You can't play the 'happy game' without hope and expectations
- Johann Redelinghuys
- 22 Oct 2012 01:30 (South Africa)
From the expanding discipline of neuroscience we now understand that expectations are the experience of the brain paying attention to a possible reward. Expectations can change brain functioning. The right dose of expectations can be as elevating as a clinical dose of morphine.
That is why we like to look forward to some anticipated positive event like a holiday or a special family celebration. Looking forward creates some of the feeling of the actual event.Expectations activate the dopamine circuitry, central to thinking and learning. When expectations are met there is an increase in dopamine. No matter what the challenges, we are here because we look forward to some kind of peace and prosperity. We have expectations.
Just like people, countries thrive on positive affirmation. And, just like people, when they get negative feedback they wither. When the dopamine dose the brain chemistry needs to work towards reward is withheld, we become fearful and negative. We need the ‘fix’ to sustain ourselves.
This being South Africa, we have also learned to fake it. So when we are asked about South Africa when travelling abroad, or meeting international visitors, we talk it up. “Africa,” we say, “is the new hot market and South Africa is its major driver.”
And then we come face-to-face with the message emblazoned on the cover of 20 October’s Economist. “Cry the Beloved the Country,” the caption says, over a picture of the striking miners with their sticks and pangas aloft. And the dreadful byline: “South Africa’s sad decline” The magazine’s Leaders and Briefing sections describe in detail the declining state of the nation. “Foreign investment is drying up... education is a disgrace... inequality has grown since Apartheid and the gap between the rich and the poor is now among the world’s largest...” - and so on and on. “South Africa,” it says, “is sliding downhill while much of the rest of the continent is clawing its way up.”
The respected Economist, with its rigorous research and impeccable journalism, chooses to expose our shame and the deterioration of our country on its front page. It even compares the present state of decline with a more positive view of conditions during the “loathsome Apartheid” years.
We cringe. It is like a family that has sheltered a pervert, or has hidden a crime, suddenly now out in the open: the whole world sees the extent of the shame spelled out in vivid reality.
To most of us it’s no surprise. We have learned to assimilate the pieces of bad news that come to us in a daily stream. This, however, is the full story in one vicious punch to the gut. Its impact must be riveting to international investors, already skittish about what’s going on in the world economy and being much more discerning about where they invest their clients’ decreasing funds.
But it is overwhelming to us because a perceived failure of the country is also a perceived failure of ourselves. Although many don’t support the ANC and have little influence at all in the greater scheme of South Africa’s decline, we somehow feel responsible. We are co-dependent, and experience a sense of blame for the disgrace. What an embarrassment!
What will we say to our children and grandchildren who may one day ask: “Where were you? Where were you when the beloved country went down the tubes?”
A recent e-mail doing the rounds was a letter from Ann Paton, the widow of Alan Paton, author of Cry the Beloved Country. After several robberies and threats to her safety, Paton has decided, reluctantly, to leave her cherished life in South Africa and return to England. She is fraught with anguish and pain, but cannot keep her life together in South Africa any longer.
No dopamine here. No possible rush of brain chemistry to help us keep our heads up. There is just the choking feeling of anger and disappointment. There is also the paralysing reality that nothing of consequence can be done by those likely to read and be affected by the Economist story. “Remember,” you say, “this is a democracy, and you have a vote!” Yes, I have, and it means just about nothing. There is no representation and the electoral system will keep me from having any influence for the foreseeable future. In the face of the millions of poorly educated ANC supporters driven by misguided loyalties, the possibility of change is so remote as to be meaningless.
Most of us would support the miners striking for more pay. We all want a fair society and a reasonable living for everyone. But none of us want the violent ‘wildcat’ nature of the protest and the dreadful heavy-handedness of the way things are managed. What has happened to this country that was so bright with potential just a few years ago? Have we given up on our expectations?
I try to play the ‘happy game’ and to focus on positive changes like Clem Sunter does when he talks about the achievements of the ANC, but the sadness and the feelings of desolation just don’t leave me. DM
- Millions of ‘job opportunities’? Pull the other one!
- Hands off? Brian Joffe is faking it
- Should the workers have a voice on the board of directors?
- Time for the minister of police to hand in his resignation?
- More freelancing means fewer jobs
- The wealth gap and inequality cannot be ‘fixed’
- Is there a military option for school leaver unemployment?
- Retire the idea of retirement!
- The textbook, talented leadership of Mr Julius Malema
- The down – and up – side of recklessness and greed
- Race and gender issues: not going anywhere
- Sloppy board governance: Failing South Africa’s critical executive leadership
- Low efforts, low satisfaction: Combatting the new workplace epidemic
- Shame on the racist rant from the Black Business Council!
- The visits of French president and Polish prime minister: a scattering of welcome fairy dust
- Uncomfortable questions about Sasol’s hired gun
- Manufacturing is not our route to riches
- The Minister is chasing away jobs!
- The Age of the Sovereign Individual is upon us
- ‘I applied my mind’: a welcome comment from the President
- Stressful news about executive stress
- The comic opera at the SABC board plays on
- The right way is not always the best way
- Double benefit of focus on farming
- Indecision is crippling us
- An ‘African MBA’ would be a mistake
- The inequalities of the wage gap won’t go away
- Privileged access: no longer just for the top dogs
- Are there different degrees of CV fraud?
- Is the ‘born free’ generation really so free?
- Labour Brokers are here to stay
- Unemployment can be beaten
- Top CEOs are feeling the pinch
- Performance anxiety: The curse of our time
- Black Economic (Dis)empowerment: It’s time to rethink our strategy
- Why mobile phones are more important than toilets
- She was a lady with a vision
- South Africa should beef up its strengths
- Jacko Maree has failed in the most important task of a CEO
- Bridging the gap: Time to embrace immigrant skills
- Gender diversity on boards still undermined by stereotyping, male-dominated networks
- Be careful what you wish for
- Please stop the mindless nonsense of trying to ‘create’ entrepreneurs to satisfy some extravagant political agenda!
- The heavy hand of government is everywhere
- The good people at Standard & Poor's may not be aware of all our resources
- Our systems of education and first-rung employment are broken
- Only disruptive leadership can achieve real change
- 'Shooting from the hip' is now the norm - and deeply damaging
- Our leaders' confused moral compass
- Government ownership: Watch out for the collapse of independence
- US and South Africa: Leading in disaster and disastrous leadership
- CEO departures and the 'perfect storm' in the boardroom
- You can't play the 'happy game' without hope and expectations
- A major leadership resource, ignored in the new South Africa
- The value of the people who create value
- Living the paradox: Life in South Africa
- A leader without a vision gets nothing done
- It’s spring! It's a good time for cleaning up our act
- So, do we want to be a global player or not?
- Big business: A critical piece missing from Manuel's plan
- Enduring values cannot be legislated
- Being a CEO - and playing the leadership game - is tough
- Career Management 101: Don't send a CV!
- The shifting sands of executive payouts
- The Perils of “Young Blood”
- Gender Diversity: Good for Business
- Nationhood: Our fragile national self-esteem
- Employment: Make Peace with the Gig Economy
- Crime is not the real fear of white people
- Dilemmas of the South African Diaspora
- Be careful what you use to vote for whom, and when and why
- Golden Schmolden Years
- Beware the Psychopaths
- Executive salaries are determined by supply and demand. It's not a conspiracy
- Reckless transformation is doing great damage
- Listen and stay close to your stakeholders
- Career Management 2020
- The New Non-Executive Director
- Working on a resolution toward a 'portfolio life'
- Facing the dilemmas of succession
- The misguided notion of 'job creation'
- High CEO turnover and the role of the chairman
- Life starts at 60, and not only for Alan Knott-Craig
- African leaders are misguided when they try to hold on to Africa for the Africans