Seth Rotherham and matters of social subversion

Apparently, South Africa’s (or is it Cape Town’s?) most popular blog is a thing called The byline is “Work is a sideline. Live the holiday.” It’s written by a guy called Seth Rotherham, and basically Seth tells you what Seth is getting up to. Which restaurants he likes, which cocktail he sipped last night, which movie he’s stoked about. Which “angels” he currently considers hot.

Seth is a bit of a composite character. His life seems to be modelled on a fantasy spliced together by GQ, Men’s Health, Austin Powers, Ali G and every Beverly Hills slacker you’ve ever seen parodied. He’s Ferris Bueller grown up. You know those Peter Stuyvesant ads from the 80s? Seth bought in. I’m not sure if he smokes and the only skiing you can do in Cape Town is on water, not snow, but when you live in Camps Bay and spend your days scoping out “angels”, who cares?

Seth knows he’s a bit vapid and narcissistic, and he’s rolling with it. And he’s huge. Cape Town restaurants have started quoting 2oceansvibe as a kind of branded recommendation on their menus. Advertisers are tripping over themselves to get a piece of his action.

What I find interesting about the popularity of the blog is that what it reveals about South Africans and their lifestyle aspirations. Firstly, the fact that Seth is one of our most popular purveyors of online content signals that SA’s online readership must be dominated by people a bit like him, or people that want to be a bit like him. It’s all about the wine, the beach, the “angels”. Sports cars, high fashion, and artful slackness. Zipping from the gym to the penthouse/mansion.

Secondly, though, Seth’s concept boldly subverts the work ethic that successfully shaped the post-war baby boomer generation, and less successfully got hammered into the kids of the 70s and 80s. (I think it’s altogether dissipated now; anyone I know born after 1981 seems to take it quite for granted that work is only a means to an end, and that if the same end can be achieved with less or no work, all the better.) Seth glamorises the notion that leisure and coolness is the new everything.

I won’t pretend that I get it; I’m not Seth’s target readership. But the subversion of routine and institution does resonate, and what I find interesting is that this is not particular to me and my peculiarly anti-establishment bent. I mean, Seth is mainstream. I’m not.

See: K started school a few weeks ago, and for the first time since sometime last century, I find myself having to factor in an element of scheduled-ness to our week. Suddenly it’s not so easy to have him sleep over at Granny’s house – how are we going to get him to school before 10 the next morning? (Sure, I could sleep over at Granny’s too, but there goes my night out.) Which takes precedence – what we choose to do with our time, or the schedule that the school has drawn up?

I’m so uncomfortable with routine, really, that I subvert it regularly by fetching him early or taking him late so that we can fit in the rest of our lives. In other words, I’ve noticed that institutionalised routines are anathema to us already. It’s not an issue at pre-school level, but I’m suspecting that it will be in a few years time.

And where will it take the next generation, I wonder, to learn that nothing is sacred, that rules are only useful as long as they’re useful, and that we’re free to abandon the ones that don’t work for us? And that we’re certainly free not to work merely for the sake of upholding the status quo, whatever it may be. I really can’t tell. But I do hope that there is an element of awareness and responsibility in all of it – an element of making the most fruitful and sustaining choices all round, rather than just the easiest and most gratifying.

About Lisa

I live in South Africa with my husband and two small children, doing things, thinking about things and sometimes writing about them.
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3 Responses to Seth Rotherham and matters of social subversion

  1. Alison says:

    You’re so right. About Mr Rotherham and about the freedom to routine exchange. I think both are a bit senseless…there is much more to life, like you already know 🙂

  2. Jeannine says:

    Great post Lisa. I’d much rather read you than Seth, but like you, I’m kinda glad he exists.
    I’m so with you on the routine thing and kids and school. Gavin and I loved doing things whenever the urge struck, now mid-week late nights and spur of the moment trips are on hold.
    Not always though, every now and again we let the boys sleep in and take a school day off. The boys love it, and call them road trips. We get in the car and head off for a pizza in Oudsthoorn or buy wine in Calitzdorp. Those days are few but they sure are wonderful. Routine for kids is part of life, but joy and doing something unexpected are part of life too. I have complete faith that you and K will find that balance!

  3. Lisa says:

    I love it that you do those ‘road trips’! I get the need to learn the useful aspects of routine, but too much adherence to routine just seems to me inhumane.

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