Since time immemorial there has never been a period without a bit of chaos. It would seem that the idea of a tranquil existence, although desired, has not been aggressively pursued, and when attained has not really been allowed to thoroughly blossom. Disorder has somewhat tied to the human experience. It’s that very reason that Agent Smith, in The Matrix, says to Morpheus “…I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from”. What Agent Smith doesn’t understand is that humans, unlike the programme that he is, do not always function logically and altruistically. Instinct, and by extension self-interest, can and does influence the conduct of humans and that has been known to produce disorder and also help find ways out of it through those very instinctive means.
So, when Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, in G.R.R Martin’s acclaimed “A Game of Thrones” series, counters Varys’ assertions that “Chaos is a pit” by saying that “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder”. Baelish reveals himself to be a person who’s able to see beyond the immediate reality and makes moves that will secure him a favourable position once the dust of irregularity has settled. It’s a realization that chaos, whether right or wrong, is the motor with which people (natural and juristic), especially the ambitious and audacious, improve their lot and sometimes contribute to human evolution.
The recent Ebola outbreak in some parts of West Africa has had a devastating effect on entire populations and has brought economic activity to an almost grinding halt, but for some companies the epidemic has been a source of profit. Commenting on the impact of Ebola on their West African operations, Mark Lamberti, the chief executive of Imperial Holdings, said in a Business Times interview: “We’ve seen a big pick up in our medical supplies business”. The chaos of Ebola has produced circumstances that have made it possible for companies like Imperial to help end the loss of lives while also delivering income to shareholders of the R100-billion a year logistics and industrial services giant.
Teenage pregnancy is nothing new but in the last decade or so there has been an alarming rate of females becoming mothers in their teens. A perception exists that this ever-increasing rate of teenage motherhood is linked to the child support grant. Some people have rejected that perception as a myth, but if you’ve been in rural areas and various township on grant day and have been exposed to the views of some of the young girls who proudly say they fell pregnant just so they can access the R240 grant, then you’re likely to believe there’s a link between the child grant and the many teenage pregnancy cases. That’s not to say every case of a child support grant recipient is the same. Whether the perception holds sway or not is immaterial because when it’s all said and done a grant has to be paid out every month and that’s where the money is. Service providers slug it out for the privilege of being the preferred distributor of the approximately R120-billion grants a year to recipients which includes old age pension and disability grants. Until recently Cash Paymaster Services, a subsidiary of the Johannesburg Securities Exchange listed Net UEPS, was the distributor of the grants but its contract was invalidated by the Constitutional Court. The service provider that bags the new contract will receive R14.50 for each payment to the approximately 10 million recipients of the various grants, the lion’s share is the child support grant. Is it in the would-be service provider’s shareholder to find a solution to the teenage pregnancy chaos given the impact that will have on their dividends?
It’s not uncommon to hear the secretary general of Congress of South African Trade Union, Zwelinzima Vavi, refer to the unemployment rate, 25 %, in South Africa as a ticking time bomb. The dire situation of unemployment, especially amongst younger people, is such that it leads to a loss of self-esteem and hope. The fact is that the said time bomb has long detonated and its effects are seen and felt nationally. The almost annual increases in electricity have seen a sub-industry being created through irregular sale of electricity and illegal connections to the national grid. In the costly access of the necessity that is electricity some saw an opportunity through the sub-industry sometimes known as izinyoka. When you’re ‘expected’ to bribe a human resource official in order to get a job or you aren’t connected enough to get a job, then any economic activity seems viable. This doesn’t mean that personal agency of the actors in the izinyoka value-chain is disregarded, but to understand unemployment in its fullest extent is to be aware of the fact that it erodes one’s acceptance of societal rules and laws and renders one as little more than a creature acting on the instructions of survival instincts. Can the chaos of unaffordability of electricity be said to be the oil that lubricates the izinyoka machinery?
In a country where big construction and food companies have previously found no problem in fixing prices of their products and services or where more than R200 million is spent on upgrades to the president’s home, can a participant in the izinyoka industry be expected to lose sleep over his conduct when others seemingly don’t? Seen purely from a perspective of self-interest it could be argued that his action is no less damaging than those whose profits accrue from the migrant labour system that’s been a part of this country’s mining industry for over a century or the spoils of the lucrative unsecured lending industry, where desperate clients continue to allow themselves to be chained to exorbitant interests that devour many a family’s incomes.
63 000 South Africans that, according to the recent Credit Suisse Research Institute on global wealth, are part of the globe’s wealthiest 1% share the country with a greater number of compatriots at the negative end of prosperity. One can’t help but wonder if the frightening inequality that characterises our society doesn’t lend credence to Baelish’s belief that “Only the ladder (of personal enrichment) is real…the climb is all there is” out of this land of chaotic reality.
Perhaps chaos is the ladder on with which one is able to improve oneself, but is the winner-takes-all sustainable? I believe that man can, must and will secure himself a better tomorrow, whatever it takes. In his act of security he must be alive to the consequences of his conduct because ignorance of the law is no excuse.