THE joys of having three kids aged six and under are plentiful, of course. We have a six-year-old who likes to talk a lot, and ask complex questions, such as: "What happens when elephants hibernate?", or "Why is water wet?" One of the great challenges of parenting is trying to simplify what little you remember from your physics classes about viscosity and what-what. Too often, "it just is" seems to do the trick. We also have a 10-month-old who likes to screech, and a two-year-old who is the binary child — a heart-bursting delight or, you know, occasionally she’s just two.

But these kids do make me think a bit about privilege, because, in the rather more toxic spaces on social media, privileged people are held responsible for all that ails us.

I think it’s important to be absolutely clear. We intend to pass on every ounce, every cent and every possible manifestation of "privilege" to our children. To do anything less would be irresponsible parenting. It will, insh’Allah, manifest largely as education, health and happiness, but also whatever small capital we are able to pass on. Their first language will be English, which is brilliantly useful. In terms of their race, two of the kids are white — and that’s a form of privilege too.

Passing on to your kids whatever privilege and wealth you can muster is surely just part of the human condition; doesn’t everyone do it? Apart, perhaps, for some true-believer communists (and, as we know, communism never applies to communists’ own children), I don’t think I can think of anyone who would deliberately retard their children’s future. We all want the best for them. The best, you see? To ask privileged people to behave differently is to ask them to engage in wilful damage to their kids’ lives, and engage in ultimately inhuman behaviour. It ain’t gonna happen.

All this makes me wonder about whether privilege causes material harm. There’s no question that unconscious privilege and its manifestations are deeply, deeply irritating. Those that rail against empowerment initiatives and blunder around the halls of varsities and the corridors of Twitter asking themselves why everybody is so angry. Ja, that crowd is annoying. Indeed, they may be offensive, but contrary to increasingly popular misconception, being offensive isn’t a crime. It is no cause for action, recourse, even less for legislation.

I drove the 2.2 diesel model — actually a 2.1l Mercedes-Benz motor — which is clattery at a cold idle and not terribly well muffled under acceleration. It is, however, a great motor that I’ve experienced in various Benzes, which offers suitable shunt and good economy.

The greatest possible damage I can muster that privilege may cause would be to nation-building, that wishy-washy idea that we’re all some kind of collective and if we don’t all love each other it’s all going to fall apart. Perhaps there’s something in it, but it seems weak to me. Also, I suppose, unconsciously privileged people might not see people’s struggles and difficulties for what they are. But, because where blind privilege would theoretically let the poor continue to suffer, the government steps in and taxes the rich to help the poor — at least in theory, anyway.

Regular readers of this column will know that I recently reviewed a BMW 335i GT, an effortlessly brilliant luxury family car that — dare I say it — calls upon BMW’s long history of making effortlessly brilliant family cars. There is a delicious lustre to everything about it — the ride, the cornering, the creamy exhaust note, the seats and the interior, as well as the iDrive and navigation systems.

BMW has a wealth of institutional knowledge and a seemingly unburstable culture of distinction that means excellence is passed down from one generation of vehicle to the next. And, you know, these Germans are making so, so much money out of their luxury cars that other folk are trying to get in on the action, companies that do not have a long history of building luxury cars, but do, in the case of Nissan, have a history of making solid and reliable cars and tough 4x4s at more reasonable prices.

But then, along comes Infiniti, the luxury car arm of the Japanese manufacturer. Specifically, they sent me something called the Q50 the other day, and I have to tell you that, along with the more well-known newer arrival to excellence, Lexus, the progress is remarkable.

The Q50 is what happens when Nissan tries to build a 3-Series. On first encounter you get the feeling that some money has been saved inside, where a lot of dark plastic abounds. But it soon seems pretty clear that the Infiniti has a character all of its own. There are no less than two full-size screens on offer, so you can fiddle with the stereo while the navigation stays on the other screen, and so on. Then there’s the exterior design, which my wife described as being "like a transformer". I think it’s a rakish-looking thing that has a distinctly Japanese feel about it.

I drove the 2.2 diesel model — actually a 2.1l Mercedes-Benz motor — which is clattery at a cold idle and not terribly well muffled under acceleration. It is, however, a great motor that I’ve experienced in various Benzes, which offers suitable shunt and good economy.

The Q50 is rear-wheel drive and has a really good chassis. The complicated and clever drive-by-wire steering is a trifle lifeless, but there’s tons of grip up front, which adds to a playful character.

I’m not entirely happy with the engine-automatic gearbox combination, which can be sluggish off the line, and another complaint would be that the entire car is decidedly over-nannied, with a humourless electronic stability programme system that cuts in far too frequently, and a collision warning alarm that simply cannot handle the cut and thrust of Johannesburg traffic and squawks like a demented ferret.

But, look. The Q50 is a damn good car at a reasonable price and with a ton of standard spec. No car is perfect and this matches the Germans on more levels than they will like. If the standard trio of A4, 3-series, C-Class is looking a tad pricey or, perhaps, predictable, the Q50 is well worth a test drive. It is, really, a monument to the wise investment of energy and capital, and I expect, in time, it’ll do well.

See more articles


Sun Dec 04 18:09:53 SAST 2016