Thursday, July 29, 2010

Back to Africa

I have come back to South Africa for the third time in 10 years. I was asked if I were coming to the World Cup. Hardly, I am here to hunt. I want a zebra and a gemsbuck. The PH (professional hunter) had me take a warthog last time that had a broken tusk. This time was different as I took a bushpig that the PH insisted was a true trophy and got the zebra and gemsbuck as well. I like South Africa. It has its problems but it is trying really hard to work as a nation. It has 11 official languages and where I am in the Northern Province of Limpopo, it seems that most people speak Afrikaans, Northern Lesotho and English. The products say “Made in South Africa” and it looks like a developed country to me. The agriculture is impressive. They can feed themselves. The potatoes are the best I’ve eaten – sorry Idaho.. One of the hunters just got back from hunting cape buffalo in Mozambique and says “now that’s a primitive place.” He got hit up for bribes everywhere he turned and would have had to pay more if it had not been for his PH who had told him what to expect.
Before I left people asked me if I was going to be living in the bush in a tent roughing it. I don’t think you can call a fairly new brick and stone duplex, with laundry done everyday, three meals, all you want to eat and drink, “roughing it”. However, the accommodations here and at the bed and breakfast the first night in Johannesburg lack heat. I have spent three of the coldest nights of my life on this trip. I have slept with socks and gloves on as well as PJ bottoms and my Under Armour tops and was still cold. Next time I will bring a space heater.
What has been interesting is being quiet and listening to what others have to say about America while at the bed and breakfast. A doctor from Nigeria who had practiced in the states for the past twenty years and who was going to hunt elephant in Mozambique said that America was a fading state. It was being crushed under the burden of its debt. Its medical system was broke and too expensive. It prescribed all those unnecessary tests not because of the fear of being sued but because it enriched the doctors and the labs (which the docs either owned or got a kickback from). He said the system need fixing but that Obamacare was not the solution because it could not contain costs. He predicted that the American medical system would collapse and be taken over by the Indians. Well they have provided an alternative to European healthcare so why not American as well? Another person at the B&B said that South Africa should not align itself with America. He sounded strangely like Thomas P.M. Barrett when he said alliances should be made with countries like Brazil and India not fading ones like the US and the EU. I said “what about China?” He (and the doctor agreed) said that China was too closely tied to America. Anyway, China was having enough problems with trying to reconcile its dismal human rights record with the demands of its surging middleclass. He thought that China would too eventually collapse and would be split into several countries. What was interesting was that both of these people were capitalists saying that only capitalism had the productive power to lift people out of poverty. Yet they were unabashed liberals socially – your basic Joe Biden spread the wealth types. I needed more time with them than just that one night. I need to ask them how social redistribution could keep from dampening the incentives of the productive as well as the unproductive. This has always been the downfall of socialism – and always will be. As to the rest of Africa, the doctor said that Mugabe was a blessing. By transforming a vibrant Rhodesia into the hell that is Zimbabwe, he set an example for what not to do for the rest of the continent. He thought that South Africa and Ghana were the continent’s best hope with Botswana and his Nigeria a possibility if somehow Nigeria would end all the government corruption. Botswana was a possibility simply because its people are industrious and are one tribe and not split by all the tribal strife engendered by the Brits when they drew up the boundaries so as to pit the tribes against each other rather than their colonial rulers. We will see. I remain optimistic about America’s future. I am hopeful that this dalliance with Obama will lessen our appetite for socialism for a while.

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