Lunch boxes are like BEE
Life made too easy isn’t good in the long term, for business and for school kids.
I was putting the final touches to my boys' lunch boxes when my thoughts wandered from the job at hand to the heart of South African politics.

Making those lunch boxes is boring and repetitive but the activity doesn't normally lead me into a meditation on the failure of Black Economic Empowerment and affirmative action. But here is a rough summary of how I got from the mysteries of folding wax paper to the distortions caused by the imperatives of the South African political transition.
It all started when I caught sight of myself in the glass top of the stove. My head was cocked slightly to one side and my lips pursed as I sealed the last ham, cheese and lettuce sandwich and tucked it neatly next to a bunch of grapes.

‘Why do you look so pleased with yourself?’ I thought. I looked down at the immaculate lunch and back up at my image.

‘Look at you molly-coddling those two boys,’ I pressed on, with uncharacteristic self-loathing. ‘When will they learn to do anything for themselves?’ I asked myself. ‘Do you think you are doing them any favours?’

The basic Darwinian economics of raising your child would suggest that making sure he (or she) eats a well balanced meal at school every day is, willy-nilly, a good thing.

So the upside is obvious, but what about the down-side?
Those boys chatting and fighting in the bathroom were going to rush in here at the last minute and breakfast would be ready-made and a lovingly packed lunch box waiting for them to shove into their bags.

But that is not how life works. Life favours those who make their own lunch boxes and cook their own breakfast.

What I seem to be doing, I told myself, was infantalising those boys; making them eternally dependent and unable to look after themselves.

At what point does trying to help someone become injurious to that person?

Paved with good intentions

My thoughts drifted, seemingly inexorably, to thinking about a feisty speech that Professor John Kane Berman CEO of the South African Institute of Race Relations made in November last year.

He argued that affirmative action and Black Economic Empowerment have injured black people and benefited whites.

The crude summary of his argument is that government policy is injurious to those it is supposed to benefit; that black people become dependent on the state while white people, previous beneficiaries of Apartheid, are forced to fend for themselves and thereby develop their own creativity and entrepreneurship.

I thought the arguments were strong, but then what was I doing molly-coddling my boys?

Surely the best I could do for them would be to point them towards the fridge and tell them to get on with it ... or go hungry?

So I'm going to do that just as soon as Jessie (15) and Tom (10) recover completely from the flu they both picked up a few weeks back. And they both settle down in their new schools. Yeah, that's what I am going to do, just as soon as soon as the time is right.

Are we helping our kids or doing too much for them?

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