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FIRING LINE: REDjet and reading


Shantal Munro Knight

FIRING LINE: REDjet and reading

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I initially wanted to write about the REDjet situation but the most I would have to say is that it makes no sense. I have a clear recollection of the management of REDjet, when it first came on the scene, arguing convincingly that the business model on which the airline was based was sound, had a track record of success and, importantly, that the investors and management had done their homework and were convinced this model was best suited for the region.   
To come at this stage and suggest they are failing because they are unable to compete with government-subsidized airlines and the only solution is to become one of the subsidized is incomprehensible to me on all sorts of levels. Moreover, if there is nothing in the Consumer Protection Act which protects consumers from companies which accept monies within 24 hours of closure, then something is wrong with the act.
It is interesting for me that none of the Government ministers who have spoken to this issue has advocated on the behalf of the consumers who have been disadvantaged by the actions of the airline.
Instead of subsidizing REDjet, I would suggest that regional governments agree to lower some of the applied taxes levelled on travellers which is a large part of the reason air travel is so expensive in the region. However, I am not writing about REDjet this week, so I digress.
I want to write about the fact that I have rediscovered one of my first loves. It is quite exciting actually; I had forgotten how good it felt to have that butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling when you are anticipating something special. I am talking about reading a good book just for the sheer enjoyment of reading.
My rediscovery happened quite by accident.
I attended a lecture of a young prize-winning African writer and her address made many references to authors I had read, like Chinua Achebe and W.B. Dubois. It reminded me of my love of other authors like Samuel Selvon, Derek Walcott and Kamau Brathwaithe.
My reading of them awakened within me my social consciousness. It was not my university education, but rather these writings that provided a context within which I could ground the academics. By the time I got to university I already understood the concept of race and colonialism and the impact this had on the region. I had read In The Castle Of My Skin and Growing UP Stupid Under The Union Jack. I have never struggled with vocabulary or writing; through reading my imagination was open, I understood the power of words. I also reflected on the fact that encouraging my daughter to read consistently is a game of tactical warfare as I compete against the electronic games and Barbie.com.
I am now able to connect why young schoolchildren struggle with composition and comprehension skills. You see, we equate academics with success, but have failed to capture the broader picture. The world today is based on a knowledge economy, not so much the production of goods but the production of ideas; this is what fuels innovation. It is run based on imagination, thinking about the impossible and bringing it to fruition. This does not come from the repetition of facts and knowing one and one makes two, but rather the comprehension of why one and one makes two. That sort of intelligence comes from exposure; it comes from reading, comprehending and the exploration of ideas.
When you delve into the histories of all the great people you admire, you see evidence of people who have read vicariously – President Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela, to name two. If we want to know what will distinguish us in this new knowledge economy – where it is not knowing things, but understanding how to learn that is important – reading is what will do it.

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