Not sure if I shared with you the fact that we often go to the Northern Cape to do work. I think I may have mentioned it in passing – I know a fortnight ago I spoke about the waitress who so uniquely answered the question: “How are you?” Be that as it may, we work with a group of mineworkers up in Aggeneys, 110km outside Springbok on the N7. In fact, just last week we finished our last project for the year with them. In short, we are migrant workers…

Not to bore you with details, but I thought I would share the feeling of driving back on an N7 that is full of stop-and-go (12 to be precise) roadwork stoppages. Not even those go-slows can take away the feeling of a well-executed project that leaves one feeling very fulfilled.
The work we do is called edu-tainment. We educate through entertainment. The beauty of these projects is that we take safety, health and environmental issues that the mine wishes to focus on, and turn their “training manual” into awareness “shows” that we, along with the mine workers workshop and perform for the rest of the mining community. So, professional actors and singers from Cape Town perform alongside a group of safety representatives – singing and dancing and dramatizing safety, health and environment issues. The last show each year is like a refresher – where we pool the skits and other highlights of the year into an awards ceremony – to honour those who went the extra mile to make their work environment safer, healthier and more environmentally friendly.

It made me think about training in such a different, more creative way. Isn’t everyone already “g@tvol” of PowerPoint presentations? These days when I am confronted with yet another one…usually by slide number five I am ready to dig a fork into the palm of my hand, like Glenn Close’s character in ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ – just to know I am still alive! And of course, everyone thinks they are such riveting orators and spellbinding presenters. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, they have lost their audience at slide number three: the one with the statistics. But see if they care! They will go on for another 22 or 30 slides; while you are struggling to keep your eyes open. And they can see it, but see if they care. And should they notice that bored look in your eyes, or catch you nodding off into dreamland they would think you to be terribly loutish. How dare you: in THEIR presentation? When THEY are so enthralling? After all the preparation THEY put in to collate the statistics and create colour-coded bar graphs and pie diagrams and all those beautiful organograms… blah blah blah zzzzzzzzz…? Or maybe they really don’t see it? What, pray tell, is the point then of the training, I ask with tears in my bloodshot eyes?

Maybe it is exactly like I have said many times before – methinks we are breeding a particular brand of narcissist who is COMPLETELY and utterly ignorant of, and oblivious to, their surroundings. And all they really care about is themselves. No self-reflection. And when I look at some of them I can completely understand why they wouldn’t want to look at themselves. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one). Their heads are so far up their own butts that their sole purpose is to be driven at all costs and to tick the next box, and move swiftly along, boasting about their “achievements”. A pestilent gall, I tell you. A pestilent gall!

I have seen many of these people at work. The ones who believe that everything calls for immediate discussion – their voice, of course, being the dominant one – 80% of what comes out of their mouths being nothing but noise. They talk and talk and all I’m hearing is a whirr, a drone somewhere in the distance.
And I know the adage that speaks to it taking all kinds to make a world and all that twaddle, but in the name of all things sacred, stand back and introspect! Is that too much to ask?
I am reminded of graffiti that I once read in a toilet at UCT – somewhere between the then Menzies and Jagger library buildings while doing my undergraduate studies. (I am taking you back to the 1980s here). It said: “Bureaucracy rules, okay!” However, the writer had misspelt the word Bureaucracy. And some other smart Alec wrote next to it: “Spelling rules, okay!” Someone else then wrote: “Consideration rules, is that okay?”
I am now as confused as you might be – how did I get from a recent, satisfying trip to the Northern Cape to UCT in the 1980s? I guess the pen really is mightier than the sword…

Email: rafiek@mweb.co.za