Apartheid was coming apart. Reagan had just been overridden by Congress and lethal sanctions were about to fall on South Africa.
My partner and I packed our bags and raced to Joburg certain that young fellows from America would now be needed to market the “New South Africa” to the angry and suspicious Americans who had toppled them.
We pierced the “Alternative Reality” that was still in control. Our media consulting business gained entry into the top floors of the major travel companies including South African Airways, all still completely controlled by whites.
We were flipped. We got the business but not with our pitch. We got paid to go back and convince Americans that white South Africa was just fine and dandy and would last for another century despite their sanctions.
Fortunately for me this didn’t last more than a few years. But at first with each lunch in the Carlton Hotel, with every weekend of Rovos Rail, with every plate served me in First Class by a blonde flight attendant, I began to dissolve into an unreal world.
Worse, I listened in focus group after focus group to thoughtful, polite South Africans who were so steeped in racism that calmly they promoted abjectly false facts and history to support their nearly divine concept of separation.
Worse even still, I had several meetings with remarkable South African academics, and one theologian, who to this day I don’t believe held any real animus against any individuals or political movements, but who were drowning in ideologies formed on the certainties that the only way to “help” the blacks was through apartheid.
What happened to all these people when apartheid fell?
Virtually every one who I remember fled their country. Those I worked with now live in Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, Chicago and Toronto. I’ve seen only a couple of them since. They’re unchanged. They live in insular South African communities of people like themselves. They brought their AR with them.
As did the old-school Cubans of Miami, or the families of the old generals of Argentina, or the wrong-sided politicians of Vietnam. There are dozens of communities in America like this. They all brought and in a way preserved their “Alternate Realities.”
I’ve lived for prolonged periods in a dozen different places in the world. That’s hardly a large sampling, but of those places and the others I know around this globe America is the best place to cultivate “Alternative Realities.”
Our truly absurd concept of freedom is so egocentric, so narrowly defined, it fosters almost limitless exclusions of what is really happening in the rest of the world.
You don’t find FOX News – an incredible AR empire supported by legions of people who believe they are all free-will thinkers – elsewhere on the globe, not even in Russia or China. Those suppressive societies work by other, more sinister means. You don’t find people elsewhere in the world as gullible as Americans who truly don’t believe there is human-caused catastrophic climate change.
The only modern society in the world still so strictly determined by a constitution a quarter of a millennium old is America. Not even the least literate societies on earth have a poorer concept of geography, astronomy or basic science than America.
Why all of this?
Because “Alternative Realities” has been America’s way of life for most of mine. It’s worked well for Americans because any anomalies were exported as wars to other parts of the world, insulating ourselves from most conflict.
It’s worked well because the selfishness baked into AR gives us a transcendent escape from its consequences. There’s no way out.
This election is a prototypical clash between two AR’s: The Left & The Right. Both live with blinders on. The Left’s is more humane and suffers mostly from an intellectual presbyopia that its righteousness will ultimately convince The Right to join it in paradise. The Right’s is more dangerous because it’s more paranoid: everyone is out to get us; just leave us alone!
Problem is that if the Right prevails all Hell lets loose: all opposition must be eliminated. If the Left prevails, its very nature concedes an ultimate return of The Right.
I don’t think this will change until enough Americans suffer the way the rest of the world’s citizens have: Europeans in wars, Africans in apartheid, Asians in ideologies. Most Americans have never really known manifest suffering, so obvious in the laughably stupid ways we’ve approached Covid19. Most Americans fear suffering, but the best they can do is deny it.
Those Americans who have known some real, multi-generational suffering are finally emerging: BLM, felons getting the vote, teachers. But how long will it be until they coalesce into a functional power base?
Not before November 3.