Posted: Jun 05, 2021 1:28 am
by arugula2
Agrippina wrote:As a child, and unaware of the history of slavery, and American history in general, I used to question why, if South Africa and the USA were settled by Europeans at about the same time, we hadn't reached the same level of sophistication and progress that the USA had.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
Then I grew up, got satellite television (or even television in general since we only got it in 1976), and learnt that it wasn't what I'd thought it was. By this time I'd been to the UK, and seen how an integrated country without separation by skin colour worked. Also while I was there I watched some American television, not much because we were busy doing touristy stuff and too tired for TV at night. What I saw amazed and confused me. There was the development that I was aware of being far superior to ours, on the one hand, and the racial issues on the other. At that time, in the wake the of moon landings and NASA looking at more probing of space, the culture and education standards were far superior to ours. I bought books there that I took home to my then toddler children, and my education began.

Before that I'd been a girl from small town South Africa, living in the big city, raising highly intelligent, and I now know, autistic children, who were thirsty for knowledge. I had another two, also autistic, after that trip, the last one, the one now living with me on disability due to his birth oxygen deprivation causing more co-morbidities than the autism did, one of the most intelligent people I've met in my life.(He never ceases to amaze me with his brilliance). We've now been through the age of CNN and Clinton, Bush jnr, Obama, and that other person, and I realise it was smoke and mirrors. I don't mean to disrespect those Americans who aren't dumb but boy, when I see the people who voted for that other person on television, I ask myself why I ever thought America was better! We were living through what the dumb people want to institute in the USA, and what Israel is doing to Palestine, and I'm seeing how people simply don't learn from history.

Education, reading, learning to teach yourself what you know you don't know: that there's a whole world outside that can advise you, tell you what works, and what doesn't work, and what's happening now is not going to work. Money isn't the answer to everything. In fact money is what ruins everything. What does work is to give every single person on the earth the chance to be the best they can be, and instead of accumulating, hoarding, money, hoard books, and read them, learn about the rest of the world. Teach children, make them learn how to live in a world without war, famine, and poverty. Use the warmongering money to create opportunities for those people who, through no fault of their own, were born in South Sudan, where's there's nothing but famine, war, raping and pillaging, while that man who shouldn't have been appointed to clean toilet, let alone be president, shits in a gold toilet.

I know what I'm talking about because in 1976 as I was approaching 30, I finally began my own education, and now as my life is ending, I see my kids on webinars with some of the great minds of our country, discussing the big issues. Not how to solve poverty, but the things we dream about: extending life beyond the limits we now accept, space settlement, mining asteroids, how to live in gravitational regions different from our own. This while the people I grew up with discuss whether a certain narcissistic stalker should've worn tights when she went out with the Queen. For fuck's sake, why are people so stupid when there's so much to learn that's a whole lot more interesting and important than whether or not some privileged arsehole should have his titles removed, or appointing people into high positions of power when they don't even understand the simple basics of viral transmission.

It's a world gone mad. My country lived through nationalism, apartheid, 90% of the population educated only enough to be servants, and it didn't work. Yet try to tell that to someone who thinks a MAGA hat is is the height of fashion, and that making money off shoes made by slave labour, while your father is president, is the way a brilliant businessperson becomes even richer without a single thought for the people locked in their factories to work until they drop. Thank old age that I'll be leaving this behind sooner than later, and that I now stay away from the news before it causes my head to explode.

I can't get enough of your writing...

But anyway - on topic. I've lived longest in the USA (cumulatively... oh... 30 years maybe?) but have lived in 6-8 other countries, which I'm grateful for (mostly for the context, especially cultural) - though never in South Africa, as I've told you elsewhere. But I want to emphasize a small number of elements which I think probably factor hugely in the different trajectories. Most are obvious when mentioned - and I'm thinking of them as I write, so this is me thinking aloud.

1) This really was (once the indigenous peoples were exterminated) white men's country from the start. Some "cleanup" since then, especially in the westward expansion, plus the forced expulsion of Cherokee & Muskogee & other tribes; token treaties in hand, which are only now starting to bite the white man in the butt (thanks, no less, to a conservative judge: Gorsuch majority opinion here).

2) Africans were always bound to be a small minority in this carefully manicured country - and even the core of the argument for abolition in the first 100 years was impelled by fears of what might happen if blacks outnumbered whites. Even post-Civil-War immigration policy was geared toward maintaining a securely white power structure... it took Anglo/German protestants some adjusting to, but they eventually got with the program. With 2 centuries of systematic terrorization, cultural genocide, economic robbery, and total enslavement replaced by permanent 2nd-class citizenship (except when false incarceration could rob us of that, too), where African Americans are now, on the whole, is roughly where southern black Africans were in the transition periods. In every instance - South Africa last of all - black Africans had numbers, and a largely intact cultural memory of when the white man didn't rule them. Supposing the 2nd deficiency can be overcome... African Americans still don't have the numbers.

3) Because no such revolution can happen in the USA as was bound to happen in post-colonial Africa (and even in S.Africa, where white supremacism made its boldest case), institutions (not the letter of the law, but institutions themselves) change very slowly. We were litigating slavery in this country as late as 1968 - a full century after the question was supposedly settled. Take the mental entrenchment of your own bitter compatriots, and now imagine they had never been forced to share power. That's the USA. American politics, like politics everywhere, is about masking the truth with rhetoric - but what not enough people realize is that the main thing American-style politics is designed to mask, from the end of the Civil War to the present, is that this is a white supremacist system that was never forced to share power. In the post-Obama reality, rhetoric bolsters itself with pretty brown faces, and the ruse continues...

4) Its main advantage is that most Americans are easily swayed by politicians & their media mouthpieces. Take that propaganda - the kind that argues explicitly against progress - and transplant it to almost any other cosmopolitan country: it would fail to fool most of the people most of the time. So the 2nd generalization I don't hesitate to make (the 1st being that the "KKK" in this thread's title is totally appropriate) is that Americans are exceptionally lazy and gullible when thinking about power systems. I can say this having lived on several continents, and in any case expanding my cultural horizons every chance I get, even while living here. American political sophistication is at ground level. It's heartbreaking. (What might be worse is, I see it being exported to middle class professionals the world over - not surprising, given how effectively this culture spreads outward, due to an accident of military positioning.)

5) A 5th point is really just a look at the last few election cycles, so... looking outward from a data point, instead of inward through the lens of history. Obama ran as, or was perceived as, a disruptor to that^ system. 2008 election broke records. Eight years later, as many as 8 million Obama voters felt disillusioned by the con, enough to vote for the personification of evil, he who shan't be named. Four years later, with nearly unprecedented organizing by unions and by young BLM activists channeling the momentum of the George Floyd media cycle*, the 2020 presidential election was decided by as few as 43,000 votes - he was barely rebuked. The novel strategy in 2016 was, yes, he who shan't be named marshalled a large number of sleepy racists to vote for the first time... and I'm sure a few tens of thousands in critical states would've made the difference regardless of other factors. But much more impactful was the "8 million" malaise, and the depressed black vote, which I went into some detail in another thread. One could argue this is the entrenched system backfiring on itself - but if the system is geared toward white supremacist power, it's actually working as intended.
(*And tens of millions of emergency mail-in ballots. - edit)

6) The Electoral College: another uniquely American institution expressly designed to preserve white supremacist power. I think in almost any other democracy, the idea that a caretaker council chooses the executive would be laughed off the stage, or, having snuck in, it would've been purged from the system by nonstop riots. It just celebrated its 232nd birthday. (Ref #4 & #7.)

7) The confederate nature of this republic, which makes transforming the US Constitution practically impossible; and an increasingly racist federal court system siding with "states' rights" (the code phrase in defense of slavery antebellum, and of racial state terrorism after the war and since).

Racist bumpkins are everywhere - you're surrounded by them, and so am I. They can be forced to deal with changing circumstances (à la S.Africa) or they can casually prop up a system envisioned by slavers and carefully designed to change only incrementally, and mostly in appearances (à la USA).