My brain seems hard wired, whenever certain music is played on the popular station that my 14-year-old son enjoys, to travel back three decades to the wild Good Friday in 1980 in Tsholotsho (Tjolotjo), Zimbabwe, where I discovered the “life solution” (or got religion, or whatever). I think about the insight flash that occurred when, at 26-years-old, I realized I had somehow managed to experience love, hate, fear, hope, racism, nationality, war, peace, achievement, failure and virtually every other element in the human condition in a single transcending experience. I also realized, if I could survive this sort of experience intact, I probably could live quite well at home in a peaceful, developed nation, with some level of skills, knowledge and courage that put me at a level somewhere above the norm.
Despite ups and downs, my life has turned out pretty much according to what I learned that day, but of course, I’m drawn back to seek context and validation and understand what really happened when I tested some limits that, if I made them a habit, would probably have put me into some rather dangerous places going forward.
It turns out the place I visited became a scene of horrendous genocide (alas, greatly under-reported in the media) a few years later, as Robert Mugabe brought in the North Korean army to train a bunch of brutal murderers to subdue the local population. Like any story, however, things are more complex than they seem. Recently reading a book by Peter Stiff, Cry Zimbabwe, I learned that white South African intelligence agents were up to no good in spawning and supporting a tribal rebellion in that part of the world — something I saw to be a very real issue during my wild night of discovery in 1980. Mugabe elected to use third-world suppression tactics to bring the rebellion under control and, I suppose, he succeeded.
Data on how many innocent civilians died in the chaos is uncertain, but probably is in the range of 10,000, including indiscriminate killings, starvation, “concentration camps” and similar devices used by despotic regimes. Mugabe restricted media access and many western leaders simply didn’t want to see what was happening.
None of these observations has anything to do with construction marketing, I realize, and my family gives me the “look” when I start off on recollections of this part of my life.
But no single event captures my emotions as deeply as the evening when I put four guys into jail after they stole my camera — after threatening to start a tribal rebellion that, alas, evolved into the under-reported genocide. There and now, time and place, I am thankful for my good fortune in winning what Warren Buffet calls the “ovarian lottery.”
So, I think, should you.