"We want jobs, so we smash shop windows and overturn the vehicles of people who have nothing to do with our complaints". FILE PHOTO: ANA
I wonder what makes South Africans so destructive. If I am to believe what I read in the newspapers (and I do) it seems that whenever we are angry, we break something.

When the Scissor Sharpeners’ Union demands an increase in pay, we show how cross we are, by dancing in the streets and setting fire to a library. When we want better schools we set fire to those we have.

We want free houses, so we stack old tyres in the road and burn them. We want jobs, so we smash shop windows and overturn the vehicles of people who have nothing to do with our complaints.

It all seems so mindless and crude and all it achieves is to make people hate the unions.

I was so impressed by a little story from Japan on the internet recently. Obviously, the Japanese people are slightly more subtle in their ways of expressing anger.

Bus drivers in Japan recently went on strike, demanding better pay. They didn’t simply stay away from work. That wouldn’t have achieved much apart from punishing their passengers. Instead they continued to go to work and drive their buses along their regular routes, but refused to accept any busfares.

Millions of people travelled free while the drivers were striking. The bus companies lost a huge amount of money in unpaid fares and diesel fuel, and after all, it was they who were being targeted, not the passengers.

That’s subtle, not crude. I think local protesters would be far more effective if they directed their dissatisfaction at the people to whom they wanted to send their message.

If teachers, for example, decided to strike for better pay, rather than stay away from school (punishing the pupils) let them come to school, but teach barefoot as an indication that their salaries are too small for them to afford shoes.

The Japanese bus drivers pointed the way for transport workers to show their dissatisfaction.

They sent out a clear message that said: “We are not paid enough. Now see how you like it when you don’t get paid.” Of course, I’m not saying for a moment that strikes and protests are a good thing.

They should be a last resort - a desperation measure. What I am saying is that if you do feel the need to protest or strike, first think who you’re sending your message to.

If you believe the police are not going their job properly, for example, don’t go and burn a clinic or a railway carriage. That’s just pointless destruction.

Last Laugh

Jimmo parked a big black Mercedes in the parking lot and emerged, wearing a smart grey suit.

A friend saw him and commented: “Hey! Nice wheels! You must be doing well.”

“Yes, I am,” said Jimmo. “I work for the government now. I’m the deputy assistant to the under-secretary for developing issues.”

“Wow! That must require a lot of know-how.”

“Actually, no. All it required was a lot of know-who.”

* "Tavern of the Seas" is a daily column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs.

 ** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus