Watching international and local events unfold over the past weeks, two scenarios have being playing over constantly in my mind. The one is self-inflicted pain and suffering and the other non self-inflicted pain and suffering. There is no doubt that the world is undergoing a lot of pain and suffering at the moment. There is a lot of tragedy out there. In addition to wars in many regions – the latest being the flare-up in Libya – the world is experiencing a spate of natural disasters that seem to be escalating like never before. And they happen so quickly and unexpectedly. It wasn’t long ago that the news cameras were focused on the Australian floods which devastated large parts of Queensland. Just to remind you of how bad those floods were, Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said at the time that “some communities are seeing floodwaters higher than they’ve seen in decades and for some communities, floodwaters have never reached these levels before in the time we have been recording floods.’ Economists estimated at the time that the flooding could cost the economy as much as seven billion dollars in agricultural losses and delays to coal shipments. It was horrible stuff and one’s heart could only reach out in sympathy to the victims of those floods. They had not inflicted the pain and suffering on themselves. It was an act of nature that did it.
One could, of course, argue that what we saw there was just one of the many consequences of global warming , and global warming has been caused by man’s actions so the floods were, in fact, self inflicted. Maybe! But that certainly does not apply to Japan where a massive earthquake followed by the most horrendous tsunami wiped out full cities in a matter of minutes leaving hundreds of thousands homeless and many thousands dead. The death toll started off with 1 000 estimated deaths and is now heading towards the 20 000 mark. As I write, a potential nuclear disaster still looms as engineers battle to prevent radioactive leakage at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It is a huge tragedy aptly described in the Christian Science Monitor: “Japan is now facing what may be its greatest test since World War II in recovering from something that no other nation has confronted , the simultaneous effects of a massive earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear emergency.’ Was all this a consequence of global warming? No. It was an act of nature with disastrous consequences for the people of Japan. It was hardly self inflicted pain and suffering.
I am not going to regurgitate here what you have all been seeing on television and reading in the news. What I want to point out is that while we are watching the consequences of a non self-inflicted disaster playing itself out in Japan, a self inflicted disaster is playing out in another part of the world – in Libya where Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is killing his own people in an attempt to put down an uprising by ‘˜rebels’ against his rule. A United Nations Security Council resolution was passed to authorise military action against Gaddafi and at the time of writing, this had kicked into gear with US forces and planes working with Britain, France, Canada and Italy in operation ‘˜Odyssey Dawn’. French planes fired the first shots and in the two days following, instead of a tsunami of water, Libya experienced a tsunami of Tomahawk missiles with 110 of them being launched from US and British warships and submarines. There is no earthquake here. There is no natural tsunami. There is a guy called Gaddafi who has in the past, and continues to do so now, inflicted pain on his people. It is self inflicted tragedy.
These two scenarios have pointed me to a lesson in life that can be applied in many of our own local scenarios. When I think of the problems facing South Africa, most are self inflicted. Yes, we have areas of drought and floods but not a day goes by that we don’t hear of corruption, back-stabbing and lousy deals being done between selfish and self centred people , both in the political and business ranks. Racism has raised its ugly head in many quarters , mainly in the higher echelons of political society far from the ordinary man-in-the-street where daily interactions between all races are just fine. When I compare our self inflicted problems with the non self-inflicted problems facing Japan, I want to cringe at the foolishness , smallness in fact – of the actions we are seeing taking place in South Africa.
But what has all this to do with trucking? Here we go’¦please take a moment to sit back and think of your own trucking business. What pain are you experiencing? Try to define , and you need to be honest with yourself here , what is self-inflicted and what has been inflicted on you by outside forces. As an example, I can tell you for a fact that most of the unroadworthy trucks on our roads represent self inflected pain induced by their owners via a lack of attention paid to the basics of maintenance. The owners will deflect the blame away to some or other reason , containing costs or something, but it remains self inflicted pain. I can also tell you that two years ago, the economic hardships inflicted on your company were not self inflicted but rather imposed on you by the shenanigans of a bunch of crooks in international banking circles. There must be lessons in tragedy and while I’m not trying to be a philosopher or something like that here, I am asking you to do what I have done and try this exercise. It frightened me but it also brought some clarity into my picture. Too much blame for South Africa’s woes is deflected away from the real causes. Don’t be tempted to go this route. It’s a cop out. Rather ask yourself: Are you Japan or Libya?