Cees Bruggemans
4 minute read
5 Nov 2013
6:02 am

Life’s diversions: An escape too far

Cees Bruggemans

Youth has a growing spectrum of technology and diversions old and new in which to disappear. Music, television, social media, cell phones, internet, shopping malls, sport, each other.

Image courtesy Stock.xchnge

It used to be that youth referred to pimple-heavy youngsters well into their first puberty. Today these many past-times are also enjoyed by even younger kids and those who never grew up this side of 90.

Meaning all of us. Remarkable how addictive all the new stuff has become within a decade, just like the old stuff like sport, music and television, and the really old stuff like alcohol, smoking, gaming and more such like always used to be.

The ambitious can escape into work, and for others there is golf.

For the President there is a special escape hatch. He can disappear overseas, whether into Africa or wider afield, always on state business, but at least far from home. He has this in common with a fair number of well placed business executives seeking a break.
Companies have discovered, too, that they do not have to put up with the regulatory, union, stagnation and other stuff playing havoc with their businesses here.

They have for years already been seeking out growth markets elsewhere, and many have become so good at it that they now have real momentum in their favour.

They are getting to know their overseas and regional markets, they have the right franchises and are growing or buying the right people, getting to understand local conditions and ways of doing things, and are not put off by Asiatic, European, Middle Eastern, American or Latino competition.

In other words, they are having a ball, mostly, at least their head office types are, as they present financial results showing foreign operations clearly outperforming the home front and sweetening the overall returns.

Strikes, obstructive government regulations, corruption and other such joys are left to the frontline troops to sort out, for which there is ample reward.

Then there are those, of all persuasions, who find their escape in shopping or other credit-driven past-times. Only their ranks today are heavily swollen compared to the innocent housewife pursuits of an easier age.

And so we may find that many don’t only find themselves saddled with one escape hatch, but multiple entrapments. Work mad, social media addicted, credit driven, deeply dependent on adrenaline rushes, alcohol, tobacco or other substances, sport fans, fitness fanatics, with a liking for (exotic) travel and frankly too little time to making it all add up, when not on the golf course, running, cycling or sailing.

It is called living life to the full.

Some of it is all innocent and due reward for success achieved and the ability today to stretch mind and body in ways previous generations never could.

But in this little list, by all means hardly exhaustive for I have a plane to catch and am running out of time, far too much is escapism from life and responsibility, but too often also away from the special grime that is
our stagnating, grasping everyday reality.

This is not productive. It may provide balsam for the tortured soul, but it does not offer greater effort towards the solutions we need if ever we are to really escape from the stagnation strings that have ensnared all of us.

A little less escapism, a bit more focus, and we would be reaping far greater rewards here with which to address our many shortcomings, and still live life to the full, even if without so much cordless bungee jumping.

But for that there needs to be more mutual trust, a greater willingness to hear others and much wider compromise rather than the selfish one-way invitation we seem to have become used to in our every day lives.

That requires leadership by example.

We have so far had plenty of example but it has not always offered the ideal role models. Yet newer editions are on offer indulging in ever cheaper populism, trying to escape into old blame games instead of genuinely trying to come up with better ways to prepare the next generation for its demanding, competitive future.

It makes for lowest-common-denominator-progress, which is nothing new to many of us. Yet it gives such destructive results, slow progress with maximum friction as the greater majority tries to escape its destiny.

A bit less of all that, and more dedication where it counts in results achieved, would give much greater balance to our lifetime achievement rewards.

But try telling it to the addicted who long ago gave up trying to talk sense to their many interlocutors, all wanting it their way, and few for that reason succeeding.

So much waste, to what end, finding some succour at day’s end, before going home and seeking oblivion?

Cees Bruggemans is consulting economist at FNB.