Friday 1 February 2008

Power to the people?

Before everyone who knows me thinks I’ve gone back to my very early socialist roots (I was young, OK?) let me assure them that no, sanity still prevails.

In fact I think that the supposedly revolutionary cry of “Power to the people” is actually the very essence of radical libertarianism and very little to do with the politics of the radical left or the radical right. I was in the Philippines a decade after the truly wonderful overthrow of that old fascist crook Ferdinand Marcos by what Philippinos proudly call “People Power”. Over 3 million ordinary people took to the streets and demanded liberty and freedom from the corruption and nepotism that characterise all dictatorships. They didn’t want worker’s committees dictating what they could buy, they didn’t want public ownership of the means of production and they certainly didn’t want the government telling them what they were permitted to think. All they wanted was the right to make an honest living, hang out with their friends talking politics over a few beers and to be left alone by people in authority.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing in the Philippines, they’ve subsequently had to throw out another president for his outrageous corruption but at least they were allowed to do so.

So anyway, yes, I do believe that power should rest with the people. The people should have the power to control their future.

And yes, this IS all a rather contrived way of going on about the power crisis again.

It’s not often that ordinary consumers like you and me can shape the future of a country. It’s not often we can determine whether our country continues to develop and be an example to the rest of the world that things CAN work in Africa and that they DO work, really quite normally in Botswana. It’s not often that as the people of a nation we can say whether the nation succeeds.

Last week I was listening to a discussion on SAFM. Yes, sorry, but I like to hear intelligent conversations on radio and we seem to have misplaced our best talk-show host recently. Anyway someone was suggesting that if Eskom can’t sort out the power crisis in SA then there is a real risk that nobody will come to the World Cup in 2010. Tourists tend to want hotels with electricity to keep the beer cold after all.

Don’t we face the same problem? Paraffin lamps are fun and exotic the first few times you use them but visitors bringing all that lovely foreign currency DO want a few luxuries every now and then. Investors in our economy also want all those first-world things like broadband internet access, satellite TV and cellphones that we can offer them but all these things need electricity. If we fail to sort out this problem then those investors we need for our economy to continue to grow will go elsewhere to make money. They’ll choose some other country to pay their taxes.

I think that the choice is simple. We can sit back, blame everything on Botswana Power Corporation, Eskom, globalisation, the government, George W Bush and your chosen international conspiracy or we can DO something about it.

Yes, of course BPC should have started building more power stations several years ago. Yes of course we should have endless, uninterruptible power, ice cream should be good for you and the weather should always be perfect. But none of these things have happened. Rather than spend all day finding someone to blame I think we should be fixing the situation we find ourselves in. We need to stop whining like spoilt teenagers about how unfair life is and start sorting our lives out and not waiting for someone else to do it for us.

Stop wasting electricity. Buy energy-saving light bulbs. Turn your geyser off during the day. Turn your pool pump off when your pool is already perfectly clean. We can all work it out for ourselves.

What about the other ways you can save power that you’ll probably not hear BPC suggesting?

Turn the TV off and read a book or even have a conversation with your partner. Save energy heating your bath by sharing it with someone else. Obviously a good friend, not just the pizza delivery man. Well, I suppose if you can’t find a tip when he arrives… On a cold evening find a more creative way of generating some heat. That might involve a good friend as well. Maybe even your husband or wife.

Condoms do not require electricity.

I really do think that the choice is simple. Do we want to go back in time to 1966 and become a third-world country again or do we want to maintain our place as a developing and ever-so-nearly developed nation. I know which I want.

I’m off to save some power…

This week’s stars!

  • Yet again the guys at Video Ezee at Riverwalk for being friendly, hard-working and being right next to a bar and within staggering distance of Primi Piatti. What more could you want?
  • Gabo at Pick N Pay at Molapo Crossing for being tremendous at customer service.
Please understand I’m not making this up because of the column above but Punchie and Godiramang, both from BPC for excellent customer service during power cuts.

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