworming the world or malaria free or whatever altruism helps me sleep better at night.

Editors note – The only donations Jo does actually make is to Sea Rescue. He actually compartmentalizes quite well and sleeps like the dead.  (he was going to say baby here, but has since learnt the lie)

Unfortunately my hypocrisy doesn’t end with shares. It blows out into everything. Full disclosure. Or something like that. Example…

I was visiting a steel mill in India that I was vetting as a potential supplier. I was taking the factory tour (as one does) and we came across a man wielding a crucible, filled to the brim with orange hot molten metal, with a pair of long tongs. His safety equipment for this daunting job consisted of, an apron (of some non-descript plasticy material), big black sunglasses, and pair of crocs.

A little taken aback I asked the sales director (or whoever he was) WTF? (or rather the subtle business form thereof). He shrugged and said, ‘Did you see that queue of people outside the main gate’, I nodded, ‘That’s the queue of people who want his job’. And with that, it was settled and we went for a vegetarian lunch.

I’d like to say this was the exception to rule. I visited another half a dozen similar mills on that particular trip. I remember one other mill where the run off from the heat treatment plant flowed into this little gully, out under the fence and into the river. Not even two hundred meters down river, cows drank the river water and people were bathing and washing their clothes.

These aren’t fly by night operations. These are billion dollar entities and global players. A lot of people come back from India raving about the beauty and the amazingness of it all. They spend two weeks in Goa and take the Taj Mahal trip in an air conditioned bus. My trip was a horror show of darkness which included being attacked by a gang of child beggars (not fun). My guide was like ‘just hit them’, and indicated that I should use the lamp post to bash them against. Easier said than done. One particularly stubborn little fucker managed to hold onto my leg down two flights of stairs. The food was really good though he said, feeling he needed to balance some of his negativity. Anyways, sufficed to say I was never so happy to get back to South Africa as I was after that trip.

So. Given a choice. I can buy from the expensive European mills. Be completely uncompetitive and not make any money. Which in turn means not hiring people. Not paying taxes and not contributing to the economy. Or I can buy cheap and get a chemical composition that includes some melted worker from time to time.

Anyways. I don’t know what the answer is. I’m not sure I believe in good and evil anymore. Because otherwise we would all be evil. And that seems a bit depressing. Maybe its just a broad expanse of gray that reaches out forever, and we all just wander round it, lost, thinking that we are actually making a difference, that we are different from the ubiquitous ‘them’. But really we are all the fucken same, living in permanent denial.

I wish I had some fruit loops right now. I’m hungry.

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