"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 6 April 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Heart of Darkness

[how was your tofu, jila?]

March was a pretty good month for

Africa, what with a 12-day grand

tour by the Leader of the Free

World and a Time cover story,

which beneath the headline

"Africa Rising," in requisite

green, yellow, and red letters,

joyously proclaimed that "After

decades of famine and war, life

is finally looking up for many

Africans." It took only one

issue for Time to return

Clinton's trip to its rightful

place as an extension of our

domestic political arena, but

for that short time in between

weekly news cycles we took a

good look at the former Dark

Continent and saw, staring back

at us, what appeared to be signs

of good-old American-style



Apparently, Africa is more than

just Sports Illustrated swimsuit

issue locales and the subject of

cheap jokes on South Park.

Governments are decentralizing.

Monolithic, bloated state

enterprises are being replaced

by swift and flexible local

businesses. Economies are

showing improving growth, lower

inflation, and reduced spending.

Citizens are rejecting the

handouts of outdated socialist

dogmas while embracing the

self-actualizing logic of the

free market. And so on. If you

forgot for a moment that we were

talking about Africa and not the

concession row outside Beanie

Baby Megafest '98, it's no

accident. After all, whether

we're black or white, colonial

exploiter or exploited colony,

we're all consumers inside,

grappling with variations on the

same basic question: What about

the Happy Meal makes us most

happy - the box, the toy, or the


[my tofu was wonderful, thankyou.]


Let's go to the videotape. For

all of the retro-National

Geographic photo-ops of the

Clinton trip, the images were

eerily familiar to anyone who

watches the salesman-in-chief

mingle with his loyal subjects

here at home. We saw huge crowds

grabbing for his large, soft

hands; the presentation of local

kitsch (in Africa, Clinton was

given multi-colored robes, not

much different from the

10-gallon hat he has to wear

every time he visits Texas); a

solemn occasion (meeting Rwandan

genocide victims versus visiting

Oklahoma City bombing

survivors); and a chance to

unwind (a Botswanan safari

there, as opposed to golf

wherever he goes in the United

States). In a special Richard

Lester moment, Clinton was even

mobbed in Ghana (a loaded image,

indeed, especially in light of

reports of some of the more

baffling local customs).


And when Time ended its article

by mentioning the African

concept of ubuntu, which places

the interests of the community

over that of the individual, we

can't help but think of "One to

Grow On," that insipid NBC

series of Saturday-morning

FCC-mandated skits on the

importance of good citizenship

and the merits of diversity.

"What we need to encourage ...,"

said Time, speaking in the

friendly first person, "is lives

and systems that mesh

modernization with an African

way of doing things. That's what



On the other hand, having their

own way of doing things sure

didn't help the Native

Americans, except when their

spirit guides told them to open

a casino. The truth is, the real

lessons of today are exactly the

opposite - local customs only

get in the way of doing business

except when they're good for

tourism. How long do you think

the Amish would have been

allowed to drive their buggies

on Pennsylvania state roads if

their quaint ways hadn't

sloughed in serious gravel cash?



What excites Time Warner about

Africa isn't the sounds of

once-dying children attending

schools and coming out of

poverty, but the idea of 700

million people who haven't seen

even their first Lethal Weapon

movie, read a single Time-Life

how-to book, or been to a Six

Flags Great Adventure theme

park. And the good news for the

world economy doesn't stop

there. A continent-sized tabula

rasa is a God-given gift for our

service industries. As the

example of Mexico has

demonstrated, nations with

Western-influenced leaders, a

tiny middle class, and vast

numbers of destitute people make

excellent workers for the New

World Order. If Indonesians make

sneakers cheaply, think about

how little we need to pay people

who are one bad harvest away

from recalling Sally Struthers.

If Africans can survive decades

of war and genocide, maybe they

have what it takes to become

permatemps for Microsoft.


Africa, as it did a century ago,

represents a fascinating

frontier for Western elites.

Economists have a perfect

laboratory for testing their

theories about free markets,

privatization, and globally

dictated economic reform.

Restless yuppies have a new,

less violent continent in which

to trek. Business leaders gain a

huge marketplace and the

cheapest labor pool this side of

India. And magazines can print

heart-warming stories about how

the Global Village embraces even

those who live on the wrong side

of the tracks.

[i hate vegas]


And thanks to opinion leaders

like United Colors of Benetton

and Barney, skin color is no

longer a great divide between

peoples - as long as you partake

in the modern lifestyle, no

doors are closed. Perhaps

Africans are ready to leave

their archaic "Circle of Life"

beliefs to the real pros in

Hollywood and join us in

watching Dawson Creek, hitting

the Net, and buying Humvees. See

you at AfroDisney!

courtesy of R. Satyricon