I just spent two days sick after getting food poisoning from a chicken, bacon, and cheese burger at Wimpy in Eastgate. It was not a pleasant experience, especially the first day because apart from the obvious symptoms, my whole body went lame. It was the sickest I’ve ever been (and to be honest I seldom get sick) and I had no idea that food poisoning could be so unpleasant. But it also triggered an odd memory for me, which is why I’m writing this today…
For many years, I’ve been fascinated that there are people who hold beliefs that contradict reality. And I don’t mean Trump supporters or others whose beliefs are clouded by hateful biases and prejudices. I mean people whose beliefs are based on things that are not, were not, and never will be real in this universe. This applies to people who believe in doomsday conspiracies like the Nibiru cataclysm, those who insist the Earth is flat, and those who believe in conspiracy theories. So now I have remembered how my fascination began.
In 1990 to 1991, thanks to being a white male South African who could not decide what to study and an unfortunate law of conscription, I spent a year in the old apartheid army. It’s kind of ironic that this was still the apartheid government, because the only thing that our troops ever had to do was be deployed to protect various people from the AWB, which was a right-wing racist nutjob Afrikaner group that made various threats. I write “our troops” and not myself, because I was a chef in the army. If I wasn’t on duty when the “reaction force” was called for, I faked being on duty or hid away somewhere where they couldn’t find me. Just because I had to be there against my will wasting my time for a year didn’t mean they could make me go out and actually shoot anybody, or lay in some bushes for a whole night waiting for some spineless white dude to make true on his empty threat. (I can handle a rifle though, and I’m not a bad shot. But I haven’t done so for 29 years now and have no interest in ever owning a gun.)
Anyway, I discovered something interesting as an army chef… There was an urban legend about army food containing something that caused temporary male infertility, that was supposedly added to the army food. I’d first heard about it from a teacher in high school. The most common story involved washing powder being added to the food. (Yeah, it’s dumb. I don’t know how that would work either.) There was even a name for the stuff, according to the urban legend. Unfortunately my memory does not include whatever that name was. Something like “blue balls”? I’ll write the rest of this under the assumption that your balls were supposed to turn blue, preventing unwanted pregnancies while you went AWOL and partied with the local Afrikaner girls, who had a thing for idiots in uniform, every night at the local jol.
Needless to say, the urban legend was not based on reality. Food deliveries arrived in the army camp by truck, from wholesalers used by restaurants too, and the food was packed directly into large freezers in the two mess halls of the camp. (But not the third empty mess hall where I hid from reaction force. This was Intelligence school in Potchefstroom, by the way. Strange, it was called “Danie Theron Krygskool” or DTKS but Google is giving me a completely different place when I search on that name.) Then we, the chefs, would remove the frozen meat and vegetables as necessary according to the menus we worked from. The food was good, by the way, with each meal including a meat, a vegetable, and a starch of some sort, plus lunch always came with a dessert and a cool drink while supper included a warm drink such as coffee or hot chocolate. Dessert was a large tray with some kind of instant pudding and canned peaches, or banana and biscuits, or something like that, and more importantly, there was one such tray between 8 chefs, so we got a great deal more dessert than the rest of the troops. Also I could sneak into the mess hall in the middle of the night to make myself toasted bacon and cheese sandwiches (with a whole pack of bacon).
The point is, there was no step along the way where anything to cause temporary male infertility could be added to the food. But do you think that anybody who believed in the conspiracy believed that? Noooooo. No, of course not. It didn’t matter that to those who asked me, I explained how it was impossible for it to be true. It didn’t matter if I showed them the sealed meat directly from the distributors in our freezers, and explained how the cooking worked. In fact, nothing I said mattered. They believed what they believed and that was that. In their eyes I was either a hapless pawn in the process of turning their balls blue and forcing their puny pee shooters to fire blanks, or I was an evil liar, part of the conspiracy, actively ensuring the toxins tainted their tiny testicles.
That was when I learned that those who choose to believe in a conspiracy will continue to believe regardless of any facts presented to them, so it’s been a while… 29 years have not shown me any different. I have never convinced anyone who believes in a conspiracy that they are wrong. It isn’t even worth trying. Don’t debate them – just mock them.
Aside… Imagine a world where men regulated the consequences of the actions of other men and actually tried to prevent unwanted pregnancies… just fucking imagine. This conspiracy about the old SA army is especially dumb. The officers knew that most (I can’t say all because I wasn’t one of them) of the troops went AWOL to local nightclubs every night and had unprotected sex, and instead of doing anything practical about it such as supplying condoms, they created rules to outlaw such activity, and then turned a blind eye to anyone breaking those rules. (I don’t remember anyone being punished for sneaking out of the camp at night. In fact I don’t recall anybody ever being caught. We, the same troops who snuck out at night, also took turns at guard duty.)
I hope you’ve enjoyed these anecdotes brought on by my diarrhoea and may you never have the misfortune of eating bad chicken…