Local Drummer: The kindness of consequence


It’s nine o’clock on a Wednesday morning and I am at my desk, grappling with some problem or other, when my phone rings and I hear a groggy voice greet me.

It’s one of my girlfriends and she sounds most unwell. Deeply concerned I enquire after her health.

After a short explanation that involves large quantities of red wine, the absence of solid food and a general lack of restraint, I begin to get the picture: she is in the throes of a serious hangover. I am no longer concerned. Why? Because consequence is king!

I used to wonder why anyone would deliberately drink to the point where they are drunk enough to then have a hangover the next day.

It’s not like you don’t know what’s going to happen, right? It was very puzzling to me, until I tried it.

Then I understood why people do it. It’s fun!

But like many fun things, it comes with consequences. Consequence is a kindness that the universe hands us to teach us the best way to behave.

One of life’s key motivators, it pushes us both toward good behaviour so we can reap positive benefits, as well as away from bad behaviour so we can avoid problems.

When you stick your finger in a fire and it gets burnt, then you know not to stick your digits in the flame again.

A contract without consequence is rather difficult to enforce and even children understand this. It’s the “or else” portion of every instruction that really gets them going and if you think about it, the same applies to adults.

In many corporate environments, teams are given targets, but without knowing what the consequences of meeting or not meeting one’s targets are, there seems little merit in pursuing them.

For example, people who work on commission often perform better than those whose performance is not directly related to their remuneration.

Publishing about raising responsible children Dr Carl E Pickhard writes on the choice/consequence connection:

“Life is a chain of choice and consequence. As adults, you know that a lot of what happens to you is a consequence of decisions you make. Children, however, have to learn this connection. They have to learn that all choices have consequences. They have to learn to use past consequences to inform better choices the next time. They have to learn to make constructive choices now by anticipating future consequences. They have to learn that, to some degree, they can influence the consequences they get by the choices they make.”

One of the biggest problems our country faces right now is the fact that our Global Political Agreement (GPA) and the subsequent Southern African Development Community (Sadc) resolutions have no recourse to any consequence.

We read the headlines: “Zuma’s Sadc report talks tough on Zanu PF and security reform”, “GPA parties to implement . . .”, “Sadc must help foster peace and stability in Zimbabwe”, but at the end of the day, the “or else what?” connection is still missing.

If I know that whether or not I perform there is nothing that will happen to me, then I will only perform if I want to! We hear a lot about the spirit of the agreement and references to good will abound.

Good will is great and I wish we could all do things simply because we mean well and we want things to work out nicely for everyone.

But unfortunately our nature does not always allow us to achieve this high calling and we have to resort to other ways of motivating ourselves.

The Bible speaks of discipline and how hard self-restraint can be, but how good the results can be.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

I’ve been reading with interest the debate over “the song” in South Africa and the debate raging about whether the judgment was fair and what this means for other struggle songs going forward. Does Dubula iBhunu really amount to hate speech?

Would the singing of the song really incite genocide, or would it only do so when it’s sung by Julius Malema?

Should people continue to sing the song to keep history alive or should they only revive the best parts of history?

Looking at all the Press coverage and the different positions taken by various opinion leaders and trying to decide for myself which side I am on, I came to the conclusion that it is one of life’s greatest tragedies when our self-policing mechanism fails us to the extent that we need a court of law to tell us what is appropriate behaviour regarding our heritage.

Perhaps propriety is dead and no one really cares about what is appropriate and what is not, but I want to believe that we must continue to rely on what is correct and befitting of particular situations in order to maintain order in society.

Rules of engagement are there to make life easier, not harder!

The Organ for National Healing and Reconcilliation is another of Zimbabwe’s tragic examples of how ineffective resolutions without consequences are. Zimbabwe Independent editor Constantine Chimakure writes:

“In their wisdom the three political parties agreed to institute an organ of national healing. Their agreement on when to hold elections begs the question of whether they deem the nation ‘healed’ enough to put them through another rollercoaster.

If anything, the prevailing peace is only superficial and the reality is that the nation is haemorrhaging, crying out for recourse.

Incidents of violence and intimidation are still reported and these have to be eliminated or at least minimised before we start talking of the next elections.”

He is absolutely right, but how will we eliminate violence and intimidation if there is no consequence for perpetration?

We see then that it is very important to have clarity on not only just what needs to happen, but also on what the consequences will be in the event of it not happening.

So as we move on, in politics, in society, in business and in families, let’s think about introducing the element of consequence to our agreements, it’s kinder in the long run.