Mandela’s Empire

by Albert Brenner

The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth — it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true. – Jean Baudrillard

Bearing an analogy derived from Jorge Luis Borges` On Exactitude in Science, Baudrillard endeavoured to colloquialize his conceptualisation of (Sophist) simulacra into the language of the layman.

In this specific analogy, he explained how a great empire was created whilst, simultaneously, a map was created to (cartographically) plot the former/original creation. As this real-world empire grew in size and might, so did its symbolic representaion, the map. Until it, the map, eventually assumed the exact same dimensions of the original.

Then this empire crumbled into dust…as do all empires. And all that was left of this once magnificent empire, was the map…minutely depicting its original splendour, on paper.

And this is exactly what the so-called New South Africa is all about. It is not real. It is a simulacrum. A virtual MSM and popular-culture representation…of a map, an abstract symbol, outlining an empire most magnificent in splendour…that never was!

21st-Century (moral) South Africa is simply an aggregate of (Western) narratives – linguistic symbols signifying an all-conflated signified that never was. In short; Nelson Mandela, the proverbial `Emperor without Clothes`.

Mandela, like his Noble Savage Empire (the Rainbow Nation), is not real. He is simply the feel-good projection of the Oediphusian `anger, forlornness and despair` (Sartre) postmodern Westerners have been experiencing ever since they slew their, ertswhile, Father (the Christian God) on the altar of Science.

Be that as it may; Mandela, the Wits-educated Xhosa goat-herder from Qunu, has wittingly (and hubristically) taken on the mantle of Emperor…..of a map-empire that was not even of his making.

Let us be frank here; Mandela basically sat in a locked room for 27 years whilst, occasionally, hitting stones into smaller stones. Apart from that, he only wrote one original text called How to be a good Communist.

Nothing more, nothing less.

That said; what exactly – in (the) physical reality – in/of South Africa still, remotely, inversely represents the map called Mandelatopia accurately?

Endemic corruption, nepotism, cronyism, rape, murder and mayhem is what the real is in South Africa. Not the map…not Mandelatopia!

Yet he has attained god-like status among the feeble-minded. How come? Well, being the integer of the (Western) narratives of de-colonialization, capitalism (neo-liberalism, now) versus communism and postmodern body/identity politics, Mandela just had to sit back (as he did in jail), bide his time – in order to let the precession of simulacra solidify – and await the outcome of these, aforementioned, great (moral) struggles of the West.

And that he did. Pax Americana won. The Berlin Wall fell. And seeing that the winner writes morality, the god-Man (conveniently) forgot about `how to be a good communist`…and assumed the Emperor`s neo-liberal clothes…and got rewarded with the Nobel Prize for Peace for all those stones he so painstakingly turned into smaller stones.

And now here we stand…in the real South Africa. It is a bloody mess. A typical post-colonial African failed-state in the making. And we only have the map, of an empire that never was and never will be.

But yet we persist, desperately holding onto the promise of paradise. As if this map is our only Salvation. For this map has become the (new) Bible. A holy script presaging and , retrospectively , validating, the new Messiah – a secular-humanist God, the Noble Savage goat-herder that will lead us to La La Land.The Alpha and the Omega.

And this will be our ultimate undoing, for forsaking the Future to placate the Present will only unleash that which had no place in History, in the first place…for “

…it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map.“ (Jean Baudrillard)