The first world secret

Mbabane, Swaziland | 11 June 2014
Bill Snaddon

Last week on this page I committed the cardinal sin of column writing.

In fact, it might be the cardinal sin when it comes to any form of argument or debate.

Speaking of argument and debate, before we get into my cardinal sin from last week, I have for some time admired the little snippet published on page three of every edition of the news magazine The Economist.

It reads: ‘Published since September 1843 to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance, obstructing our progress.’

I couldn’t help but think of this short and lively sentence, all of 24 punchy (non-jargon) words, as people converged last week to discuss varying definitions of ‘First World’.

I wasn’t able to make the meeting but I did notice that conference conveners kindly invited submissions in the wake of the event.

In this spirit of good faith, I cited the snippet from The Economist for one reason: education.

Quality mass education, from kindergarten through to university and then encouraged all the way through life, with creativity, discipline, and freedom of enquiry at its core, is the surest way to jump into the slipstream of the First World.

And by ‘education’ I don’t just mean exams and dodgy certificates but anything that involves learning and growing your mind – the more practical the better. But of course the Arts and creativity must play a centra role.

Learning and the encouragement of all sorts of learning, in my humble submission, is a sure way to begin the tough trek to the First World.

I dare say that if you ask any country that has reached this First World ‘what is your secret?’, they will most likely respond with one word: education.

Right, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s get down to my cardinal sin from last week.

After re-reading my column (as all narcissits do) I realised I hadn’t conceded enough ground. I didn’t ‘look in the mirror’ for long enough. I didn’t allow enough space for my own failings and hypocrisy.

For we all know that more people will listen to you if you admit (at least a little bit) to your own past errors before you launch an argument.

I didn’t admit that I, myself, have previously been charged by the police for speeding: stupidly trying to beat the system (or I just didn’t see the speed limit sign).

I didn’t admit that I myself have allowed a moment’s road rage to get the better of me and shouted a few expletives in the direction of a fellow driver. I can develop quite the unprintable vocabulary when someone cuts me off, let me tell you.

But, as is seemingly good column writing custom, let me finish with a suggested solution (of course there are always many solutions to any pressing challenge) to road rage.

I got the idea from South Africa’s Western Cape Premier, that loud-mouthed and Twitter-addicted Helen Zille, who has introduced legislation in that province to ban politicians from using blue-light convoys.

The only exception, she said, would be genuine emergencies. ‘And being late for a meeting does not constitute an emergency,’ Zille added.

Obviously, the answer to safer roads is for drivers to redefine their sense of urgency and ‘emergency’. Cutting someone off to get to the next green light is appropriate only in life-and-death situations.

Of course, the way things are going, some people will say driving to the shops is becoming a life-and-death situation!

This column was published in the Times of Swaziland on 11 June 2014

#25_The road to the first world_11 June 2014

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