I have found that when you draw a north-south line through the middle of SA, speeches made to the east thereof, in the Far Western Transvaal, northern Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Free State, far Eastern Cape, anywhere in Kwazulu-Natal, there is an inclination to focus on what is going wrong in the country.
There isn't much of a market for what is going right.
So one is expected to hear that the government is bad (preaching to the converted), that Eskom is worse, and land reform populist (a very mild description of current passions).
The unions have hijacked the country, nobody is hiring labour, the potholes are gaping wounds ready to swallow a truck, the railways are worse than Eskom, and do not get going on your favourite municipality or province.
It turns out everyone has far worse horror stories and only too eager to share the undoubted pain.
Then there is crime, the widespread unemployment, the decrepit education, and 16 million on welfare ready to swallow all of us, the poor few taxpayers having to fund all this.
And with petrol north of R14/l and the Rand every day becoming more of a Mickey Mouse watch, can R20/l be far behind? The death knell for us all, after e-tolling.
As to agriculture, with no disaster assistance for farmers worth the name, and a government hell bend on destructive land redistribution, what will happen to food security?
This before we get to JuJu and lunch. The Workers Party taking shape will be something enlivening future elections.
In other words, bad news. And I am afraid it is all true.
The infrastructure is old and collapsing under our feet. The unions want to redesign the social dispensation, no matter what the cost in lost production and jobs. The young aren't by and large getting educated. Crime is criminally rampant. Desperation clearly very high. And the Fat Cats sitting pretty.
It is really very sad and feeds many a tale with gory detail.
What is much more difficult to explain iswhat is going right, not least because this is often understood least of all.
I do not have in mind the government's long list of non-achievements, but a simple explanation as to why what is patently going wrong is not permanently shrinking the economy at 2% annually (or worse) as our best brains leave us for greener pastures.
Instead, why do we still keep growing at +2%, outachieving Europe and Japan, and still doubling our real national income every 35 years (eight-fold every century), steadily enriching our millionaires and billionaires, and most of our middle class and surviving worker class, going by tax returns and asset market holdings? And properties, cars and latest cell phones.
When you try to explain there are productivity gains, there is more being produced and more being invested and consumed, that there are still many productive people earning more and getting richer driving the economy, and living full lives, and not only the parasitical by definition living of someone else's fat, that the system remains coherent and functional despite the potholes and public malfunctioning, there is this clear sense of doubt.
Future, what future? There is none.
This always comes across as a little harsh. Yet explaining about quality assets, quality people (even when they get an order three times wrong or don't know how to repair something or fail to keep an appointment or promise, verbal or otherwise), a coherent set of laws and some regulations, and it all hanging together (even if also separately), there is this sense of disbelief.
Of course, if one is up to armpits in crocodiles, it is difficult to understand that someone elsewhere, not on the take, and not for show, is actually taking out the garbage and bringing home the bacon, enough so, that all of us are still steadily proceeding at +2%.
Focus on the self-help of many doing their daily chores, either in protected employment such as the public sector (thereby helping to stabilize demand) or otherwise in thousands of businesses steadily toiling away as if there is no dysfunctionality, there are no disruptive elements, there are no dangers to life and limb.
This is not positivism for positivism sake, as a Free Stater once told me. This is realism. In this ocean of mediocrity that daily confronts us, there remain enough functional networks for us to have juice, get our supplies, have our labour do the work and have clients to satisfy.
Do take note of the daily howling, but it can only explain the -2%, while it is the +2% we should still try to understand. Although +3.5% would be nicer, and +5% better still. But for that we need regime change, from within or otherwise from without. And a more healthy, supportive outside world.
I understand many are working on all these problems. Few are called, though.