Editor’s Comment by Patrick O’Leary
Hello all you lovely people. Just as we started the year off thinking Eskom’s multiple power outages were our main problems, in came coronavirus – and it has hit the world with a vengeance. In fact, of late, I have not heard one complaint about Eskom. Certainly the Eskom problems and challenges are still there but they have been over-ridden in top-of-mind awareness by the world-wide spread of COVID-19, declared by the World Health Organisation as a global pandemic. In South Africa, a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act has been declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa. I’m not going into the figures here as they change on a daily – in fact hourly – basis. I’m also not going into the symptoms, the preventative measures, and all the other information surrounding the virus. There is a lot of that around and we at FleetWatch have gathered a huge amount of information concerning the virus and its global spread – and we continue to do so. But I’m not going to put it out here. Like you probably are, I’m a bit overwhelmed so I’m just going to do what I love doing – chatting to our readers. So let’s just chat and see where this goes.
One thing is for sure, we’re living in a horrible, scary time. Are you feeling scared? If you are, you’re not alone. It just all seems so overwhelming doesn’t it? It all seems so big. Makes us mere mortals feel a little helpless? But are we? I started this comment off with the words “Hello all you lovely people” – and I mean it. Please don’t forget that you are lovely. That horrible little spiky virus is the ugly one. You are lovely – each and every one of you – men and women. In times such as these when we get bombarded by the horror, the fear, the sadness, we cringe at our own vulnerability and tend to minimise ourselves and our importance to the world. This is perhaps out of helplessness, panic and no doubt, out of fear. For many, it is out of loneliness. I’m begging you that in these trying times, please do not minimise your loveliness, your importance. In these times, more than ever before, look inside yourself and bring out everything that is good. And then pass it on. We’re all in this together – and we’ll get through it together – just as in a golf game.
There is a saying that the game of golf is a great unifier. It’s also a great leveller. Let me explain to those who don’t play the game. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your position is in business, politics, society or wherever, when you get together on the golf course, you are all equal; you all have a common goal which is to master than stupid little golf ball which has total control over you; and you are all unified in beating whatever the golf course throws your way. And it is just as well you are all unified for that little ball can take you from on open, clean fairway where you’re sitting pretty with a clear view of the road ahead to total disaster – in just one shot. Isn’t this what has happened since the beginning of the year? You no doubt had a clear view of the road ahead for 2020 and then, as you set out, coronavirus hit. Let’s go back onto the golf course.
You’re on the first T-box (January) and you have a superb drive leaving your ball way up and well positioned in the middle of the fairway. It’s a great start. All you need to do from there is hit an easy shot onto the green and then just tap it into the hole. Easy game. Your three playing partners also get off well. The game (2020) is off to a wonderful start. You get to your ball and its 150m to the green. You take out your selected club, line yourself up comfortably and whack it. Yo, Yo, Yo! Eieeesh! There she goes – nowhere near the direction you intended it to fly. The ball starts off well and then, as if having a mind of its own, veers sharply to the right and heads towards the trees lining the fairway. It hits the top of one the trees, drops straight down and lands smack-bang behind a monster tree trunk from where you won’t even be able to see the hole, never mind reach the green with your next shot. It’s a disaster. Just as things were going so well, it’s now a total mess. (Coronavirus has hit). You hang your head and let out a little curse – well, quite a big one actually. It started off so well – and now this! You feel so disappointed that golf has a way of throwing you a ‘curved’ wall when you least expect it; when everything looked so good.
Then, as you head off on your own towards the rough side of life, you hear the shouts: “Aaaah, bad luck mate. But I’m sure you’ll be able to play it from there,” says your one playing partner, knowing full well there is no chance. “I’ve got a chain saw in my bag if you need one,” jokes another. “What an awesome slice. You’ve just made it into the Guinness Book of Records with that shot,” ribs the other. Immediately your feeling of disappointment disappears. You’re not alone. As you walk toward the spot, you shout back at them: “OK guys. You’re now going to see a recovery shot you’ll be able to tell your grandkids about.” You know it’s not going to happen but the camaraderie has put your spirit back into ‘go’ mode. And then, when you get there, it’s worse than you thought. Not only is the ball behind a tree, but it’s nestled between two large protruding surface roots of the tree. It’s an impossible lie. You’ll have to pick it up and lose a shot. But then, your caddy chirps in. “Easy shot. You can do it. Just tap it back to that spot behind you and from there, ‘we’ hit it onto the green. Easy.” Note the ‘we’ hit it. You’re not alone. You now have everybody on your side; everybody rooting for you. You can do it.
You take your club, swing a mighty swing, hit the root, bend the club and feel an electric shock as the reverberation of solid contact runs through your body. The disaster has gone from bad to worse (coronavirus is spreading). The ball is in exactly the same spot. It didn’t move at all. There’s silence and then you see them coming. They’re laughing their heads off. They love it. They love you. “You’re right. I’m going to tell my grandkids about that shot,” jibes your one playing partner. “Wow. I can see why that happened. I wouldn’t have got it out either” says the other as he looks down at your ball. “Hold on, I was right. You need that chainsaw. I’ll get it for you,” jibes the other. The thing is, they’re laughing with you not at you. The caddy is battling not to laugh as he whispers: “Maybe we pick it up and drop a shot.” Behind these comments are empathy, encouragement and camaraderie. Above all, there is unity of spirit in your adversity. No-one faces their adversity alone. And the beauty of such a situation is – none of them knew each other before the game. It’s one of those corporate golf days when you’re teamed up with others not by choice but by selection by the company organisers.
Let’s now bring in how golf acts as a leveller. To do so, I’m going back many years when I was invited to play in a corporate golf day organised by that great man Paul Cable of Cummins. The funds raised from the day were going to Business Against Crime, an organization established by business in 1996 in response to a request from then President Nelson Mandela who invited the business community to join hands with Government in the fight against crime. Many of you might remember Meyer Khan, the man who led SA Breweries – first as managing director and later as Chairman – into becoming one of the world’s largest and most respected brewers. President Mandela had asked him to take a two year sabbatical from SAB to help lead what was then a disparate police force into a unified force to fight crime. Khan accepted the role and had just finished that two-year stint when he arrived on the T-box on that day. Also in our four-ball was the managing director of Cummins and one other, I can’t recall who. I must admit, I felt somewhat out of my league – not in terms of golf skill but rather in terms of the stature of my playing partners. There I was in the company of ‘giants’ in the business world – guys who were way above my level as a mere trucking ‘hack’. But as stated, golf is a great leveller and as we went along, our positions in society did not count. We were all on the same level; all trying to master that stupid little golf ball and all cheering for each other when things went well and encouraging, laughing and supporting each other when it didn’t go too well.
Golf does not discriminate in terms of your status, your race, your gender, your nationality or any of the other classifications that differentiate people in the normal course of life. In this sense, coronavirus is the same. Think of it: The word ‘coronavirus’ is universally understood. Mention the word and it’s understood for what it is by the Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Nigerians, South Africans, Americans, Spanish, Italians. It strikes fear and loathing into Presidents as much as it does into the homeless unemployed. It’s universally understood. It’s a universal leveller.
Have you noticed over the past decade how the world has changed? It’s become a ‘me, me, me’ instead of a ‘we, we, we’ arena. Those of you who know me will know I’m not very fond of modern day politicians. No, I’m lying. ‘Not very fond of’ is an understatement. I actually despise them with a passion for, in most instances, especially in South Africa, we have watched them distance themselves from the normal ‘man-in-the-street’ and use their positions to better their own standing in life rather than to better the lot of the electorate. What we’ve witnessed over the years to the detriment of society at large is self-interest, arrogance and greed practised by people who have chosen to use their positions of power for self gain rather than for service. And it’s not only politicians. Remember the 2008/2010 economic crisis imposed on the world by greedy banks. It was known as the subprime mortgage crisis. Driven by pure, selfish greed, the bankers had turned their backs on their traditional roles and become charlatans whose only motivation was to line their pockets with six figure dollars received from ill-gained profits using other people’s money on high risk ventures. It rippled throughout the world. Businesses were destroyed and millions of people were left destitute. The banks got bailouts. The people got nothing. And what about the local Steinhoff saga? Need I go on…
Coronavirus is not entertaining the separation of people in positions of power from the homeless – as the banking saga did. It is not separating races – choosing White over Black or vice versa. It is, without doubt, the ultimate leveller. It can hit anyone and it is thus we are all in this together. We have to fight it with everything we have as one unified nation and as part of one unified world. It is a horrible and nasty invasion but to ward it off, South Africa is coming together as one. In all of this as the days pass and events unfold, please remember: You are lovely, you are beautiful and certainly – you are not alone. Remember the words from that wonderful song ‘We are the World’. Every now and again – “There comes a time, when we heed a certain call, when the world must come together as one. There are people dying and it’s time to lend a hand to life, the greatest gift of all.” That time is now. Let’s do it. Have a listen… and God Bless you as we all go forward together.