Antjie Krog, Jonathan Jansen en stopping the game – right HERE!

As Antjie Krog een ding met haar Malema-uitlatings gedoen het, is dit: Sy het spel gestop. En boonop in beseringstyd.

     Dit kom hierop neer: Krog het met haar oënskynlik onbesonne opmerkings ’n dooie moetie-kat op die veld gegooi tydens ‘n bakleiery wat nie wou ophou nie.  Toe het almal gevries, vir 30 sekondes lank, en verdwaas opgekyk.

     Genoeg tyd vir herbesinning.

     My eerste reaksie was: Die vrou is finaal van haar trollie af. Dis ook so gesuggereer deur Max du Preez in BY. Maar het Krog reggekry wat sy wou? Absoluut! (Sien hierbo).      

     Dis duidelik vir enige een met oë, dat ‘n sinergie bestaan tussen prof. Jonathan Jansen, die “vergewende rektor” van Vrystaat-universiteit en Krog, insluitende ’n gedeelde modus operandi.

     Ek en ander het ons in die afgelope tyd gedistansieer van Jansen.  Ons punt is dat sy soort universiteit nie die bestaan van inheemse tale as intellektuele denkruimtes sal waarborg nie, soos hy self kennelik glo. Ek glo saam met die Keniaanse skrywer-denker Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o in sy seminale boek Decolonising the Mind: Afrika sal nooit van die juk van sielkundige kolonialisme bevry wees as sy nie haar eie tale praat nie. Hierin is die bestaan van taal-universeite kardinaal.

     Helaas, daar is ’n ander faset van Jansen se denke wat uiters progressief is, en dit is sy benadering tot rassisme, iets wat besig is om aan alle fronte in Suid-Afrika skrikwekkend toe te neem.   

     En dit is hierdie besorgdheid wat Krog se klemverskuiwing onderlê. Was dit werklik so onbesonne? Laat ons eers kyk na die logiese implikasies van haar oënskynlik onlogiese argument: Daar moet gekyk word na Julius Malema se “raamwerk”, histories en kultureel, voordat hy verdoem word vir sy omstrede uitsprake. Dit is presies dieselfde argument waarop Jansen sy omstrede vergifnis van die rassistiese Reitz-4-studente baseer.

     Ek dink nie Jansen het die regte ding gedoen met sy vegifnisgebaar nie. Ek dink die kultuur van vergifnissoeke wat begin het by die WVK loop gevaar om die gereg te ondermyn. Wat is die vrylating van Shabir Shaik anders as ‘n soort bedekte “vergifnis”, WVK-styl?

     Maar wat doen Jansen wél reg? Beide hy én Krog vra vir ’n historiese analise van rassisme. Hulle sê: Só is ál manier waarop ons sal weet waarom rassisme in Suid-Afrika ná 20 jaar demokrasie steeds so sterk is.  Ons moet voortdurend kyk na waar ‘n bepaalde rassisme vandaan kom, om die redes sowel as die oplossings daarvoor te snap.

     En hierin is ons twee gedugte spanspelers 120% korrek!  

     As ons  dit doen, blyk dit dat daar goeie – inderdaad vergeefbare – redes bestaan vir beide Afrikaner-rassisme én (dalk) Malema s’n. Kom ons kyk allereers na die rassisme van Afrikaners. Niemand durf ontken dat dit ‘n groot probleem is nie.

     Ek hou van in kroeë sit en luister na mense, hoe kleindorpser hoe beter. Nou die dag sit ek so. Dit was ná ‘n rugbywedstryd op televisie. Twee wit Afrikaanse ouens raak rassistiese stellings kwyt, en sit al hoe nader aan mekaar. Toe kom ’n swart ou in.  Hulle vergeet op die plek alles wat hulle so pas gesê het, en sit nader aan die inkommer want hy ondersteun hulle span. Die drie het vir omtrent twee ure lekker gesels. Toe gaan die swart ou huis toe. Die wit ouens sit toe met hierdie gat tussen hulle. Dis nie lank nie of hulle maak die gat toe. En wat was die onderwerp? Rassistiese kla-stories, een na die ander! Maar die swart ou het sy trui vergeet, sien, en kom later terug. Hy besluit toe maar op ‘n loopdop. Sy aand was in elk geval moer toe. Die whities en hy hervat toe hul gesprek, passievol, in Engels, asof daar nie ’n enkele rassistiese stelling daardie aand gemaak was nie.

     Wat gaan hier aan? Met twee sulke weifelaars kan mens mos ’n nasie bou. Ek besef toe hul gedeelde rassisme was bonding. Dit was die middelterm van hulle Afrikaansheid.

    Afrikaners het hulself histories nooit gedefinieer in terme van gedeelde eienskappe nie, maar in terme van ’n gedeelde vyand. Daar is nie vir wit Afrikaners uitsluitlike eienskappe van identiteit nie, slegs een: ’n gedeelde vyand (enige een). Dit is histories die geval.  En dít is ’n belangrike wortel van die rassisme-refleks. Dis ’n identiteit wat in ’n baie kort tyd geskep is, en slegs een faktor het die mag om dit reg te kry: ’n gedeelde vyand. Eers was dit die “Engelse”. En daarna? Daar was tog nie baie kandidate nie …

     Geskiedkundiges wys daarop dat die geskiedenis dikwels uit “reflekse” bestaan met hul oorsprong in die verlede, wat keer op keer bloot met nuwe inhoud gevul word.

     Lyk die twee ouens in die kroeg na laakbare, haatlike karakers? Sou hul gedrag ’n goeie rede wees vir ‘n burgeroorlog? Dis wat Jansen en Krog vra.

     En hulle vra dieselfde soort begrip vir Malema.  

 

* Bogenoemde uiteensetting het slegs betrekking op die genoemde faset van Antjie en Jansen se maneuvers. Dit moenie gelees word as steun vir ander argumentspunte waaraan die saak deur Krog en Jansen onderskeidelik gekoppel is nie, soos Krog se kritiek op die media se hantering van Malema, of Jansen se verdagte beskrywing van Malema as “baie slim”.

 

 

         

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10 Kommentare op “Antjie Krog, Jonathan Jansen en stopping the game – right HERE!”

  1. Andries Bezuidenhout :

    Charl-Pierre, ek neem aan jy’t Breyten Breytenbach in Die Burger gelees:
    http://www.dieburger.com/Content/MyDieBurger/Briewe/1645/73fb98a11b364199a9b4efcac0fa0176/13-11-2009-12-07/Oor_Malema,_Krog_en_versoening
    Ek dink tog Antjie Krog maak ‘n baie goeie punt in haar onderhoud met Kirby van der Merwe. Die volgende daaruit:
    “Nes die Afrikaner ná die Anglo-Boereoorlog besef het en waar Afrikaner-nasionalisme begin het, toe hulle ook gesê het niemand gaan na ons kyk nie, ons moet na onsself kyk./ Die ruimte tussen Afrikaners en Engelse is nooit uitgeklaar nie, dink ek, en Afrikaners het vir hulself ’n dominante raamwerk gebou waarbinne hulle gefunksioneer het: Hulle is heeltyd deur die Engelse bespotlik gemaak en daar het ’n verharding gekom./ Dit is nou hier aan die gebeur: Swart word heeltyd uitgewys as korrup en problematies, en daar gaan ’n verharding kom.”
    Bron: http://www.beeld.com/Content/By/Nuus/1992/2a89f8de32194d2bbd7c35de6049ec0a/13-11-2009-10-23/Om_swart_te_dink
    Breytenbach se brief kom amper fatalisties oor. ‘n Harde swart nasionalisme is onkeerbaar. Ek is nie so seker nie, alhoewel, as ek eerlik met myself is (laat in die nag), sal ek dalk saamstem. Maar Gwede Mantashe en Frans Baleni (toevallig oorspronklik van Trompsburg af) se verdediging van Bobby Godsell wys dat Malema se stem nie die enigste een is wat gesag dra nie. Daar is (steeds, en sal altyd wees) ‘n allemintige stryd in die ANC tussen nie-rassigheid en swart nasionalisme. Dalk is dit belangrik om Malema se wêreld te verstaan – een waarin daar bitter min nie-rassigheid in praktyk is. (Mandela was immers ‘n swart nasionalis, tot hy gesien het hoe wit en Indiër kamerade ook bereid was om tronk toe te gaan – m.a.w. nie-rassige praktyk). Ek dink Antjie Krog se analogie met Afrikanernasionalisme is baie belangrik – dit gee ‘n mens tog ‘n gevoel vir waar mense vandaan kom, wat nie beteken hulle is reg of dat jy met jou broek op jou knieë hoef te sit nie. Inteendeel.

  2. Charl-Pierre :

    Ek wil een ding baie duidelik maak. Daar is EEN aspek van Antjie se Malema-sienings waarmee ek saamstem, miskien twee, en dis die een wat ek genoem het: naamlik dat rassisme binne die bepaalde historiese dryfvere wat daartoe aanleiding gegee het verstaan moet word, dit maak ‘n meer empatiese benadering daarvan moontlik.

    Breyten maak ‘n BELANGRIKER punt in sy brief: naamlik dat politiek nog nooit ooit ‘n spel in empatie was nie. Empatie is iets waarmee jy jou eie gesig was, nie die aangesig van die politiek nie. Dis ‘n boudoir-bedrywigheid tussen jou en jou God, of tussen jou en jou grimeerborsel, afhangende van wat jou woorde vir persoonlike higiëne is.

    Die tweede punt wat mens in gedagte moet hou is dat Krog skynbaar nie die term “waardes” in sy normatiewe sin gebruik het nie. So as sy verwys na Malema se “waardes”, bedoel sy dit wat hom dryf moet beter verstaan word. En hierin is sy natuurlik reg. Ek hoop ek is reg in hoe ek haar verstaan …

    Met verskeie punte en implikasies van Antjie Krog se stellings stem ek NIE saam nie. (As ek nou ‘n latterday N P van Wyk Louw was, sou ek iets kon kwytraak soos “Die empatie kan ook boos wees”.)

    Die Engelse se bespotting met Afrikaners en die Nasionale Party het nie verharding gebring nie. Die verharding was reeds daar. Die dag toe Malan aan bewind gekom het, en die Engelse joernalis vra hom: “Excuse me Sir, but what are you going to do about the native question”, wat was sy antwoord? Sy antwoord was: “Nice weather, isn’t it.”

    Dis sinies is om selfs per ongeluk die indruk te skep dat daar gangbare normatiewe waardes sit in die uitlatings van Julius Malema. Hoe lank het apartheid geduur? Wat het dit alles nie vernietig nie? Malema sê: “Nice weather isn’t it?”, elke keer as iemand hom bevraagteken.

    Daar is geen enkele rede om te dink dat as die Engele pers van destyds nie Afrikanerdom se nasionalisme bevraagteken het nie, apartheid minder straf sou gewees het.

    Politiek gaan oor mag. Uit en gedaan. Daarom is dit noodsaaklik dat die onafheid in die interpretasies van die regering van die huidige grondwet dubbeld en dwars besef word.
    En les bes, die onvoltooidheid in die skryf daarvan.

    Daar is gewoon nie genoeg cheques and balances tussen mag en blootgesteldheid in Suid-Afrika nie.

  3. Charl-Pierre :

    Iets in my bogenoemde skrywe kort nuansering. Ja, politiek gaan oor mag. Dis nodig om die feit raak te sien, te erken. Mense kan nie in die politiek staatmaak op ander – ons naasbestaande antagoniste (ons antagonistiese naaste, ons mede-burgers)- se empatie en liefde ten einde te kan oorleef nie. Daardie beskerming moet ingebou wees in die politiek.

    Maar ondanks hierdie toedrag van sake, dat politiek selde vriendelik is behalwe in hallusinêre oomblikke soos 1994 en ‘n paar ander grootse en kleiner soortgelyke ekstaties gerookte oomblikke, ondanks dit, moet tog ons bly strewe na ‘n groter menslikheid in die politiek as dit wat ons tot op hede gerealiseer het. (Hierdie laaste sin is ‘n parafrasering van ‘n idee van Breytenbach.)

  4. Charl-Pierre :

    Intussen Andries, wil ek jou bedank vir jou bydrtae hier bo. Antjie is heeltemal reg daaroor dat dit nie gaan help om ‘n ge-enkapsuleerde lewensbeskouing, wat wye populistiese wortels het, slegs van buite te benader. Dit sal insiggewend wees om onder die vel daarvan te probeer kom. En dit is ook ewe waar dat as die Engelse destyds dit met Afrikanernasionalisme gedoen het, hulle veel meer begrip daarvoor sou gehad het. Od derglike begrip, in beide die genoemde histories egevalle hierbo, moet lei na empatie en verskoning, is te betwyfel. Ek dink dit moes (moet) in albei gevalle eerdre lei na ‘n versterkte en meer ingeligte verdoeming daarvan.

  5. Desmond :

    Ja, naas my ‘Demokrasie is ‘n kontaksport’ t-hemp, ook een wat lees: ‘Vir ‘n sagter w^reld…’

  6. Richard Jurgens :

    Dear Charl-Pierre,

    I read with interest your comments on the issues of racism and forgiveness that have been raised by the astounding things Julius Malema, the ANC’s terrible infant, has been saying recently. You say some trenchant things, and your attention to the issue is appropriate. I suspect that I have sometimes been rather flippant about this and related issues in some past discussions with you. The reasons for that were not a matter of essential content, I think, so much as a concern about the underlying tenor of your arguments. Perhaps I can redress the imbalance, or impertinence, by responding to your views on Malema in a more serious way.

    Your argument is as follows. Intellectuals like Professor Jansen and Antjie Krog have recently attempted to ameliorate explosive situations that have arisen out racial misbehaviour by suggesting that the historical context of a person’s supposed racism always need to be taken into account. In particular, the racist actions or statements of people like the Reitz four and Julius Malema must be contextualized, and in a sense, understood. But this allows, you say, that there might be good – and forgivable – reasons for both Afrikaner and African racism. If the Reitz four are to be forgiven in the spirit of truth and reconciliation, then someone like Malema ought to be as well.

    You go on to suggest that some of Malema’s more hostile statements and attitudes about people of different race and background to himself are clearly unacceptable. Racism, you observe, is growing in South Africa at a terrifying rate, so to advocate a contextual and historical understanding of racism would amount to a toleration of it. Therefore the racism-is-contextual argument is absurd, and people like the Reitz four and Malema should be held equally to account. There should be no special pleading: to allow exceptions would be to allow attitudes to fester that are conducive to civil war.

    Of course I agree. But I was struck by the realization that several subsidiary steps in your argument reflect a very different perspective than mine. The first is your contention that ‘Afrika sal nooit van die juk van sielkundige kolonialisme bevry wees as sy nie haar eie tale praat nie’, with a reference to Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o Ngugi seminal book, Decolonising the Mind.

    I agree with the idea that indigenous-language universities are crucial to the development of any national culture. Specifically, the recent political attacks on Afrikaans-language universities represent a real threat to the position and role of Afrikaans culture. There is real cause for concern there. But I question your reference to decolonialisation. Putting the issue in that context is counter-productive, in my view. Moeletsi Mbeki has recently presented a trenchant argument that Africa’s elites have failed their countries because they have simply taken over the economic structures of the departing colonial powers and continued to plunder their countries in the same way. If the foci of anti-colonial history and postcolonial theory are in any way a reflection of the attitude of Africa’s elites, they have clearly contributed no better to generating a better Africa.

    My second disagreement concerns your focus is on ‘exclusive characteristics of identity’ as a necessary quality of a functioning, viable national culture. You suggest that white Afrikaners only ever had a shared enemy to bond them, and otherwise did not have any other ‘exclusive characteristics of identity’. To illustrate this, you sketch a scene of two white Afrikaans guys in a small-town bar who talk in racist terms among themselves but are otherwise quite cordial with a black man. There is a strange kind of hypocrisy here, you suggest, but maybe it helps to oil the stuttering engine of democracy. The perceived racism is only a sort of instrumental binding agent; as long as the guys can continue to be cordial to the black guy in a civic way, everything will be okay.

    In short, you seem to be suggesting that white Afrikanerdom has a weaker sense of its own identity as a culture than is generally thought. A sub-clause of this argument is the suggestion that Afrikanerdom is in some ways a victim of its situation.

    I don’t think either point is true. In my experience, white Afrikaners were and continue to be deeply identified with their language and history. For fifty years of South Africa’s history, Afrikanerdom was more or less united, and considerably empowered through the culture’s dominance of the state. Some sectors of (white) Afrikaner business were able to capitalize on the advantages of that dominance to create enterprises that are turning out to be globally competitive. Afrikaans literature and popular music scenes are flourishing as never before, important indicators of confidence.

    Meanwhile, white Afrikaners, and white South Africans in general, can enjoy their reception back into the fold of humanity. This is something that people who do not get out of the country much may not be in a position to appreciate. It is of course not the case that the rest of the world spends much time thinking about South Africa’s problems, although the Football World Cup in 2010 might change that for a while. But it is true that the climate of opinion in the ‘world community’ about South Africa has changed completely. The end of apartheid in South Africa really did represent freedom for its white citizens too.

    Certainly Julius Malema represents a serious problem. He is the voice of an element in South African society that would reduce the country to a third-rate, third power in short order if it ever got into direct government. The result of that would be economic degradation, and it would also probably bring with it a drastic decline in relations between national communities. In particular, the Afrikaans community, which is already facing some curtailments of its cultural rights, would be seriously affected.

    But there is an element of defensiveness in the way you set up the Malema issue. In many ways, (white) Afrikaner culture today is not so much a victim of a situation as it is a participant in a bigger situation. And, now that the dust of apartheid is settling, it has advantages to exploit. Not the least of these is the idea of the rule of law.

    Clearly, democracy is the dominant political idea in the world today. In any country which claims to be democratic the constitutional argument for equality under the rule of law should be, and usually is uncontroversial. The only places where it is not are countries where some form of despotism rules, such as North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe. This context shows how retrograde the pan-Africanist faction of the ANC really is in international terms, with its moves to make the constitution an instrument of the ruling party. In any normal democracy a person like Malema, who resorts to racial abuse whenever opposed, would be described as a far-right extremist.

    Despite his sort of unpleasantness, though, my suggestion to you now is that the way you frame your sense of the Afrikaner identity and its place in the world today is perhaps more inward-focused and in some ways more pessimistic than warranted by the circumstances.

    The recent history of Europe is an ongoing demonstration of the importance of a conscious sense of nationality in people’s lives today. This is not the same as nationalism, although fifty or sixty years ago it might still have been. It is a conscious awareness of origins that is explicitly expressed as a value. But it involves much more everyday, and one might say, traditional elements than the abstractions of politics. No matter how continental their bureaucracies become, Europeans continue, obstinately and
    actively, to enjoy their particular sense of nationality – even regionality – and identity. Now that the memory of two world wars is fading, they also like being able to sample the fruits of other people’s nationalities and identities. They don’t do so through something abstract like ‘culture’, but through its concrete elements: language, dialect, accent, vocabulary, cities, architecture, lifestyle, clothing, food, drink, music, etc.

    I do not propose Europe as an example in another attempt to impose a neo-colonialist view of the world with Europe at its centre. But Europe is the world’s first functioning multi-cultural, multi-state democracy, and it goes without saying that we can learn from this ongoing experiment. Aside from that, some of my reference points derive from the fact that I live in Europe. So far the experiment is demonstrating, at least in some ways, how positive nationality can be in a multi-national context. More to the point, it is also helping to re-establish a profound acceptance of the deeper necessity of ideas of national rights and culture.

    Of course, there are important differences too. South Africa does not consist of a number of more-or-less culturally homogenous states. Afrikaners do not have the security of a sovereign homeland to rely on. But this is true of any other group. The basic fact is that the right to maintain and develop a culture is enshrined in the human rights culture of our day and, importantly, in our practice. And this might be a good time for people who are faced with defining a new place for their cultures to seize the opportunities the new situation offers. Among them is the freedom to look outward too, not only inward.

    To conclude, I cannot resist including a passage which I recently encountered in the course of doing some research, and which I thought might interest you, as one nomad to another.

    “In nomad Arabia, the poets were part of the war equipment of the tribe; they defended their own, and damaged hostile tribes by the employment of a force which was supposed indeed to work mysteriously, but which in fact consisted in composing dexterous phrases of a sort that would attract notice, and would consequently be diffused and remembered widely.” (D. S. Margoliouth, Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, 1931.)

    Best,

    Richard

  7. Charl-Pierre :

    Dear Richard,

    You make some very important points and I thank you for entering with me into some dialogue on these.

    But I don’t believe that Afrikaners have a weak sense of self-identity. There are indeed MANY things that bind them into a nocieable identity. (These identity aspects are free-flowing and pluralist, though – not all Afrikaners are the same, the identity is not monolithic.)

    What I meant to say, was that the way in which the ordinary white Afrikaner bonds with other ordinary, white Afrikaners – I am going to emphasise the word “ordinary” here, because I look down on the following trait and despise it thoroughly – often contains a racist reflex. I go on to suggest that this racist reflex might be more reflex than racist, and that the reason for this is that the earliest ways in which Afrikaners bonded were not based on what they shared but on who they were against. (This might not be so unusual in the politics of identity formation.) This is because the identity was largely shaped by common suffering that happened very rapidly (three years, the Boer War) caused by a COMMON enemy (the British English). The white Afrikaner on the ground has unfortunately demeaned him-/herself by perpetually stressing their own identity in terms of what they are against, not in terms of what they share, despite the fact that they share a lot. There might be two reasons for this: 1. They never survived the us/them reflex that gave birth to their identity, they never extrapolated on that properly, not on the ground. 2. They are, as spawns of colonialism, loath to admit their own pluralist make-up. This last one is a dangerous trait that has divided and weakend the play of identity formation and its possibilities to enrich the self as well as the other.

    As far as your second point of contention goes: No, I don’t believe Afrikaans people should see themselves as victims. This is exactly what makes tem pathetic kwasi-oppressors, not least of themselves.

    And now they have come to be oppressed themselves. You mention the rule of law. The rule of law is only that which it becomes in the hand of the ruler. I am calling for a more nuanced interaction with that principle. The rule of law in itself cannot safeguard human dignity in its entirety. This is a radical thing for me to say, but I believe it.

    What the rule of law cannot protect is that part of human dignity which is collective. There should be a space for this to breath. Language itself, the meaning of language, the meeaning of everything, resides in the collective, not the individual. I am talking about the “grammar”. The “grammar” is collective. This is the supposition that people like myself and Breyten Breytenbach (if I understand him correctly) are trying to promote right now. Needless to say, it is explosive, and many people would like to suppress the idea. What I am saying is this: suppress this knowledge, and you will create an unhappy political animal on a very, very large scale. And wasn’t the scale of this already large enough in history?

    We must stop looking for our entire survival in single concepts. The rule of law, just like the idea of democracy, is open to the most shocking of subjective interpretations, and furthermore, they cover less ground than they are credited for.

    My question: WHAT is that ground which is NOT covered by these concepts? Should we not start talking about that ground? Does it exist?

    I cannot help noticing that our “disagreement” is so wonderfully coloured by our respective cultural backgrounds (mine being Afrikaans, though not unmediated by English) and yours being English (though not unmediated by Afrikaans).

    Regards, my friend and colleague.

  8. Charl-Pierre :

    In the foregoing days myself and Breyten and Francis Galloway, the Afrikaans academic, have been trading interesting thoughts in emails.

    One thing that I myself implied, and forgive me for “quoting” myself here, Richard, was this: that the identity of Afrikaans is too strongly loaded on the “white” side, and that the historically passed on shapes of imagination which might be found in the Afrikaans creole culture, mighty prove far more useful to the survival of Afrikaans as a component of South Africa, as well as to the survival of pluralist identity per se in South Africa.

  9. Richard :

    Dear Charl,

    Yes, I also find it interesting to see how our ‘disagreement’ is mediated by our backgrounds. For one thing, you’re all Stellenbosch profundity, and I’m all Wits analysis! 🙂

    I’d like to start my response by telling a story. It is of a woman who was evacuated from Johannesburg during the Anglo-Boer War. When she returned in 1903 or thereabouts, she arrived at her house in Parktown to find the Tommies unloading the piano, the last item of furniture from the house, into a cart. She had made two long journeys by ox-wagon in her life. Each time she had started up again, in a new place. Later, she would tell her granddaughter – my mother – that sometimes, when she was in her drawing room, reading Keats, she would hear lions coughing in the veld. But she always remembered that moment when she had watched her household disappearing down the street in the wagon train of the British Army, and turned to her family, and said: ‘If that’s the way the English behave, then we are no longer English.’ What it meant to be South African, of course, it would take the following century to unfold.

    Compared to the sufferings of the Afrikaners during that war, this is of course a rather bourgeois tale. All the same, for us the war was an existential turning point too.

    You clarify well your point about the role of racism in Afrikaner history. Possibly you under-rate several hundred years of emergent Afrikaner history before the Anglo-Boer War, but the main point is that the war was a cataclysmic event that shaped attitudes more intensely than ever before, especially as regards other groups. Afrikaner history was therefore shaped more by what Afrikaners were against than what they were for – by their collective opposition to a collective other. And this tendency has continued, your argument continues, either because the culture has not ‘survived the us-them reflex’ or because, deep down, the Afrikaans psyche is still colonialist in mentality, and therefore not open to (the idea of) a pluralist world.

    If you are right about that, I certainly hope your critical views will gain wider currency and discussion. It’s vitally important that Afrikanerdom finds a way to go forward that takes account of the contemporary world. A crucial aspect of that will be, as you indicate in your second response, the ‘creole’ history of Afrikaans. Seen this way, Afrikanerdom is the only truly multi-racial language group in the country.

    With this in mind, I turn to the main issue on my mind, which is your scepticism about the constitution. The rule of law is essentially the law of the ruler, you say, and it does not take account of collective identity. ‘The rule of law cannot safeguard human dignity in its entirety,’ you conclude. (That is a strangely beautiful sentence, considering its sad message.)

    On the whole I agree with your first point, although I see perhaps a different significance in its conclusion. The rule of law is an abstract concept, and it needs the teeth of a functioning and effective legal system to have bite. If history shows anything, it is that law depends on the qualities of those who administer it. The failures of South Africa’s legal and criminal system since the advent of democracy are a clear demonstration of this.

    (That sentence does not convey anything of the actual horrors that people experience on a daily basis as a result of this ‘failure’. I realise this. Suffering does not ‘demonstrate’ anything in this way; it is irreducibly what it is. I have researched it, written about it, experienced it. But we are talking, in part, about ideas, and abstractions are necessary…)

    If the ordinary legal framework in South Africa is failing so dismally, you say, what are we to expect of its ability to understand, administer and adjudicate matters relating to human rights? For there too the state is manipulating the machinery. You therefore conclude that the outlook for constitutionalism is bleak. That Afrikaners may not be able to rely on the constitution to protect their collective interests.

    In answer, I would like to suggest that the constitution as it stands is an enlightened document. It was forged (there is a perhaps not entirely inappropriate pun there) under difficult and even outrightly suspicious circumstances; nevertheless it represents something rare in history: a social contract that actually underwrites the rights of all the country’s citizens, and includes a significant number of collective rights. As such, it ought to be protected, and indeed, fought for – constitutionally. Afrikanerdom could very well play a role, by allying with other forces in society on issues where its interests are affected.

    To justify my somewhat shaky right to make my last point, another little story. My oupa, who was a civil engineer, was proud of the fact that our family had a long history in the country; he insisted that a forefather of ours had arrived in the Cape with Jan van Riebeeck. I thought he was spinning a yarn, to be honest, but years later, happening to be in Cape Town, I visited the National Archives to check out his story. Oupa turned out to be correct, almost. The man to whom he traced our ancestry had registered as a soldier with the VOC at the Cape of Good Hope in the year 1672, or thereabouts

    So, on that side, I go way back. And on that basis, I hope you will take this comment in good part. This is that there is no real alternative china. Short of buying another country, there is nowhere else to trek, collectively. I believe that the constitution offers Afrikanerdom a space to express itself – but also that, in some way, it will be up to Afrikaners to occupy that space. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Unfortunately, some of that space is being occupied by the likes of Julius Malema.

    Please understand, I don’t pretend to lecture anyone, least of all yourself on these matters. My own experience of identity has been relative and provisional.

    In South Africa, people think I am English, in Holland people think I am Zuid-Afrikaans, in the UK people think I am South African, or maybe Dutch… If a person is a person through other people, what does this make me? Does that mean that I am only really ‘South African’ when I am among the British? Or more ‘English’ when I am in SA? Or more ‘Afrikaans’ when I am in Holland? The answer to these questions is, oddly, in each yes… LOL

    But as Breyten Breytenbach and you both indicated in another communication, identity is a slippery concept. I agree. We know what we mean when we use these markers, but we stumble when it comes to saying what we mean. But why do we stumble? Is it only for philosophical reasons?

    At any rate, best wishes for the festive season. Christmas only feels natural in summer.

    Richard

  10. Charl-Pierre :

    All the points you make, are succint, Richard. I don’t disagree. Grant me just a couple more splitting of our, and my, conclusions above.

    I myself am uncomfortable with the idea that I might be defending something like “Afrikaner” survival. I would only be able to accept that term fully when the term refers to Afrikaans-speaking people in their full pluralist regalia: “white”, “brown”, Christian, Muslim, half-English, French-Afrikaner, and so forth. I am defending the survival of alternative, and parallel cultural FIELDS of experience per definition, not only the Afrikaans one. I feel the Afrikaans one must be protected, yes, now and here, not least because it is emblematic of the ideal of a plural future for imgaination. It is providing a precious grid which the present government is denying IN PRINCIPLE, not only in woeful practice (as you seem to suggest). (I once used the word “systems”, which I still rather like, but it has connotations of fixity that denies the flow and eb which cultural fields are subject to. Needless to say, Breyten was quick to point this out.)

    I agree with you that we must used the constitution, and honour it. But let us not be fixed in what we are, what we have managed to forge up to now, let us rather imagine ourselves in terms of what we envision. I am stressing the vision, in that sense I refuse to honour the present as a homecoming.

    There is a very necessary footnote to this discussion: When “other South Africans”, such as Afrikaans ones, take a stance against verengelsing, it must not be seen as a stance against our “bodemsuster” (our common-soil sister) the English of South Africa. It is an aspect of globalisation we are against. The British would have murdered the local English if there wasn’t a more useful otherness to exploit. The English in South Africa were maligned by Afrikaner-nationalist propaganda as being the same as British English. This, of course, like so much in propaganda anywhere, was a designer lie of note which is still poisoning relations between Afrikaans and English. These two groups have allowed themselves to be used against one another by colonialism and neo-colonialism (apartheid and the present post-apartheid) so often – as buffers, as agent provocateurs, as decoys, as staffriders and glorified slipstreams for piggybacking interests, target practice for accidental rulers, as mutually devouring hors d’ourvres to a fabricated main meal that was never to arrive, as substitutes, as whores abducted with our own full consent, as relay puppets, as lightning conducters, you name it – by THE POWERS THAT BE AND WAS.

    And this is still going on! It must stop. Festive greetings, brother. One gets brothers in arms and you get armless brothers. We are the latter.

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