Friday, March 30, 2012

When Eskom hands you lemons...

Originally posted in 2008--Edited today

I happened upon a thought provoking article on the web today, in a place I didn't expect to find it.

Tessa Silberbauer, writing for IOLjobs, had this to say:

"The other evening, while sitting and looking at the puddle of candlelight in front of a mirror, I had to laugh at myself.
"For all my belief in saving resources and environmental awareness, I've still been spoiled by "progress": I've forgotten so much.
"How to word-count longhand work, for example (I had to re-write this article by hand to conserve battery power, after writing the original on my PC just before a power cut). And I've become so used to having light when I want it, that I've forgotten how little I really need.
"I'm not alone in responding to power cuts, with anger sometimes. I know that there are serious losses, and that these are hurting us all. But there are also advantages to take, when we focus on our abilities rather than what we can't control.
"We can choose whether to be part of the solution, or part of the problem. Most of the time, it will be a mixed effect; but there is no excuse for refusing to do what we can, just because our contribution is small. " (see the rest of Tessa's excellent article here:

Being part of the solution does not mean that our contributions must be gargantuan. A grain of sand is minute, but enough of them make up a beach. And while your contribution may be only the size of a grain of sand...remembering to shut off your geyser during peak times, for example...if every household in South Africa did just that one thing, our power problem would be diminished significantly.

A painless way to be part of the solution is the change your attitude. Instead of revelling in the "kick 'em while they're down" mob-mentality of blaming Eskom and demanding pointless action (like sacking the managers, which is monumentally stupid and counterproductive), we can channel our energy into a positive, productive course of action. Tell our friends that moaning makes things worse, not better, because Eskom and the government already know there is a problem, so it's time for us all to look to solutions.

Yesterday I had a conversation with my husband's auntie, who is a bank manager in Natal. Her bank gets power cuts at about 2 in the afternoon, and sometimes her town also gets a second power cut in the evening. Now you may not realize it, but even after banks close their doors at 3, work continues inside the that ordinarily requires electricity. Auntie is very service oriented, and it bothers her that her customers, who have only a short window of opportunity to use the bank anyway, are losing an hour (and sometimes more) of opportunity to use her services. Her solution has been to install UPSs and soon her bank will be open, even during power outages. She is turning this into a marketing opportunity by posting discreet signs in her bank and at the ATMs (and is considering taking out ads in her local newspaper) advertising this fact. Not only will her customers remain loyal, but she expects her ability to remain open and functioning during the outages may draw new customers to her bank. The lady has a firm grip on the concept of taking the lemons of the power crisis and turning them into the sweet lemonade of opportunity.

Another friend of mine reports that they have dug out the old board games and play Monopoly and Scrabble and cards in the evening when the power is down. Where they used to go to separate rooms to watch TV and play video games, the family is now coming together and interacting. More lemonade.

Silberbauer's comment about being spoiled is well-taken. Since when can we not live for two hours without electricity? So, you are expected to adapt a little, change how you do things, make some plans and organize your time and activities around a short loss of what? How selfish can we be, expecting our personal situations to be the hub of the universe? Can we not look for the good that can come out of adversity? Can we not take advantage of the downtime to replenish, relax, reconnect? Have we forgotten that electricity is our servant and not our master?

Being mad at Eskom only hurts you by feeding a negativity of doesn't hurt Eskom or change the situation, it only changes you...and for the worse. Scheming to punish Eskom by lawsuits or demanding a management change or, worse, attacking Eskom employees, accomplishes nothing positive. Money awarded through lawsuits takes money away from projects designed to alleviate the crisis and, ultimately, comes out of YOUR pocket and the pockets of people like you, because Eskom's profits go to your government...and its losses come from your government, which you support with your taxes. It is never wise to change horses in midstream, and a new management team for Eskom will inevitably cause delays downstream...where the work of alleviating the power shortage is being done. And what good does it do to pinion an Eskom employee and demand answers from him or even assault him for the power issues? Better to look in a mirror and ask, "what have I done to contribute to this problem and what am I doing to help resolve it?" because you will get more answers there than from the poor guy who comes to read your meter and knows no more about what his bosses are doing than you do.

So, the government, through refusing to give Eskom the go-ahead to start building power stations years back, has handed you a basket of lemons. I'd be interested in knowing what you have done to make lemonade out of them.

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