Tag Archives: money

Leisure

Sometimes the wealthy are proud to refer to themselves as a man or woman of leisure. In a way, leisure is the fulfilment and culmination of wealth; in the absence of a higher or lower purpose.

This December was the first time in about 12 years that I did not spend my festive season in Manica, Mozambique. Manica is nota tourist town at the coast, and when I’m there I try to serve- the place is not geared for my pampering. 2014’s end saw me go to holiday spots. I’m inclined to say white holiday spots since despite the fact that 90% of our country consists of black people, only 10% of the ‘holiday goers’ were black. This is a persistent legacy of apartheid: white leisure.

On Port Alfred’s Royal golf course I spoke to an old Afrikaner and when he heard what I do for a job he said: “Do you still have hope for this bloody country?!” to which I replied: “Oom, as mens nie hoop het nie moet jy maar trek.” The uncle was complaining about the country, but he is substantially unaffected by any of the things he complains about. He ended our chat with a “let’s not talk politics, I’m supposed to enjoy my retirement.” A man of leisure.

To be clear, I was part of the white holiday vibe. I spent endless ZAR’s on myself and my biological family, justified by the notion that for 10 years I spent all my December cash on Manicans. The justification only numbs half of my conscience though…

Driving through the Karoo, I stopped at a farm stall and was talked into buying half a lamb. Great meat at a cheaper price. The Afrikaner lady explained all the different pieces of meat to me and to bags consisted of weird things like bones, chunks of fat and kidneys. She asked me if I have dogs to which I replied “no”. So she said, in Afrikaans, in front of other customers which included black people: “gee dit dan maar vir die bediende”. This little anecdote first shocked me and then made me think of reality: The majority of domestics would in fact even buy those pieces of meat, and some whites would indeed give it to their dogs. All the while the Umlungu (or very wealthy blacks) would nibble on the premium chops, steak and ribs. Meat of leisure vs meat for sustenance.

Don’t get me wrong: I loved my holiday. I too was raised as a son of leisure. Not because we went on fancy holidays as kids (in fact we didn’t), but because I grew up expecting and anticipating these ‘finer’ things in life. 2014’s holiday was an indulgence for me and I used my girl and family as a rationale for feeling less selfish about it all. Something can indeed be wrong and right at the same time. #greytruth

Our country is in shit, the irony is that the only ones complaining are the ones that don’t need to complain! Complaining whilst playing golf, driving a Mercedes, sitting in a holiday home (yes there are such things!). And the millions sitting in badly built shacks waits for a dream that wont show up. The wealthy enjoy their perpetual leisure, but they also perpetuate their wealth by working hard and sharpening their skills. After their December ‘rest’ they will hit the marketplace hard and build up more resources to enjoy at the end of the next calendar year. The poor remains trapped. Their leisure is not built up over the year. The leisure of the poor is short term: cheap dring in cheap places.

Before we blame the rich white people for their sophisticated leisure, be sure the poor don’t save the whole year to invest in the community, books, children’s education or missions trips. The majority of poor men uses their extra Rands to sit and dring and talk shit. More money and the leisure becomes more sohisticated: instead of papsak it’s bottles of beer, instead of beer it becomes Jack Daniels, instead of alcohol it becomes shoes, instead of shoes it’s cars…

Mzansi: we are united in an endless pursuit of selfish leisure.

You can blame…

You can complain…

Instead of pointing fingers, we should rather ask ourselves a simple personal question. A personal question that will shatter our generalisations and philosophical arguing and justifications:

Will you present and lay your leisure- not in front of the Christmas Tree, but in front of the Tree with a Man hanging on it?

And what would He say?

“Wie is die ONS in die ‘Ons vir jou Suid Afrika'”?

Intentional Attention

I think most of life boils down to how I spend my time and how I spend my money… Contrary to popular belief, the key questions of practical existentialism is not how much I earn, where I work or live, what I say I believe, what I proudly don’t do or what I studied. To understand our own idea of ‘the good life’ we simply need to look at how we spend our time and money, that will tell us all we need to know. Despite clever rationalisations, how I spend my time and money defines me; nothing else. We resist this type of thinking because it penetrates our self deceit and it exposes the contradictions of our own intentions. Nevertheless the big questions are easy to evaluate through observable tangibles. Once we recognise our inconsistencies, we can start to discuss a way out, a way forward.

And so the question of who gets my attention becomes the most relevant of all. Do I give my eyes and ears to advertisers? Do I give my eyes and ears to Facebook virtual friends? Do I give my mind to best selling authors or pastors? Do I give my time, energy and mind to ‘the market’? Who teaches me what is cool? Who teaches me what is important? Are we taught how to prioritise our time and money, how to allocate our hours and energy? You are who you give your energy to. Who demands my attention and cash? If ‘time is money’, maybe the two can be synthesised into the concept of attention. The revealing imperative can then be articulated as ‘who gets my attention? Your attention is your most prised asset. Do you allow others to steal it for free? Advertisers pay TV channels big bucks for your attention, your attention has market value. More so, it has eternal value and significance. Now, do you have intention of attention? Are you intent on choosing attentiveness? Do you let others decide or manipulate where you look and what you listen to. I want to drive my own life, create and determine my own surroundings. The secret is not in making good choices in the moment, but in creating content and milieu that will imply different choices. The secret to a better life is putting myself in a different place with different options. It’s a pity that the skill to direct and conserve our attention is taught in neither school nor university.

Somehow we get trapped in the quality of our toys and the coolness of our brands, as they speaks to our fragile inner identity. After a ‘long week’ or ‘difficult day’ we find ourselves weak and we let go, relaxing and surrendering our attention to cheap and easy entertainment, corporations or people that catch us in our moments or leisure, but then sows subtle seeds in our minds, seeds that germinate and stay present long after we switch off the TV, put down the phone or drive past the billboard.

The superficiality of the situation seems disguised by the universal desire to ‘have’ instead of to ‘be’. How can we become free? By recognizing the battle for our attention and affection. Everybody is competing for your mind space. Are you fighting back or being swept along? To know the answer, look at your clothes, look at your budget and look at your diary. No point in lying to ourselves.

Compromising with Control and Power

Despite my reading and critical reflection on management tools, at the end of the day I still have a day-job and I am responsible for projects. Projects funded by donors and agreements that specify outputs and outcomes in exchange for the money. I am under no illusions that the arrangement is far from pure or ideal, and I do my best to introduce humanity and good values into the project cycles I am responsible for. I try to be the layer between the community and the corporate demands.

Yet with a growing programme things are getting to big for me to do myself, I need a team. One team member is doing a great job, probably better than me. The other team members see themselves, not as called, but employees. They have a different work ethic, they have a lack of exposure and their productivity is not just adversely affected by skills and knowledge, but more-so by attitude. It seems few people can mix friendship and freedom with productivity.

As Project Manager, I have to justify money spent and what the results of short term projects were. The project design is compromised, but certain specifics are built in to buy time and space so real development can happen. Meaning, to provide stimulus, you ‘sell’ a basic project that is uncomplicated and unlikely to do harm. This superficial design creates a platform for real relationships to grow and for individuals to discover themselves and grow.  In this game, you have to do the basics with excellence. My subordinates did not manage to do this, more concerned with talking and image that producing results. I tried friendship and freedom, they did not respond. Due to short time cycles of evaluation, I could not tolerate continued slackness. So I did what all managers at some stage do and I embraced the very elements of the system I hate. I resorted to using money and contracts as motivators. I introduced weekly written reports. As a manager it was the right thing to do. I have a responsibility towards the money and contracts. Simple.

Philosophically, the compromised turned my calling into a job even more. I became a bit less human and a bit more resource. I embraced my title of manager. I affirmed my power over my team. I exchanged exploration and deconstructing defiance for rigidity and control. Once you signed the contract, you can try to play the game, but integrity requires compliance. If you dont like the system, you need to take the fight higher, you need to be in dialogue with the source of the money. Managers and coordinators are trapped in a cycle where they get paid to manage and coordinate each other.

Here in my blog, and hopefully one day in my further studies, I am the idealist, the voice of reason in a silly system. But I am also an employee who is forced to compromise. If I don’t want to compromise I have to resign, and that at this stage will not lead to the greatest good. In my work, governed by the power lines of linear managerialism I sometimes cause dishonesty, pain, theft, regret, inferiority. I am the cause of things I hate.

My dream is that one day, I will have a job where I would get paid to do the right things in the right way. My hunch is that I would have to create an organisation and a movement that would enable such. With a dominant system too strong to change, we can only strive to be a) a good example b) create exemplary organisations and lastly hope to spark new movements.

For now, I have to deal with living in a paradox, living a contradictory life. I wonder what the cost and effect will be to me?