Change: are you up to speed?

Change is never easy. It’s far less stressful to stick to the familiar.

In every generation there are people driving change. They are usually branded as radicals because their actions make people feel uncomfortable, forcing them to re-evaluate their acceptance of the norm. It is thought that the development of Homo sapiens picked up speed once humans began producing their own food, as it freed them from the tedious tasks of foraging and hunting.

This free time, combined with a closer working relationship as they tilled the land, led to an increase in the exchange of ideas.
Throughout history, those who have stood to lose power or possessions due to change have been those kicking up a fuss. They have refused to let go of methods and ideas that have outlived their usefulness. Perhaps this is why lowly paid artists and writers are often willing to brave the disdain of society by challenging societal norms and questioning those in power.

Unlike, for instance, successful businessmen who stand to lose out on tenders, see a drop in sales or get fired by shareholders, they can afford to be outspoken. For the majority of South Africans, the fight against apartheid had a unifying effect. For those who didn’t have the opportunity to accumulate wealth or excel through hard work and merit, the concept of sharing resources and economic opportunities equally made sense.

But a passionate opponent of capitalism and a fighter for workers’ rights is sure to mellow as his worldly position and possessions improve. Suddenly, there’s nothing wrong with a six-digit salary, provided it’s his name on the pay slip. And he has a lot to lose if the status quo is negatively affected by talks of nationalism or double-digit salaries for low-earning workers.
Change, then, is viewed very differently, even by the same people, depending on their situations.

But one thing is certain: change merely for the sake of change makes little sense, and can be destructive. One does not fix something that’s working. At the same time, we don’t live in a perfect world, and there will always be someone who benefits more from doing something in a particular way. As a society, we should constantly evaluate the status quo to ensure we’re doing the best we can, and that the needs of the country as a whole are addressed.

Farming, too, has seen dramatic changes over the years – technically, socially and politically. To take just one example: before the advent of hybrid seeds, precision farming and genomics, farmers thought they were farming at optimal levels. Then, suffering ridicule from their peers, a few brave souls blazed new paths. Human knowledge is increasing exponentially, and change is speeding up. Are we, as a sector and as a country, keeping up? Or are we fighting for and about things that are no longer relevant?