Elon Musk is dead wrong about Mars!!

(This piece first appeared in Port Elizabeth’s “Weekend Post” on 1 July 2017)

 

I am inspired by the phenomenally innovative work of, California based,  Elon Musk. You may know him as the founder and CEO of the ground-breaking Tesla Company. You may know that in spite of Elon growing up with the smell of mind-numbing bureaucratic paralysis in the Pretoria air, his thinking on electric cars and battery storage is proving to be hugely disruptive. His bold ideas will absolutely and fundamentally change the way we all live and work. This dramatic transformation will happen very soon and I am very excited to see it all pan out.

 

296c4-162bjune2b2012b

But I heard Mr Musk speaking the other day about his planned missions to Mars to build a colony there. I just can help feeling that that this kind of thinking is just a lot of crap, perhaps not unlike the kind of thinking of other technologists like (the American) J. Robert Oppenheimer,  who applied his incredible skill to enable our species to blow up Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I can see that I think a little differently to Musk and Oppenheimer. In my reading and in my quiet time, I have come to see that we, as a species, have evolved here on this planet and are an integral part of it, perhaps like our gut bacteria are an integral part of us. To just plonk us somewhere else, is misunderstanding just how integral we are to our ecosystem and to what extent we are a product of it. I see this in the writings of brilliant and enlightened souls and I see this when I watch my cattle going about their business in the pasture.

Pasture and grasslands are a fascinating subject, but I do understand that it  is quite possibly more interesting to me than it is to you. Books have been written about pasture. Entire library shelves filled. The important thing to take from our knowledge of pasture is the undeniable fact that we are dealing with a living interconnected system. In a very real and observable way cattle and grass and soil are part of the same “organism”. Grass has evolved to thrive on nutrient provided by herbivore manure, which in turn is digested by specifically evolved  soil based mycelium and bacteria. Grass had evolved to look, taste and behave the way it has because of grazing animals like cattle. Cattle have developed their size, shape and biology because they have evolved in the pasture (alongside their predators) eating the grasses that they do. These are not just curious facts of anatomy and biology. These are fundamental truths. They are absolute “laws”, that whether we choose to or not, are a governing force in all of our lives. It may appear to me that I, as an individual, am a separate organism to the people around me and to the things that I consume and to the things that try to consume me, but in truth, with the perspective of evolution and of time, I am not.

So much of what I see around us attempts to convince me that I am a separate organism, that I am able to survive even without this planet; that I am separate from the earth. The spectacular 1960’s project to send a man to the moon, walk around up there and take photographs of the blue planet from that far off position, is one in a sequence of events, since the beginnings of consciousness, that have made us feel more and more comfortable with the argument that we, human beings, are a separate and distinct organism.

But when I sit in the pasture. When I observe the earthworm magically building soil from excrement, when I appreciate the cattle, I let the picture remind me of who I am. I let the picture remind me that I am a part of an organism that is beginning to show signs of disease caused largely by  people (people  very much like me) that have somehow come to forget the obvious truth that they are only a small (yet very important) part of a big and complex organism. Perhaps, with time, we will come to see that the disease afflicting our planet is like the disease of cancer that afflicts so many of our bodies.( A disease that killed my own father.)  Some doctors say that a cancer cell is a cell that has forgotten that it is part of body, that it is part of an organism. A cancer cell consumes energy and replicates very rapidly, but it has forgotten its function within and as part of the organism. Cancer cells grow and grow until they kill the very same body that it forgot that it was integrally part of. Cancer cells form tumours that are fuelled by excess sugar in the system. In the same way perhaps as our bodies make up rapidly growing populations that cluster in cities that have become distorted way beyond any useful shape and size by the injection of excess energy in the form of over exploited fossil fuels.  Perhaps tumours, cities and Elon Musk behave in this way because they have forgotten what our species has known since it has first emerged from the cradle of human kind all those years ago.

So what do we do about all this? I can only suggest that you come sit with me in the in the pasture one afternoon. Perhaps we can be still, observe and help each other remember.

GDP growth no measure of how well we are doing.

(this piece first appeared in The Herald on 12 May 2017)

I don’t eat much sugar at all. In my experience, sugar and starch cause me to become fat and lazy. So I drink bitter coffee by day, red wine at night and water when I train. So I’m personally not too stressed about government’s plans to tax the consumption of sugar in the same way it taxes cigarettes and alcohol. Selfish of me perhaps? (for the record though, I don’t think the amount of sugar I put in my tea, or how many hours I spend watching TV or whether I spend enough time in gym are the business of government at all.)

944907_10151899005068975_675733428_n
Bitter morning coffee at “Cafe Blend”

I think what interests me more is the game playing out as the sugar industry attempts, through the media, to argue the case against introducing such a tax. I recall that the initial attempts by the makers of fizzy cool drinks was to rubbish any of the science that has growingly begun to link increased carbohydrate intake with a number of ailments including diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. The merits of that discussion we will leave to another, perhaps more scientifically oriented, writer.

What I notice though, is that the sugar industry’s PR campaign has now shifted to how many jobs will be lost and the general impact that this new tax will have on the economy. The latest headline reading “Sugar Tax – blow to GDP!”… or something like that. And this is what I would like to talk about here today. Not Sugar, not tax, but our community’s continued focus on GDP growth as a measure of whether we are doing well or not. We seem do descend into a collective state of panic when Treasury projects a 0% growth rate. We seem all to be in awe of Indonesia or Ghana when it reports GDP growth of 7 or 8%. But if that GDP growth has occurred as a result of the economic activity resulting from the logging of thousand year old forests, or the activity of building roads and rail to move logs from the 1000 year old forest to the Port that was built for no reason other than parking big ships that will move these logs across the ocean, then can such 7 or 8% growth really be good for any country?

Because GDP growth, at the end of the day, is a simple measure of how much money has been spent in economy. So … to use cigarettes as an example. If a farm is bought to plant tobacco, that transaction is counted as part of the GDP, so it the cost of ploughing the field and planting the tobacco seed, harvesting, drying, transporting, rolling into cigarettes in huge factories, advertising, marketing….. all part of GDP, but also all the medical costs of people dying of lung cancer or buying twisps or patches in an attempt to free themselves from nicotine addiction. Each and every transaction in the value chain is counted in the calculation of the GDP figure. So perhaps the question that you and I need to ask is: “Is it automatically good for us just because it makes up part of the GDP figure?” (Because I suppose, if everyone suddenly stopped smoking cigarettes, those people who used to smoke would spend their money on something else and therefore still show up in the GDP figures.)

I am arguing that we need to develop of ourselves a more sophisticated measure of whether or not something is good for our community than the measure of GDP growth. A measure that reflects on the value that is added by the purchases we make with the money circulating though the economy. A measure that can distinguish the value difference between money spent on a bottle of imported whiskey or the planting of a fruit tree. (Both of similar value but one of lasting contribution to the well-being of the community). A measure that helps us decide whether or not it’s good for our community to build a new supermall outside of town, or a nuclear plant at Thyspunt or a new Chinese motor vehicle assembly plant at Coega. You see, what I am introducing is the question of how do we quantify the “qualitative”. We all know through life experience that some things, some experiences, some places are better than others. We all know this, but find it very difficult to argue or prove. We know that it is better to see our economy directed to spend money of the “better stuff”, but we also know that it is so difficult to adjudicate between two parties that claim that their stuff is better, that we just tend to abandon the whole concept of quality and focus more on what we can, without doubt, quantify, and that ladies and gentlemen, is why we have this obsession with GDP growth! Not because it is useful measure of if we are doing the right stuff or not, but quite simply because it can be quantified in such a way that invites very little dispute. But this is where you and I come in. We have a duty as individuals to be vocal and outspoken about what we as individuals view to be the “better stuff”. What is your favourite building? Your favourite place to view the sunset? Your favourite street vista? Make it an issue. We don’t need consensus in order for it to be reality.

Perhaps quality cannot be quantified, but that does not mean that it’s not real?

More return in rural infrastructure

(This piece first appeared in The Herald on 23 January 2017)

I try at the beginning of each year, during my break from office life, to pull off at least one lasting “capital infrastructure” project at home or at the farm. I do this because I’ve seen that a change of work routine is much more refreshing to me than “vegging out” on the couch. For the last few years I have been focusing on farm projects rather than home projects. A few hundred metres of fence, replacing the rusted roof on the old cottage or installing solar panels for off grid electricity. I insist to be “hands on” with these projects, so I spend the time physically working, lifting, hauling and digging.

Fauna
Cattle can give us milk and meat from grass, but they need water and fences.

It’s a kind of a therapy I suppose. This year I spent time running the heavy duty electrical cables that bring the municipal electrical supply from the roadside to the cottage. You make ask, “What do you need and electrical supply for when your previous project was installing your solar panels for off grid power?” A good question; and one with a very unfortunate answer. The panels were stolen (twice in fact) causing me painful financial loss and even more painful self-flagellation for allowing this to happen. But I don’t want to talk about going off grid today; I don’t want to talk about crime today. I rather want to talk about what goes through my head as I haul cable, as I dig trenches or as I cool down under the tree by the dam.

I’ve spent a good part of my professional life working on capital projects that provide infrastructure to those of use trapped in poverty. I am really grateful that we live in a country where we are able to attempt to provide infrastructure that addresses basic needs.  I am grateful that our system is able to build RDP houses, roads, electrical supply and sanitation. I am glad that the less tangible “infrastructure” of birth registration, identity documents and title deeds is in place and working reasonably well.  My concern is that while this infrastructure makes the urban poor a little more comfortable (and maybe relieves the middle class of a little guilt) it does not make the poor any less poor. The infrastructure does not offer any real improvement of the prospects of the urban poor of entering the economy which doggedly continues to exclude them.

I know it’s completely different, but what I see in my holiday farm infrastructure projects, is that every little investment of time and cash dramatically increases my potential to support revenue generating projects. When I install fences, I am able to keep cattle that will give me beef and milk. When I install electricity, I can brood my day-old chicks that will become free-range drumsticks and chicken fillets. When I install pipes to pump water from the spring I can irrigate my Pecan Nut trees in the dry months and generate revenue from a nut harvest. When I spend time and cash on replacing the windows on doors on the derelict farmstall, I can generate revenue by selling, pecan pie with fresh cream, free-range eggs and chicken soup. What I have come to see is that investment in basic rural infrastructure has the ability to give a much greater “bang for the buck”, especially if we measure that “bang” in terms of its ability to continue to provide regular revenue. This is especially true if we consider that the infrastructure that is currently being provided for the urban poor has all kinds of revenue generating potential, if only it were installed in a rural location where it could unlock the ability to enter the agricultural economy, if even on a micro scale. I’m talking about giving individual title to well located, small acreages with basic water supply, basic fencing and electricity. Just the essentials to allow people that would otherwise be stuck in poverty to at very least provide some of their own food, but with very little extra effort be able to produce a modest surplus. It’s not rocket science, especially when we live in a confusing reality where millions of us are unemployed yet millions of us eat chicken everyday imported from the Brazil and the USA. Perhaps it’s time that we get out of the mind-set where we believe that the only route out of poverty is 12 years of formal schooling and a 4 year degree. The truth is that many “unemployable” urban dwellers actually possess motivation and skillset that can be geared into real income and wellbeing in a reimagined agricultural economy on the periphery of our towns and cities. Let’s give thought to providing infrastructure in locations where our people can be productive in the agricultural economy. We must give this thought because our metro and every other municipality in our province includes much more rural land than urban land. We must give this more thought because our democratic process  is skewed  in such a way as to allow urban dwellers to direct public spending, through the IDP process, to the urban areas where they currently live and effectively away from any future possible improved rural existence perhaps just 10 or 20 km  away. We must give this thought because it is foolish delusion to think the city is separate from its rural hinterland, or that “they” are not separate from” us”, or that you are separate from me.

THC 20170118

Don’t let culture be reason to isolate ourselves from others

This piece first appeared in The Herald on 12 January 2017

December holidays in South Africa, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world, are a glorious celebration of idleness; an annual reminder to all of us that there is so much more to this life than working for a boss.

img_5133-1
The young man returning from the bush dresses in a certain way (Photo: Tamarisk Glogauer)

But, other than idleness, December in our region is also dominated by significant “cultural” and “traditional” obsessions. In my family, we follow both Xhosa and European traditions, so December means Mgidi season and Christmas season. This year was particularly intense as my second son (recently matriculated) went to the bush to participate in the thousand year old Xhosa tradition of circumcising boys and initiating them into manhood. So, this December was not just about attending the various celebrations as a guest, but rather hosting a huge feast (called an Mgidi) in my back yard in Walmer.

Of course, once everything was done with the Mgidi, the marquee taken down, the last of the ox eaten and the last Mqomboti drunk, I quickly got into Father Christmas mode and rushed off to the mall to get the gifts, the turkey, the gammon, the crackers and all the other paraphernalia that is absolutely required to make Christmas a success. It all worked out well and so many of our friends are patting us on the back for being “multi-cultural” and for “promoting diversity”.

But I have been thinking about this a little over the holidays, as the fog of burnout begins slowly to loosen its grip on my brain. I really don’t want to make myself unpopular, but I am just no longer sure that all of this talk of “embrace your culture” and “be proud of your roots” is going to be good for us in trying to build a society and a culture that attempts to pull together in the same direction. The thing is that your family traditions (be they Diwali, Imisibenzi or Christmas) are very, very useful tools at making you feel part of “the group”. There are so many little rules in these cultural events that we all “just know”. Those of us that celebrate Christmas know that Father Christmas comes down the chimney, not through the front door; we know that gifts must be wrapped and shiny paper and must be given on 25 December. We know that the Christmas dinner must include a turkey and that it is absolutely essential that you wear one of those flimsy paper hats while you eat.

img_0849
Clad in brand new white blanket the young man turns his back on his childhood and heads home – Phot0: Andrew Hewitt-Coleman

Those of us that attend Mgidis “just know” that the young man will come home from the bush in the morning to the loud bashing and clanging of pots. We know that he must be adorned in a clean white blanket and must carry a blackened stick. We know that he will be smeared in red clay by his sister and given a new name. Knowing all these rules and sub-rules makes us feel comfortable, makes us feel part of something larger than us.

But the truth is that cultural events like Christmas, Bar Mitzvahs or Mgidis originated at a time when everyone around us in any direction for a thousand kilometres spoke the same language and held the same beliefs. Cultural events were therefore a comforting and regular reminder that we are all on the same page. The reality of course is that we don’t live in that world any more. So, my fear is that the very same cultural events that evolved all over the world to make communities stronger are now having the opposite effect in an age of multiple overlapping Diasporas. What we call “culture” has the very real effect of making someone who does not know all the little rules feel like an outsider and in a very real way, unwelcome.

I may have lived next door to Greek neighbours for ten years but would still feel like I don’t belong at a birthday party where there is bearded guy dancing in circles while his mates chuck the crockery on the floor.

Otherwise intelligent friends of mine speak about South Africa being a cultural “melting pot”, where the (completely unscientific) belief is that if each family just keeps on following the same routines that our great-great grandparents did, that we will somehow magically develop a new culture and tradition that is uniquely South African. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it. What I see from where I am standing is arrogant conservative backlash that says “this is how we have always done things and to hell with all of you!” I know that Trump supporters and Brexit people may tell you otherwise, but this mind-set can only be a recipe for extinction.

img_0853
The temporary structure the boy stayed in is burned to the ground along with all boyhood possessions – Photo – Andrew Hewitt-Coleman

So what can we do?  My suggestion is that we begin to discuss the challenge of culture, but not from the perspective of trying to conserve some dying detail, but rather from the perspective of “What aspect of my family’s tradition can I soften, explain or modify to make accessible to everyone? What can I do make it easier for those around me to understand and participate in?”

And another thing: Get over yourself!  It’s just not that serious! These traditions are just a game that we play. Because deep down, in our quiet time, each of us know that we are so much more than the language we speak or the village we come from.

Let’s lighten it up a little!

Freedom: Yes its something you build!

I love building! The hammer and nails, the step ladder, with cordless drill. The pain in my joints in the evening as I rest after a day of sweat and pain. Building of course starts way before any hammer is swung or any brick is laid. Building begins like all other created phenomena. In the mind as an idea, a notion. It may then find form words in discussion with a loved one, and argument with a banker, then later it may take the form of text, a letter, a blog post, an idea in a journal, emerging only letter perhaps into sketch form growing over self confident .  a serviette in a late night restaurant at first, a koki pen drawing on a desk pad alter, each step of this building process on closer to completing the vision and giving physical for to what was just a notion. The bricks mortar, timber an steel follow when the idea is strong enough, to survive in the physical world. I love the feeling of freedom that building gives me. The freedom to move beyond all the “reasons” why something cant be built. Overcoming them and physically seeing the from emerge to completion.

 

While building is my great interest and passion, so too over the years I have come to be very interested in “Freedom”. I have become interested in what this word actually means to to me, and how the idea of Freedom may be different to you reading this post right now. Also I have become especially interested in the idea….In the truth that Freedom is not something that we simply stumble across, but rather that it is something that we build for ourselves. Something that must start out as an idea, then find its way into conversation, eventually into text and writing, then documented plans and ultimately in the concrete action in the physical and spatial world.

This website is about building freedom. Not about marching for freedom or fighting for freedom or voting for freedom. Here we test the notion that for freedom to be lasting and meaningful it must find its expression first at the level of the individual. You and I. Sure we can collaborate, pool our individual energies where we can align ourselves to obtain such freedom, but here we will explore there idea that you and I must first define for ourselves what it means to be free in our own lives. Having defined that freedom for ourselves we can choose to become free or to remain imprisoned. And imprisonment may come in different forms for different people. You may be imprisoned in your job, in your sexuality, in your family traditions,in your relationship. Most people reading this will not be physically imprisoned or enslaved, but sometimes those that are physically held captive are in a way more fortunate in that there is know doubt in their mind that they are not free. they have no doubt in their mind that they are being held against their will. If they try to escape their captors, they will be instantly met with violence. In 1986 and 87 I was held captive as a conscript in the South African Defense Force. The army at the time was a brutal institution known for it cruelty and intolerance. Never once did I try to cut my way through the fences, or risk being shot by the guards. The threat of violence was though imminently clear and evident. The public punishment of those that did try to escape was enough to discourage me and most others not to even try. In that system I knew that I was not free. It was made clear by the fences, the guard towers the barbed wire and the armed guards. It was made clear by the armed military police. It was made clear by the suffering of those held in the notorious “detention barracks”.

 

But what about you and me today? In our ordinary jobs, in our ordinary families in our ordinary relationships. Are we free? What does it really mean to be free? I have thought about this quite a bit. I have played with a few different definitions and I suppose what I have settled for is “freedom is choosing without fear”. So, In other words if I decide to stay inside the military base because I love the accommodation the food and the camaraderie then i am free. But if i stay because I fear getting shot by the Military Police or being held in the detention barracks, then I am not free. If I stay in my job because I fear that my children will not eat, then I am not free. But you may say “well of course we need to feed our children”. Bur hear me,  To be clear I am not saying for a minute that anybody “deserves” freedom. All I am saying is that many of us. maybe most of us are not free, because we are motivated everyday by fear to get out of bed and endure what we endure.

 

I have come to see in my life that it must be my mission to live free. Perhaps I will never achieve this objective. Perhaps until the day I die I will be striving toward achieving a life motivated by joy and not by fear. But what I have decided is that I will not resign myself to a life of fear. I have decided to build freedom. I have decided work in the same way we would set about building a house or a church or a hospital. I have decided to build freedom in a methodical way. Starting first by recognizing where i am not freed, then conceptualizing and designing a new, free place and new reality. then working hard to build it. To make it real.

 

Statism and the East Cape Taxi Protest

(this piece first appeared in The Herald on 15 June 2016, under the “Title SA freedom being circumscribed)

 

My 1997 Toyota is currently propped up on bricks in my backyard. You see, I’m waiting for my small time mechanic “guy” to find a specific part that is being reconditioned by his small time parts supply “guy”.  I have though still managed to get around town regardless of this challenge and regardless of this week’s province wide taxi protest. This, partly thanks to Uber and partly thanks to the luck that I do not rank in the number of the struggling poor compelled to live in the far flung periphery of our sprawling metro. So, as I have zipped around town as a passenger in the last few days I have had a little more time to follow what my “friends” are saying on Facebook. Much of my feed is clogged up with pictures of cats sleeping in laundry baskets or heart wrenching messages about how not sharing this picture of a goat means that I don’t care about people dying of cancer. There was, though, some interesting talk about what people think of the taxi protest. Most of the talk was about the fear of the protest getting violent or how unfair it was that students could not get to class to write their exams.  Yes, I feel for the students. I feel for the mall bound housewives’ stuck in traffic jams. But, to be honest, I’m more interested in what this protest is really about; and as far as I can understand, it’s really is about the delay in the provincial government’s issuing of “operating licenses”. Because, you see, the state has decided that it is criminal for a hardworking person to make an honest living transporting people from A to B without their permission. Really!? Perhaps there is something that I am not getting here? But my real worry is that so many of us are completely content with the idea that the state somehow has the right to tell us what we can and cannot do and that we need their “permission” to do an honest day’s work. This state bullying is not just in the transport sector, it’s all over the economy!
 I work as an Architect. In this industry the state has decided that they do not trust the judgment of those who chose to do business with me. I am therefor required to remain “licensed” by the state. For an Architect to work without a license is a criminal offence. I go to jail! I mean, can we not be trusted as ordinary citizens to choose for ourselves who to employ to give us a lift to work or to draw up plans for the extensions to our patio?  Do we really need armies of faceless civil servants employed with our tax money in Pretoria or Bhisho to help us with this level of decision making? Perhaps the reason we tolerate this intrusion is because we have not paused to think about it?
 In the late eighties many of my friends, like me, were caught up with the idea of “freedom” and of “power to the people”. It seems though that as time has passed that ideal has evolved rather to us being content with changing the complexion of the state rather that questioning whether it was ever necessary for the state to take away our individual freedoms in the first place. The Apartheid state was unapologetic in taking away freedoms in the pursuit of “Law and Order”. At that time, citizens felt it was absolutely OK that there would be laws stopping us from selling flowers on pavements, brewing Umqomboti  in the backyard or playing guitar for loose coins at the bus stop. It was just understood that the state was in control and it was the job of each and every citizen to “stay out of trouble”. But somehow we have allowed that apartheid mindset to move with us 20 years and beyond into the “free” South Africa. The obsession with “statism” seems to be held equally by political parties to the left and the right.  The political debate is generally only about what category of additional state control can be forced upon its citizens.
Since apartheid times, the excuse used for state bullying has moved from “Law and Order” and “Suppression of Communism” to our new regime’s talk of “Health and Safety” and “Transformation”. We need though to wake up the very real possibility that our freedoms are being taken away for no reason other than to allow huge monopolies to step in and take control of the country. Putting in place “licensing procedures” on top of layers and layers of compliance requirements makes it more and more difficult for any but larger and larger institutions and corporations to keep up. State capture is not a single event, not just the Guptas, not just one corrupt politician. It is a tendency that has come with us since before we agreed in 1994 that freedom is what each and every citizen deserves and is entitled to.

 

So I urge each and every one of us, from today on,  to free our minds and to become openly and vocally disgusted whenever we encounter the smallest attempt on the part of the state to tell us that we are not free.  As long as we are not harming anyone, it should not be any of their damn business!

Help Little guy with Direct Action

(This piece first appeared in the Weekend Post on 31 October 2015)
I drive a 1997 Toyota. It has 476 000 kilometres on the clock. I drive this old car mainly to embarrass my children, but also because I know that renewing my car every two or three years has a hugely destructive impact on our planet. In fact, a recent report in the Guardian  points out that the amount of carbon that it takes to make a car (its “embodied emissions”) is very likely to be greater that the total exhaust pipe emissions over its lifetime. What the Guardian is trying to say is that my clapped out old rust bucket is better for the planet than a brand new super-efficient, high tech Hybrid!
My 1997 Toyota, when it was still young

I take the health of our planet very seriously. You and I know however that the truth about our country, and many others like it, is that the most pressing threat is not the levels of carbon in the atmosphere, not the depletion of the ozone layer, not even the desperate and sad story of the Rhino. No, the most pressing threat to our society is poverty and exploitation. Poverty is a breeding ground for disease, ignorance, corruption and crime. Quite simply, we are all doomed if we are not able to build a stable economy where each and every one of us feels that it is worthwhile to make our best effort every day to improve the health and welfare of ourselves and of our families. What I want to talk about today though, is what it is we do about this situation. You see, I am inspired and impressed by the direct action students across the country have taken in dealing with tuition fees. Inspired; because students are showing us that it is far more effective to take direct action than it is to put our trust in party politics. The students of 2015 have shown us, that if we want to get something done, we must get off our backsides and take direct action. The students of 2015 focussed on the issue. They set aside party politics; they set aside complexion and economic status. They focused on one issue and they were very effective.

But, “Direct Action” is not only about blocking traffic and singing songs. “Direct Action” is about our choices. It’s about what I produce and about what I consume. It’s about how I choose to act. So, it was no less that an act of revolutionary defiance that I had my car repaired on my front lawn this Saturday while my neighbours were indoors watching the rugby. (Yes, the old crock breaks down from time to time!) You see, I could have opted to have the work done by the recommended, massive Japanese owned multinational corporation, but instead I opted for “Direct Action” and chose to employ a trusted, loyal and brilliant small time mechanic to repair the broken starter motor. It cost me a lot less. He earned very good money. It’s a “win-win” situation. No massive corporation, no CEO salary, no marketing budget and TV ads, just a small time “guy” with his box of tools on my lawn. I do the same when I need bicycle repairs, carpenter, plumber, electrician, tailor or plumber. It’s the right thing to do.
You may be surprised to hear of the good work that the Metro is doing to support small business.  In fact, all municipal construction projects now require that 25% of the work is done by Small Medium and Micro Enterprises. Believe me, this is really painful to people like me, who are called upon from time to time to design and manage these projects. There is a heap of complicated paperwork involved and it really is a lot easier to get the work done where your contractor is listed on the JSE. The point is though, that the Metro is being responsible and is leading the way in this action. My appeal is that each of us follows this lead. That each of us, in our businesses and families make a commitment to allocate a portion of our annual spend to emerging businesses. (Perhaps 10% may be easier to achieve initially.) But even at those levels, by direct action, we will be able to make a massive and lasting dent on poverty.
What I am proposing is that each of us builds “bridges” between those of us who have emerged from poverty and those of us that are making the effort to do so. It really is a two way street. If you are working to emerge from poverty, make it easy for those that want to trade with you. Answer your phone. Arrive on time. Do what you promise. For those of you that are trading with those emerging from poverty; yes, it does take more effort. You will need to search a little harder to find the service you are looking for. You will need to check the references. You will need to pay promptly. But that is the Direct Action that we can take. Consumers may complain that there are not enough emerging businesses to address the most pressing needs, but we must trust that these will emerge if there is good money on offer. Emerging businesses may complain that there are not enough customers, but we must trust that these will emerge when we have good product to offer.
Political parties cannot do it for us. The future is in our hands and direct action is the tool we will use to build that future. Start today!