cars


009

It’s odd how we look at the problems of the world and just continue to live our daily lives. Like driving past a car crash and thanking God it wasn’t us.

Zimbabwe is a car crash of we witness in our world. And we all slow down to stare, shake our heads and say, “Oh shame, I wonder what happened”. But no one stops to help. At most we will phone 911-AU or 1-800-UN and hope they will sort it out. But we drive on. Not stopping to help. Because we don’t want to “get involved” or get our hands dirty. And, in any case, we have an important meeting to go to and just didn’t do that bloody first aid course. We drive on because we have good reasons. Sorry, excuses.

But there are different types of car crashes in this world. We never stop to look at the reason. We assume we know. And behind every assumption is an idiot waiting to crash.

There is the drunk idiot driver that thinks he can just do whatever the hell he wants. Mugabe for example… They drive the way they want and crash where they want because alcohol makes you feel invincible. Just like power politics. Nothing can touch you. And you go ahead and do stupid things and drive as if you own the road, but we know you are going to crash. And take a few people out with you. Innocent bystanders and passengers. But like real people we watch you get drunk and never actually ask you to leave the keys and take a cab. No, we are to scared you might be offended…

But you are an idiot. An idiot for getting drunk on the power the steering wheel of life gives you. And an idiot for the false sense of safety the cacoon car gives you. I would stop and applaud your crash if it wasn’t for the innocent passengers and bystanders.

And then there are those who crash and they had nothing to do with it. A tyre blew and the car is hanging on a cliff – ready to crash down and take everyone on board with them. These drivers drive old cars with worn tyres and clunky bodies. It’s not that they want to have a crap car but they can’t afford a new one. And they have to take the commute of life to stay alive. They drive their crappy cars to work each day hoping that they will make it there and back safely. They don’t want to but they can’t help it. It’s life. And they are at the bottom of the piles of bodies. The janitors of life. Zambia…

My beautiful Zambia. The most amazing people in the world. Never been in a war. More Swiss than the Swiss. But they have a land-locked country with little to sell to the world. But they survive most of the time. And the crash we see is in slow motion. Like a bad dream. We can see it happening and we can rush out to help but like in those dreams… we are always just a little bit too late. It’s the hand they got dealt living on the wrong side of the track. But they continue to move along and try and make it to work for another day. Maybe that crash won’t come today. Maybe not tomorrow or even next week. But we know those tyres can’t last forever…

And sometimes everyone crashes while we drive by in our luxury vehicle of money and ownership. The roads are wet or full of sleet. People go off the road and crash into each other left, right and centre. But we are comfy in our luxury vehicle. We slow down a bit to stop us from sliding off the road and swerve to miss the others crashing around us. We just slow down enough not to get involved or harmed. The slippery dreadful roads are the economy. Making it dangerous for everyone. But those with money will slow down a bit. But they will survive while the others crash without reason. Those others didn’t speed or blow a tyre. It was just that there were no warning signs when they came around that economic bend. It’s a dead-end road. It’s their end of the road.

And even if the luxury vehicle slips and slides off the road they know they will be fine. Their cars have automatic recovery and crash warning systems, the latest safety devices to cushion the blow – and insurance to cover their costs if anything unforeseen happens. It’s life. It’s a hiccup for them. Lose a car or a million but they know they will be okay. Except if they got insured by Madoff & Co. Then daddy will have to bail them out. He always does. For them.

Of course it all is very different when someone crashes through our front door or wall. Then we get all worked up and want to beat the bloody guy up and want the police and insurance to deal with it right now! Because then it happened to us.

It happened to us…

Those people crashing everywhere around us? They are not us. It only happens to other people. Not to us. It’s never us.

Car crashes… That’s life in our little world. One car crash after the other. Thank god we have a few people who stop and help. And a handful of firemen and paramedics. Not enough to save the world. But enough to save a few while we drive past and shake our heads…

Maybe we all just suffer from road rage.

You know what? I don’t have a licence…

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What’s up in the news?

1. Thanks for the invite

Condoleezza Rice, or Condi to her friends, spend a bit of time in Baghdad this week. Good for you Condoleezza. It is much better than staying in that big white house up on the hill. You know that guy will work your fingers to the bone. Anyway, she spent time shopping in the “Green Zone” I think. Must be. Why else would she be saying something like this? “Obviously, the American forces are here, coalition forces are here at the invitation of the Iraqi government.” WTF? I don’t think so Condoleezza. Remember that you send those big tanks and flying objects called missiles into Iraq? I didn’t see the letter of invitation. Oh, you mean these guys in charge now? The puppets you put in place? With a fake vote that reminds us of Florida style democracy? I don’t think so Condoleezza. Crap stays crap. Whether in DC or Baghdad. Let’s get this straight Condoleezza, you are not invited to my house. With or without a gun in your hand and a tank at your feet.

2. McCain playing the age card

I think McCain might be playing the age card after weeks of playing the race card and the celeb card and the general lies and snake oil card. This time it was all about Russia and the “Georgia incident”. No. Not Atlanta. Anyway. He made another “misspoke” when commenting on the Russian invasion. And I quote, “in the 21st century, nations don’t invade other nations”. Huh? Excuse me? Did I miss something? Or is it your age playing up? Did you get a free coupon to invade Iraq? I can’t even say grow up. McCain. McCain. McCain. You are one scary dude.

For McCain

For McCain

3. This man is stupid

I really couldn’t find a better heading for this guy. A guy from Nigeria has been told to divorce his wife. No wait. His wives. He has to whittle it down to four wives and no more. So he’ll have to divorce 82 of them. WTF? Dude! Doos! I don’t know what to say? The four that are staying are asking what the hell did they do wrong that they have to stay with him? Guess how many kids he has? 170. He had just under 2 children with each wife. Lesson? They thought the first time was just a bit of a… hum… problem… anxiety. The second time? They realized it wasn’t. You can fool some of the people some of the time…

4. But he is worse…

It seems as if Mugabe has decided to not continue the talks with Tsvangirai. I am not surprised. Mugabe doesn’t give a damn. And neither does my President. Mbeki. Blood on your hands. Go share what I gave McCain further up. And up yours. If Mugabe is the African Than Shwe (Burma), then you are the African Bush. No. Not the African bush.

A dick and a prick

A dick and a prick

5. Buy at employee price… if you can find one

GM has been taking a pounding in the sales department over here in the US. But they hit back with a brilliant new ad campaign. You can now buy a car at the employee price. Cool isn’t it? We know how much discount those guys get. Should work. Shouldn’t it? It should. If you can find an employee willing to sell you a car. It seems that most of the models just don’t make it to the dealers. And the salesmen doesn’t show up either. Great plan GM. Get the people to come into the showrooms to buy a car that isn’t there from a salesman that isn’t there either. I think Toyota might have a better plan. Sell people a car they want. I know. It is way unorthodox but it might just work.

6. How to kill the American Dream

How do you kill the American Dream? Bureaucracy… We’ve seen it everywhere in America. Little kids learning the rules of making money by selling goodies at roadside stands. Simple stuff. Lemonade, veggies, ice-cream and other stuff the can grow themselves or mix themselves. Just pretty simple stuff. Nothing much. But it teaches them the basics of how to be an entrepreneur. It’s as American as apple pie. But not anymore. At least not in Clayton, California. A little girl and her brother used to sell some veggies they grew in their back yard. Until the cops showed up. And dispersed the illegal merchants. Stupid right? And you would expect the Mayor to back the kids. Think again. “They may start out with a little card-table and selling a couple of things, but then who is to say what else they have. Is all the produce made there, do they grow it themselves? Are they going to have eggs and chickens for sale next,” said Clayton Mayor Gregg Manning. Mayor Manning, go get some of that McCain coffee offer I have up there. Stupid.

Remember to read between the lies… I mean lines.

Man, these umlungu’s over here really like their big cars. Okay, not all of them. And I have more of a problem with those who don’t drive big cars than those who do. They are all up in arms about the impact on global climate and the emissions by these big trucks – bakkies back home in South Africa. And the car manufacturers are all gunning to become the new green and number 1 eco-friendly company.

Toyota has a lunchbox called the Prius. Gets unbelievable miles per gallon – kilometers per liter for most of us. (Still trying to understand why they don’t go metric). General Motors are planning on bringing a better looking and more efficient hybrid out in the next few years. Ford has given the world the SUV hybrid. Chevrolet has got a monster of a truck called the Silverado that’s also a hybrid. And others are trying to bring out battery operated cars and cars that drive on corn and even some driving on a bit of air and water. Sounds cool doesn’t it?

I wouldn’t start sucking on those exhaust pipes just yet. They still spew out dirt and pollute. And they still don’t get close to the mileage that the European matchboxes get. For all the funfair associated with the Prius – VW brought out a standard diesel that gets better mileage. Without much of an effort. The Americans just like big cars or small inefficient ones.

But I don’t care. I just don’t care how efficient these cars are or how much they cut emissions. But I do care about cars – especially bakkies and minibuses. Now they play a role in Africa. And we have other bigger things to worry about when it comes to these bakkies and minibuses. Death.

Let’s start with the minibuses. I have been on a few. And it has always been a ride in more than one way. Firstly, they get me where I want to be most of the time. Just stick out your hand and show the hand signal and they will come screeching to a halt. They’ll pick me up, squeeze me in, ask me for a few coins and off I go to my destination. Secondly, they are made for us. We like being in each others face and sharing and talking. Squeezing 20-30 people into a 15 seater works just fine for us. It’s Ubuntu stretched to the limit – I am because you are. Well, I am sitting boxed in and squashed because you are sitting on top of me to fit in the other 20 people. Thirdly, well not so good. The driver drives like hell. And if we are lucky he’ll have a steering wheel and not a spanner for steering. And tyres thinner than a mosquito net. And as non-smoking as a Frenchman before 2008. But that’s just the way we improvise to make sure we get from point A to point B. We make a plan and we make things work – even when it looks like falling apart. Mechanics and fixers by nature.

But the car manufacturers – now that is different story all together. They sell us these minibuses knowing that it won’t pass the safety test anywhere else in the world. That Hiace we love so much? Why do you think they don’t have it in the US or Europe? Because they don’t comply to the safety standards in those countries and regions. But these travelling coffins keep on selling back home. Maybe it’s time they have a global standard – or at least a basic standard that will make them just a little bit safer. I am more worried about how I might die now when traveling in these coffins, than how I might die in 50 years time from either global warming or smog.

But it is not only safety that is a more important issue than emissions. Safety could still be argued as in the eye of the beholder. That we in Africa shouldn’t be too worried about that when we have other more serious threats to our life – like war. Fair enough.

So what do you think your local warlord and his henchmen drive? A Hummer or a Jeep? Unlikely. No, these guys generally drive a nice (and sometimes not so nice) Hilux or Nissan Hardbody or Isuzu or Land Rover bakkie, right? These are the real issues for me.

All these manufacturers are great in telling us all about their commitment to the environment and some even tell us how well they treat everyone in the supply chain. Great codes of conduct to ensure good working conditions and fair wages. However, none of these major car manufacturers actually take any SOCIAL responsibility for what happens once the car leaves the garage floor. They’ll tell us how committed they are to safety – airbags, safety belts and some even advertise to drive safely during the holidays. Others will tell us how they guarantee you a good ride with little breakdowns for 100,000 miles. And some tells us how clean the air will be when you drive their car compared to others. Yes, that type of responsibility they love to talk about – clean air and safe driving. But not what you do in that car.

Your local warlords will be environmentally friendly and enjoy a safe ride, but don’t think that for a minute that they will encourage your warlord not to buy their bakkie. Oh no, not that. They will sell their bakkies to anyone who can afford it. Never mind that people get chased and shot from those vehicles. They carry no responsibility there. But maybe they should.

Are they not an accomplice to the crime? They provide the car, right? They don’t drive it, but without them the crime would either not be committed or at least be made very, very difficult. These vehicles are used as military vehicles. And maybe we should bring in some global standards on the responsibility of car manufacturers in the same way we have rules on armoured and military vehicles. Not everyone can sell it or buy a tank. It won’t stop the warlords getting their hands on it, but it will make it more difficult and make the manufacturer think about their social impact and not just their environmental impact. Ensure some level of responsibility and control – a starting point.

Who knows, your local warlord might even start worrying about their emissions next. And buy a hybrid on the black market. Wouldn’t it be so much nicer if you knew the guy chasing you and who is about to shoot you or rob you, are at least an eco-warrior as well?

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