The Treacherous Furrows Leading Me to God’s Country

We were both executive directors of the most powerful oil company in Sub Sahara Africa. Both South Africans. Both with MBA’s. He was 42 and black. I was 39 and white.

Two months before I had apologised to him.  It had been hard. Now he seemed to have forgiven me.  “Howard you are the first white person I have ever liked.” His mouth drawn dry by adrenalin he was objective and magisterial. A deafening silence, which begged meaning followed. In granting me my exclusive exemption was he challenging me to a more expansive mission?

Fortunately, a rainbow visionary would help.

Karl Mannheim said: “To be objective one needs to be detached and exempt from one’s social origins of thought.”

The historic Mandela transition years challenged every one of us South Africans:  To question our diversely different social origins of thought, and to come up with a new, rainbow of unity.

The epidemic of change was of such a pervasive intensity, that nobody could avoid its intimate intrusion. Like religious zealots, each deeply attached to their chosen spectrum, many didn’t believe in rainbows. And could see no reason to explore the deeper origin of their rainbow limiting spectrum. Without a vibrant rainbow all our souls would eventually wither.

The only vaccine could be found in introspection of the blighted soul. Whether that was confronting one’s complicity in the crime or dealing with the liberation confusion of how one’s dignity could have been so cheaply stolen.

This required finding peace in the soul’s natal objectivity. Free of socialisation interference.

Apology was the currency of that objectivity. Every apology needed an earned exemption from any blight. Early on, counterfeit currency seemed the easy route, but it was met with the rainbow’s despairing reject.

I was satisfied with my hard-earned, hard currency.

Like the initiator of a tsunami, I had personally architected an assassination mission that saw the  pale, male, board fall on their swords. Being replaced by a new state of the era, multiracial, multicultural, and gender diverse one.

As a team, we drove the tsunami wave through the whole organisation. Taking with it hundreds of loyal white employees, and replacing most of them with outside black people.

The ask on humans was unprecedented.

Yet. It was deeply moving to witness how almost every one of us employees knew this was objectively right. That, no matter how personally compromising, that would be.

Mandela as the rainbow visionary had facilitated this rapid unification of our objectivity. Our social origins of thought seemed to have all moved deeper to a common, more basic, shared natal human origin.

As the only independent African oil company amongst many of the international majors, we had delivered on Mandela’s post-election plea for us to set a radical new standard of diversity for the industry. Two years later, we had defied doomsday predictions. Based on every single industry performance metric, we had moved from a lagged fourth out of five in the industry, to a clear leadership position.

As a board, we had chosen ‘Value Diversity’ as one of the company’s six new core values. We spent months ensuring consensus on what that meant. ‘Valuing’, being far more onerous, than ‘Accepting’.

I sense that this is the plea from ‘black people’ around the world today. ‘They’ probably feel that ‘white people’ don’t find value in their social origins.  ‘White’ people are (mostly) trying to say: “We do accept you.”  Yet not putting in their effort to go beyond ‘accepting’ to ‘valuing’.

As a board we were a strange mix of socialists and capitalists, with some moderates in between. The socialists had a tribal social origin of thought that for each individual goes like this: “Without you (all), I am nothing’.

I remember thinking, that a staunch capitalist in his Machiavellian mind, and, free of his politically correct suit, would retort back: ‘Without me, you (all) are nothing’?

A high voltage reality shock jolted all of me. “Maybe it wasn’t about rainbows?  But rather trying to blend oil and water?”

“But then we are fighting Nature”, I thought.

“Maybe it was really all about ideology? One fitted with Nature. One didn’t?”

But for now, I was in the capitalist majority, and longer term, Nature’s ‘survival of the fittest’ would no doubt bring its destiny for all of us. Australia would soon show me the state of the Garden of Eden.

That was my intense and parochial world in the mid-nineties.

Where were you when this was all going on?

The world had looked on, ring fencing South Africa as a one-off local disease aberration.

Globally, Nature had long been dropped as the fountain of ultimate origin of thought. To all in the western world, objectively had been ‘found’. It was neo-liberalism that had its deeper origins in colonialism. That story didn’t need Nature for its context, other than adding another thread in its domination theme.

Mandela was a socialist at heart. That only in the context of his African social origins. He staunchly believed in the ‘Without you (all) we are nothing’ approach.

Clinton the US president at the time of Mandela’s presidential appointment, brought that neo liberalism objectivity face to face for Mandela. With his hard-earned, detached objectivity Mandela would have seen a bittersweet pill on offer.

Justifiably worn out from his momentous struggle, Mandela capitulated.  The world was happy. Rather than an ideological madman, they now had a converted hero.  You were happy. I was happy.  And a strange rainbow was now in the fold, bumbling its way towards the same black and white, objective, neo-liberalism success.

One wonders whether Mandela had deeper foresight to understand the global toxicity of that neo-liberal success? Had he concluded it was hopeless, and he was helpless, fighting?

When does one declare one’s helplessness?

Isn’t life’s meaning found in the struggle to never be helpless? Giving up is like dying or deserting the soul. Some say we are each born with a finite amount of will power. Most of us use it all to desperately cling to our family’s place in the pecuniary struggle.

Few get to use their will power for a noble cause. Even then, we can only do so much.

Mandela had done more than so much. So, for now none of us would have to question our objectivity or be concerned about any deeper or more pervasive toxicity.

Was I truly happy with the outcome? Or just extremely relieved?  I would realise that with my myopic view of success and all its trappings I was far too attached.

Your trust in all leadership and influential figures gets rocked by all this objectivity turmoil. Almost everywhere I cast back in my life, I found people who had been guiding me, but without a thought to Mannheim’s objectivity. Mostly there was an architected system involved, and now, I could see that those people were merely its slaves.  It wasn’t their fault. But it was their fault.

The deeper you are in it, the harder it is to be objective. At being objective. And the harder it is to risk adventuring out. One must be meaningfully restless by nature. It is lonely. You can see why Kierkegaard concluded that ‘The crowd is the untruth’.

It all became clear. This would become my life quest. I will never be caught out by any crowd again.

The three wealthiest humans on the planet are all rationalists.

In Bill Gates’ latest book on Climate Change the word ‘nature’ appears only once.

He has never been detached in his life. Yet he would claim total objectivity and his geeky mastery has made him a global icon for objectivity on social origin of thought.

As a chemical engineer I should have been rooted to that orientation. But like a sixth sense my early immersions in Nature’s wilderness had connected me to an instinct with another objectivity. One with a deeper, more fundamental, belonging root.

I was lucky, that through all this turmoil my spirit kept fighting for that own instinctive course.

In my boyhood dreams I wanted to be a game ranger. ‘Born Free’ was my favourite movie. At the age of twelve ‘The Hunted Ones’, by John Sinclair, was my first ‘big purchase’.  A book about surivial of the fittest in the natural world, and then the embryionic  blight of poaching by humans.  Needing all my saved pocket money it would prove later to be my first visionary investment.

I was also a sailor. The sea is the embodiment of the ultimate power. I didn’t understand it, yet I did.  After finishing my university degree, at age 22, I sailed across the South Atlantic, and explored South America. This was my first real detached experience.

Then I became as attached as one can ever imagine. I crashed into two years of compulsory military service. South Africa was at war. Becoming a sapper 1st lieutenant, I was trained as an expert in destruction. Objectivity came from a higher rank instruction. I was as detached as one can be in a uniform, and I protected my instinctual spirit. Winning the award of the NAAFI-iest troop to make it to officer rank!  (NAAFI standing for No Ambition AND Fuck-all Interest.)

Power has always fascinated me. Submission was for losers, and Nature wasn’t yet the Ultimate Power in my belief system. But I did know, no human, nor human crowd could be it.

And so, by twenty-five my own rebellion was well under way.

By the time Mandela capitulated and I was that corporate trail blazer I had an emboldening dream that had no place in the furrowed trails I was gouging.

It envisaged a simple life, outside of society, exploring our planet and its vast wilderness. Like few had ever done. My home would be a boat and my neighbourhood the whole world. Hopefully, I’d share it all with someone who wanted the same.  We would explore a new way of life, one free of ‘oil and water’ and seek belonging in Nature’s sempiternal rainbow.

Now, I could see how this dream fitted with my newly uncovered purpose, and this was my plan.

My earliest detachment from society would be my first big challenge.

Would I still need money to live?  I wasn’t a lion. Nor a zebra. And unlike a resourceful Khoisan, I was born dependent on money. I’d have to become a traitor.

I was 39 and I gave myself five years to create the wealth to escape the ever deepening and expanding furrows of capitalist society. I’d have to use those furrows for my escape. Before it was too late. I wished it could have been shorter yet even that five-year goal seemed impossible. I had never before created anything like that kind of wealth.

Coming back a beggar, knowing I had run out, would be humiliating failure. My plan had to ensure I would have enough. But not so sure, that I would need ten years to achieve it.

When would enough be enough?

This would become the most important life decision I will ever make. I now teach on the subject. The young, want to learn. But the objectively wise, say: “You can never have enough.” If only we all knew when ‘enough was enough’? I sense the “Climate Tragedy” would then be only the title of a fiction play.

I was golden handcuffed to the corporate world. Yet even the most optimistic pot, at the end of the most vibrant rainbow, would still be, ‘not enough’.

After 16 years in the safe haven of the corporate world, my book, ‘The Hunted Ones’, would prove its visionary investment value. Now, I would have to learn how to hunt and kill for myself.

In nature, life is finite and uncertain. Not to be wasted on mercenary pursuits. Yet for humans, there is a blurry line on what is mercenary, and what is not? ‘Mercenary’, being a cousin of ‘Enough is enough’.

I had seen in the business world that vegetarians don’t often win, yet I also wasn’t going to become one of those cannibals. I pledged to leave knowing, that with hand on my objective heart, I had been a ‘responsible capitalist’. They did exist at the time.  But maybe they are now extinct?

In the blurriness of my traitor’s objectivity, I had to also explore my jolting ‘oil and water’ revelation. Whether capitalism was linked to any deeper, toxic origins of thought.

Then, looking forward to Simply Adventure, my dream, I wanted to also use these five years to further hone my solo adventure skills. Those in sailing, cycling, sea kayaking and trekking. I needed to be planetary ready and have a sated mind for months on my own.

And finally, I would use these five years to consciously start redirecting explorations of my social origins of thought toward my new teacher-to-be: Nature.

The mission was exciting and restlessly meaningful.

These five years needed a home that could deliver on all these demanding fronts. South Africa had its distracting rainbow priorities that could take a generation or more. And I had done, my local, so much.

I wasn’t yet ready for heaven, but I chose God’s country as the next step.

Touching down in Sydney in 1998, I was greeted with these newspaper headlines quoting the John Howard government: “We will not apologise.”

The End (Of one saga and beginning of the next!)