Thursday, July 01, 2004

Growin’ up 

The dictionary definition of adolescence refers to puberty – the transition from youth to adulthood. I’m not sure what the right term is, but it seems to me that there are at least four such transitions. Maybe there are six – one between each of the seven ages of man.

The first that I have noticed is the one my daughter is working through at the moment: the terrible twos. The usual explanation for this is that it is the transition from baby to toddler – suddenly you are expected not to pee on the floor, and to be able to walk and talk by yourself. Scary stuff when you’re under three feet tall.

The next is the proper adolescence – hair, smells & girls. Here come the hormones, there goes the voice. Physically you are becoming an adult, with all the bits that come with it.

The latest one I have come across (and I reserve the right to add more) is moving from “adult” to “grown up”. This is when you realise that you can no longer rely on your parents to bail you out, indeed you can see the day coming when they will rely on you. You have a mortgage, spouse, children, not necessarily in that order. It’s all up to you. Oh shit.

Here comes the allegory… South Africa is busy growing up: 10 years of democracy and counting. For South Africa, read the ANC: Nelson Mandela’s political movement turned government of the people. For a bunch of “terrorists” and communists, they have done a pretty impressive job of running the country since 1994. The one big problem they face is that they suffer from a bit of an identity problem, and are hyper-sensitive to criticism, as President Mbeki rather conclusively proved the other day in a long speech explaining how he isn’t at all sensitive. Paranoid, moi?

The biggest problem the ANC faces, and the country as a whole faces in one way or another, is where first world meets third. What is entirely acceptable, if not expected, in Africa – poor service levels, corruption, nepotism – scares the crap out of the first world and its South Africa representatives, i.e. the white population and the business community. When the corruption rumours have got as far as the Deputy President, then you have a bit of a problem.

Or do you? The whiteys’ biggest problem is the perception that the grass is always greener, hence the “chicken run” to Australia, half a million South Africans in London, and so on. This phenomenon extends to a rather idealistic view of the way things are in the first world.

Large party donation in return for planning permission? Try massive donations in return for Iraq’s reconstruction. Jobs for the boys? Try the election for your brother.

Maybe it is all done bigger and better in the first world…

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