Fact: One day we will all be obsolete

2013-08-14 10:00

I’ve given my whole life to this company, you will cry to the new boss, and the boss will reply: This company paid you all your life 

Dear readers,

Next week we will announce the name of the column, as well as the winner of the prize: a copy of Black Man’s Medicine as well as a subscription to this newspaper.

This week, I want to talk about relevance at work or in business. The warning signs are always there, but for some reason or the other, we always choose to ignore them.

We should have all seen it coming when they tossed out the last typewriter from the office. When you first posed for a photograph in front of a cellphone and not a camera, did you say: “Wait a minute, someone has lost his or her job. How secure is mine?”

Did you honestly shed a tear for the man or woman who developed the pictures before that, who spent his entire working life in the darkroom, developing thousands and thousands of negatives, making people preserve memories?

I love photography and, to this day, I still use 35mm film.

I prefer black and white to colour. Colour is about the external – the clothes and the opulence. But in black and white pictures, all pomp is subdued. It is about the form and, if you look carefully, in a beautiful picture you can see the soul of the subject.

I never develop my own photographs. I do not have the patience, but I got to know my darkroom stars personally. First, there was Bro John. We would sit and talk. Then he got retrenched because there was no longer enough work to keep him there. Then there was Benedict. He, too, is now gone.

This week, when I went to develop my pictures, I had to wait a bit because there weren’t enough people who still prefer to develop black and white pictures. The owner was worried about getting the necessary chemicals.

I know my photo developers and I feel sorry for them. But be honest now, did you ever wonder what happened to the person who developed the photographs in your album?

Did you ever care to know who they were? Well, just remember this: The day they toss you out, no one will care, because the world will be finished with you, much as it is finished with black and white photography.

We are finished with cassette tapes and the people who made them. We are finished with typewriters and the people who fixed them, and so, some day, people will be finished with us.

“I’ve given my whole life to this company,” you will cry to the new boss, and the boss will reply: “This company paid you all your life.”

That’s the way of the world.

There was a time when people made millions from owning containers that housed cellular public phones. Nothing is forever. Newspapers around the world are shedding advertisers and readers and are losing millions. The only problem with the death of the newspaper is that it might usher in the death of democracy.

Think about this: a picture of a school boy who has been shot. He is in the arms of a young man. Next to him is a school girl with her hands raised. She is crying. That picture went around the world. It shot back at apartheid.

Twitter and Facebook don’t make posters. They are too personal. Someone will suffer the day you are thrown out, like I suffered when Bro John and Benedict left. But life will go on.

Now, take a moment and think about how your life will go on when the things you do are also gone.

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