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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2011
Choosing a career is a tough decision and needs good guidance, research
A FEW lucky people discover their chosen careers at an early age and never look back. For most of us, though, it involves much soul searching, research, job shadowing, networking, and liaison with others in potentially attractive professions, and it is here that the economic chasm between our schools is most marked. There is also a huge gap in opportunities between the “haves” and the “have-nots”, and we need to galvanise those in formal and informal employment to bring career options to as many pupils as possible. From the outset, it is important to note that it is the responsibility of the individual to find a career that suits him or her: career determination should never be prescriptive, giving someone else the onerous task of “dictating” what it is that they feel an individual should be doing with his or her life. But first it is about getting to the essence of who one really is, which is tough for many, let alone teenagers who have had little insight into the “real world”. It is therefore vital to put structures in place to determine an individual’s skills and proficiencies, interests and passions, and challenges and concerns, not only for fledgling career thoughts, but also for tertiary education choices, if indeed that is indicated. This is especially true within our shifting South African context. Normal distribution, as depicted by the recently topical matric bell curve, indicates that some pupils will get straight As, some won’t get any As at all, and the vast majority will fall between these two extremes, just the way that it was meant to be: each individual offers unique attributes and characteristics which populate this bell curve and cater for the myriad career options. It is therefore critical for pupils to understand their own characteristics and their uniqueness, and realise that each one of them potentially has a role to fill in the workplace. This will go far in developing their confidence, but will also provide essential insight into their career determination. But, how does an individual get to that place of greater knowledge of self and become aware of opportunities in the marketplace? And how does one know one’s decisions are the best ones? For the fortunate few, a useful start is career evenings organised by their schools, attended by representatives of tertiary institutions who advertise academic options; organisations offering special programmes, learnerships and scholarships; companies selling gap year opportunities; and established professionals, or past pupils, who are studying towards qualifications.
Many schools don’t organise career evenings. Many can’t
Many go on to “job shadow” a trained professional for a day or two. But, many schools don’t organise such events. Many can’t. Towards the end of last year I spent time with pupils at a Cape Flats high school. It has no library , there is no designated career counsellor, or any staff member to man-
age a career office/centre, there are no job shadowing opportunities other than self-initiated, and access to the internet for career research is only sporadic. Although the teachers do what they can to create career awareness and private enterprise has, to a small extent, begun to offer learnerships in unskilled trades, pupils have little exposure to the wide range of available careers. This school is just one of many hundreds without adequate resources, and it illustrates clearly the limited career and development opportunities available to the bulk of our future workforce. In light of President Jacob Zuma’s attempts to make tertiary
education available to all, surely it is time for national or regional authorities to put together a two- or threeday conference for the thousands of pupils who have no access to potential career opportunities. It is incumbent on every one of us to redress the imbalances of the past by developing those “who have not had” and encouraging them to join us in our quest for excellence. As Madiba says: “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity It . is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life”. G Werner is an industrial psychologist and career facilitator
How money can become democratic
MOST of us assume money is an apolitical entity which is natural and , therefore not really up for question. However, there are over 6 000 communities around the world that don’t believe this. For these communities, money is not a given and it is certainly not apolitical. These communities are at the forefront of financial ingenuity cre, ating what is termed community currencies (CCs). This term covers a range of monetary experiments, some far more radical than others. This experimentation with CCs is not a new idea. It goes back at least to the 1930s and the works of people like Silvio Gessel, an advocate for free money He influenced the likes . of John Maynard Keynes, the great British economist whose ideas helped save the capitalist economy from a depression. Almost all the experiments of the 1930s were doomed by the ability of the political-economic powers, namely the state and private banks, to quash all of them. This is despite the fact that several of these CCs appeared to be successful in dealing with the issue of unemployment during the height of the Great Depression. For example, the small town of Worgl, in Austria, reduced its unemployment from 30 percent to almost zero over 18 months. The experiment was only shut down at the insistence of the local socialist party and the Austrian Central Bank. Then the town’s economy degenerated into a bankrupt and unemployed community and didn’t recover until World War II. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that people like Michael Linton (the creator of one of the biggest community currency technologies called LETS – Local Exchange Trading System), and ecological economists like Herman Daly (an ex-senior economist at the World Bank who advocates a non-debt based monetary system), started talking seriously about experimenting with alternative ways of creating money . Today these 6 000-plus communities around the world are experimenting with ways of creating money that is not dependent on private banks or the state, and rarely use any form of bank-debt created money with interest. The radicalism of these CCs falls along a spectrum from merely softening the impacts of market failures on local communities (complementary currencies that don’t challenge the national currencies), to experiments in potentially radical non-capitalist economic relations. All of this is dependent on an understanding of money that pays close attention to the historical political-economic development of capitalism. The development of capitalist money (the money that dominates our economic space) is neither a given nor a natural unfolding, but is rather the product of a particular and specific history . The development of today’s money can be seen as the history of efforts to control its creation to sustain the importance or relevance of what Karl Polanyi, the author of The Great Transformation, called the three fictitious commodities; land, labour and money . Money is no more a given fact than is private property or wage labour – all three are socially constructed and reinforced. Land is not inherently private and is therefore capitalist. Labour is not inherently for sale and is therefore capitalist. And money is not inherently scarce and is therefore capitalist. All three of these fictitious commodities can operate according to different rules. Labour does not have to be sold, land does not have to be private and money does not have to be scarce; they only have to have these characteristics so that they can operate within the capitalist framework. The changes that money has gone through – moving from shells to a system of paper and gold, to a system of pure paper money and increasingly , purely digitised – have all come about in response to problems in the political economy Problems that, if . capitalism as a system was to survive, needed to be solved. Money is scarce because it needs to be so in order for the capitalist economy to function. Without this scarcity the other two fictitious commodities would not be able to exist as products. Within a capitalist society, if money becomes abundant it causes the economy to collapse – either in the form of bubbles, which ultimately burst (asset or stock market) or inflation. tem and create a multiplicity of currencies, and therefore greater economic resilience. Joseph Edozien, chairman of the SA New Economics Network (SANE), in a series of articles titled “Ending Economic Apartheid” and “Restorative Economic Justice for South Africa”, has articulated a new employment-creating multicurrency financial architecture for South Africa, which includes stateencouraged debt-free non-interest bearing community currencies. The aim is to stimulate self-help transactions and effective demand in impoverished communities, with little realistic hope of genuine economic engagement with the rand system on terms which reduce poverty and dependency . As South Africa continues to debate solutions to its structural issues and the inability to solve these within the framework of our current financial system, the importance of exploring alternatives that could have positive developmental impacts on local communities is of vital importance and interest. South Africa and our economic policy makers need to seriously engage these options. I, along with several other academics, believe that our financial system is inherently unstable. However, we can solve some of our deep issues through experimentation in community currencies. For more information on how these ideas can be implemented in the South African context see the work of the South African New Economics Network at www.sane.org.za G Wainwright is completing his Masters at UCT in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics programme, with his thesis entitled “Democratisation of Money”. He is a Visiting Student Researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his BA with Honours in Political Economics. He works as a Practice Associate at Adaptive Edge, a futures foresight and scenario planning consultancy. This article is part of the National Dialogue Initiative by the Ministry of Economic Development in association with the Cape Times and the SA New Economies (SANE) network. Earlier contributions can be found at www.sane.org.za To contribute to the series e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org not exceeding 1 600 words.
LOSING VALUE: SA needs to re-examine its unstable financial system and follow the lead of 6 000 communities who trade without cash, says the writer.
systemic poverty, unemployment, and inequality These questions are . relevant to a concept of democracy that believes that socio-economic questions need to be answered within the framework of a viable democratic society . If money were to become truly democratic, that is being controlled, created and shared equitably what , would our democracy look like? And, would it be dominated by a more democratic economy? The possibility of our monetary system collapsing is a real prospect highlighted by the financial crises of the past two-plus years. What sort of monetary system would we want if democracy equal, ity and ending poverty and environ, mental destruction is a true goal? If money is neither given nor guaranteed to survive then it behoves us, as a country that is struggling with deep structural issues to experiment with and study some of these alternatives. Geoffrey Ingham, at Cambridge University , has argued that, “The scarcity of money is always the result of very carefully constructed social and political arrangements”. Several governments around the world have begun to recognise the potential benefits of supporting CCs – or at least not preventing their creation and proliferation. Recently the Brazilian Central , Bank gave its blessing to several experiments using CCs to help bolster local economies, while local governments around Japan have supported the creation of CCs to help pay for a range of services, such as providing care to the elderly . These currencies have been designed in a way that have specific goals – often not necessarily to replace the national currencies but to act in a complementary way . A recent paper by Bernard Lietaer, one of the minds behind the creation of the euro, calls for the need to diversify our monetary sys-
Each time one of these elements develop, drastic measures are taken to redesign the monetary system – the creation of the Federal Reserve in the USA, the gold-standard system, the Bretton Woods System and finally today’s digital fiat money system. We redesign it each time with the same purpose: to preserve the capitalist economy of private property and debtor/creditor relations. This scarcity of money is then a
critical element in the capitalist economy but unlike labour and land , (which are grounded by the natural laws of scarcity; there is only so much land and so much labour time available), the supply of money is grounded by no such constraints. With this understanding of money we can ask specifically what , this means in the South African context. We claim to be a democracy but our democracy continues to fail to deal with the deeper questions of
Jacob’s ladder short a few rungs Zuma makes mediocrity our gold standard
LIKE everyone else, I sat up late last week waiting for President Jacob Zuma to resign. The scrambled eggs that pass for Facebook and Twitter posts were agog with speculation that he would flee the country in a prayer-powered Gripen – resigning himself to exile in some favourable, US-backed despotism, perhaps The Ivory Coast or Lesotho – where shepherds steal their flocks by night and have halted Aids in its tracks by female circumcision. If I understood correctly Zuma , proposed to give away R20 billion to the growing numbers of PhDs who can’t find jobs. Decent jobs. No-one wants to serve bubbling pizzas and pastas at Col’Cacchio in Cavendish Square, particularly if the diners are rushing off to see The King’s Speech round the corner. And if you are nabbed, you have to return to the Congo or Rwanda where your life expectancy will resemble the 47 seconds in the Battle of Stalingrad. A decent job, of course, would be to run a theatrical company in which threatening sounds are made at the audience but little else happens; the Athol Fugard in Woodstock is there for the taking. However, is R20 billion really enough? If you divide it by the number of itinerant PhDs you arrive at about R3 800 per person. Once off.
In a State
This won’t even pay for the candles you need to light the ferocious grimacing and squawking of the hungry cultural workers on stage. Yet another black mark against Zuma. Not to mention the serial marriages and whale oil with which to buff his head. As for switching off electricity to save energy how will , we watch the SABC? Further, since we now learn that it cost R100 million to stage the World Festival of Youth and Students, I think it obvious that R3 800 per person won’t keep us in cigarettes for a week, since everything costs more now that the oil price is zooming. Thank goodness the Karoo is now to be mined for natural gas and we may soon not have to rely on extensions of hosepipes leading from Julius Malema’s rear end. I also think there’s lot of coal in the useless game reserves that the apartheid regime saddled us with; and if you want someone to run a State-owned mining company I rec, ommend my disgusting and thievish neighbour, Gatvol van der Pomp. Such peevish thoughts were
churning my neurons when it occurred to me that Zuma evidently had no intention of resigning! What a disappointment. I hastily twiddled the knobs of my gerbildriven TV set and landed on Al Jazeera, an independent channel much relied upon my other neighbour, who is building a mosque. Hosni “Gatvol” Mubarak would appear to have been the one everybody wanted to flee – instantly if not , before. But what a tease, worse than Zuma! In the end, crowds of people wailed inconsolably or cheered when they discovered they would be getting a brand-new dictatorship. There was some comfort in the speculation that a sober, middle-ofthe-road, faith-based group of scholars called al-Qaeda could take over. Since South Africa appears not to have decided – unlike America – to open its doors to the world’s “tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free – the wretched refuse of your teeming shore” it looks as if they will all have to find sanctuary within the kindly armpits of al-Qaeda. If I had really wanted to avoid confusion, I should have turned to yet another channel and watched Friday the Thirteenth – Part II. That would have been quite gruesome enough.
NOT BAD at all. Actually a good speech because he cleverly addressed all the factions in the ruling party A good thing that he . focused on job creation. He sounded almost statesman-like. Ja-nee, all is well in sunny South Africa. This seems to be the general reaction to President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address in Parliament last week. I thought it was a dismal speech. At the end of it, I was more than disappointed; I was angry . We have been so conditioned by the all-consuming faction fights in the ANC and the utter lack of vision and leadership from Zuma and his ineffectual cabinet that we rejoice at the mediocre because at least it isn’t a disaster. The people of South Africa deserve more than this. Zuma’s cheering commando inside the ANC hail his address as a magnificent performance by a man of the people. Zuma apologists, some parading as political analysts, feel they have to remind us that the president is not expected to explain policy or give any detail of his grand schemes when he opens Parliament; that happens at the Finance Minister’s budget speech and other occasions. What nonsense. Zuma has broken years of tradition by moving
max du preez
the opening of Parliament to a Thursday evening exactly so more citizens can follow his speech on television and radio. This is the one occasion where the president of South Africa should communicate with the citizens – not the lame, badly organised so-called imbizos “with the ordinary people” during the course of the year or when he talks at ANC functions. I am a citizen and Jacob Zuma is my president. On Thursday night I made myself comfortable in front of my TV because my president was going to speak to me about the state of my country and tell me about his vision for the future. I didn’t need passages from Shakespeare. I just wanted my president to communicate with me. My president let me down. He couldn’t even read his lines properly and fluffed several words. It was the predictable, bland speech written by a bunch of apparatchiks for a party leader who wants to throw out a bone to every dog in the neighbourhood. I was yearning for some straight talk; for a sense of
energy; for a clear commitment to arrest our country’s slide down the slippery slope of corruption, entitlement and laissez faire. For anyone outside the circle of ANC faithful to praise the speech would boil down to the soft bigotry of low expectations. I was happy that Zuma focused on job-creation. I heard him say he was going to throw money at the problem. Lots of money I know . other governments have also done that and it turned out to be a waste of taxpayer’s money He didn’t tell . me why his way was going to be different. Was he really going to get millions of people proper long-term employment through public works schemes? Zuma is an intelligent man with some very clever advisers on economic matters. Surely he knows what the real impediments are to creating jobs? But some of his constituents don’t want to hear that, so he can’t say that. I was happy to hear him say the focus in education should be teaching, time and textbooks. As he said it, I knew that the kids in the Eastern Cape were still without books and millions of pupils were attending schools in ruins or makeshift structures. Empty words. My ears pricked up when he talked about the minerals of the
country belonging to the people. But when he became vague about the issue, I realised he was actually talking to Julius Malema in the public gallery . Immediately after the speech I heard Malema declare in an interview that Zuma was endorsing the nationalisation of mines and shortly after that the minister of mines denied it. In a Sunday paper three days later Zuma was asked whether his words meant a green light to nationalisation, and he answered: I don’t think it does. He doesn’t think – but wait, those were his own words, weren’t they surely , he must know what he meant? As he was finishing his bland sentence on welcoming the regime change in Egypt and the will of the people of that country I was sure he , was going to at least say something about the will of the people of Zimbabwe, where a new reign of terror has just been unleashed. Not a peep from the president of the leading country on the subcontinent. Thursday night’s speech was more about the ANC than about the state of the nation. Zuma the Great Listener, the Man of the People. Ja, right. More like the Great Disappointment, the Man of the Party .