Thursday, October 1, 2009

Does the worm inevitably turn?

Pic: A dam just outside Worcester - where the meeting was held

To whom do lions cast their gentle looks?
Not to the beast that would usurp their den.
The smallest worm will turn being trodden on,And doves will peck in safeguard of their brood.'"
Shakespeare Henry VI Pt. 3.

I am interested to note, these days, how quiet the media is, (and more interestingly, the white public is) about Jacob Zuma. Just a matter of months ago, you could have sworn that the sky was going to fall, the earth was going to heave and we whites would all be swallowed up in the disaster which would follow the victory of the ANC at the polls and his ascendency to the Presidency.

I note with further interest, a recent newspaper report about a meeting which the leader of the opposition and Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille had with the President. She came away from it saying that it is “hard not to like him”. She went further and said that this was all the more remarkable, seeing she had run a specific and individually targeted campaign to “Stop Zuma” during the election.

I also see how silly former President Thabo Mbeki is seeming these days and I can’t help seeing some kind of vague similarity between him and “Die Groot Krokodil” – former apartheid President, PW Botha. When he, in his day, was kicked out by FW de Klerk and the new breed of Afrikaners (who were seen as crazy reformists in some circles) and the ANC, Communist Party and other Liberation movements were unbanned, Botha continued to breathe fire and brimstone, never seeing the wood, for a forest of trees.

And some whites, many whites, perhaps even the majority of whites today, are still breathing the same fire and brimstone. I hear them all the time, all around me. The other day I was in a meeting in a rural area way out of Cape Town. There were a total of five whites in a meeting of about 20 people. At lunch, being fairly early in the queue, I happened to sit at a table with no-one else at it at that point. I could not fail to notice that within a short while, all the other whites in the meeting had gathered at my table. And then it started…

They simply assumed that I was one of them and would therefore agree with their reactionary position on things in general. They spoke about “them” and they spoke about “us”. They lamented the passing of the old days. I chewed on my salad and said nothing. Not because I am shy. Not because I am slow in coming forward, but because I was totally gobsmacked!

These were four people I had never met before in my life. They work in significant, public interface related jobs. They deal with black people on a daily basis. But their minds are twisted and distorted and their understanding of South African reality is profoundly skewed. The world which they apparently live in is monochrome and diseased. And here is the tragedy – they have no idea that this is their reality!

The tragedy is that they position themselves as liberals – as people who “never supported apartheid”. Now they are merely observers. Now they are the experts on democratic government. Now they are the victims of affirmative action. They chose to ignore, I could not fail to notice, the fact that three of them were actually employed in the state itself or para-statals!

It is this killing, whinging mindset which is so totally reprehensible. Crime is “their” responsibility – and “they” don’t have a clue how to solve it, because “they” are either criminals themselves, or stupid – or, of course, more probably both.

And what does this kind of attitude do (besides making the bearer into a bitter, twisted human being)? This is what I think. I think it infects everyone – the good and the bad, the criminal and the victim, black and white. It sets up a societal dynamic which corrodes and insinuates itself into every aspect of life. It is there in the shopping centre, the gym, the Church, the street, the airport. It feeds on itself. It grows fat and it spreads. It is insidious. It is contagious.

But here is the issue. It is not just a “white” thing. There is nothing genetically involved here. It can equally become a “black” thing. In the Western Cape, it is undoubtedly now a “coloured” thing.

I see yesterday in the press, the African National Congress in the Western Cape issued an apology to the Western Cape Province, for its previous fractious, inefficient and nepotistic government. It was a government which was fairly trounced at the polls, bringing the Democratic Alliance to power again.

I think the apology is well intended and it is a desperate attempt to salvage some level of credibility. But I do not think it will work. It is not the case, after all, that previous Democratic Alliance governments were wonderful. In fact, they were disastrous. But the ANC has managed to completely alienate vast swathes of the Western Cape population – a population which is already deeply conservative, racist and divided. What the ANC has managed to do is to compound fears, prejudices and racist beliefs. It has done so by ignoring people, by marginalising people, by arrogance and by greed. This is the consequence of its actions.

So, whatever good President Zuma may achieve - through openness, or accessibility or through tight controls on corruption – it won’t matter a damn in the Western Cape in my estimation, for a very long time to come. Because the party he belongs to seems to have forgotten the primary matter of race in the equation. Race isn’t an issue which can manage itself and in this country it isn’t going to just go away. And as long as there are some South Africans who feel more important than other South Africans, we have all the ingredients we need for a profoundly depressed and diseased society.

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