Wednesday, April 7, 2010
The bed he made for himself.
Eugene Terreblanche was, by all accounts, a dreadful man. He has been a part of my life for a very long time now. He formed the AWB, the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, a neo-Nazi organisation which even modeled its flag and insignia on the swastika. They rode around on horses, invoking the brave days of the Boer Commando. When he spoke, even I would listen! His Afrikaans was unbelievably beautiful, lyrical, passionate, inspiring - if racism was the kind of inspiration you were looking for.
When you started to analyse what he was actually saying, as opposed to the sound of what he was saying, it was all a load of utter rubbish. It was premised on the innate superiority of the “white” race. It believed that there was some kind of connection between this “white” race and the Christian God. It saw itself, in the Afrikaner version of the white race, as the true successor to the special relationship which, biblically, was once held by Israel.
And it is at this point that serious psychological disorientation starts to set in. With it comes paranoia, insecurity, false aggrandisement, a serious lack of reality and perspective. The followers (because there must be a “leader” and there must be “followers”) pattern themselves on the struggles of Israel (though, for reasons unclear to me, they hate Jews). They are engaged in a titanic struggle of the light (them) against the darkness (anyone else, especially the English and “blacks”). Everything is seen in grandiose apocalyptic terms. The defeat of the Satan is their goal.
These are lofty positions. And I have often found myself wondering, especially when I had some proximity to these people (when I still worked near Krugersdorp and in the vicinity of Ventersdorp, what these Khaki-clad beer-bellied visionaries might be thinking. The last thing they would want is for South Africa, under black leadership, to succeed. In discussion with them (such as is possible) this thing becomes clear. South Africa cannot succeed, unless the Afrikaner is in control. Because only the Afrikaner is chosen by God. Only the Afrikaner understands what needs to be done to put us all on the right path again.
Of course, the sub-text is a kind of strange contorted logic about self-preservation. There are forces ranged against the Afrikaner Volk at every side. There are even forces ranged against the Boer nation, which are within. The paranoia is profound and all-embracing. It never rests. It never goes on holiday. It never gets any better.
And, sure enough, the self-fulfilling prophesies start to play themselves out. Crime gets worse in the country. Zimbabwe implodes. Corruption increases beyond any even vaguely forgivable levels. Racism increases and the kind of white people who collected tins of sardines and built bunkers in their back yards to get themselves through the predicted catastrophe of the first democratic election, now see themselves, individually, as the direct victims of black racism and exclusion.
It is these whites, which have been largely sidelined, disarmed and silenced, who are now raising the Vierkleur on the gates at the entrance of the Terreblanche farm. You are I know he was just a has-been before his death but he is now raised immortal. That is how resurrections tend to happen. Violent deaths often seem to be an indicator.
It all reminds me of the archetypal Boer hero, Jopie Fourie. He was born in the Pretoria district in 1878. He was a scout and dispatch rider during the South African War, and was wounded and captured in an action north of Pretoria. After the war he became a captain in the Active Citizen Force, and in 1914 decided to join the rebellion in protest against Prime Minister Louis Botha’s decision to invade German South West Africa as part of the international war effort against Germany. He was captured in the Rustenburg area on 16 December 1914 and was court-marshaled. On 20 December of the same year he was executed by firing squad.
That is the tradition in which the AWB sees itself. They feel that they have been betrayed. They feel their cause against the state is just and they feel that they are martyrs. The memories of the Concentration camps in which the British incarcerated 23 000 of their number, are ever present. And what they see as the ultimate betrayal of FW de Klerk simply stands in that long line of betrayal and deceit and evil against the Volk.
So, with this burden, this weight of history, the actual numbers of the AWB and the things they do, (like riding around on horses and wearing Khaki shorts) – has always seemed to me to be a rather pathetic shadow of the ideals themselves – however much one might not want to support them.
But now, they have a martyr. Crime has given them a martyr. He was reprehensible and criminal himself. His thoughts were ugly; his vision limited by hatred, fear and prejudice. But now he is a hero and he will live forever as the flag-bearer to this crazy ideal of separate nationhood and self-determination.
I looked, today, at the picture of his unglamorous rough-hewn and now bloodstained bed, in a house that spoke very clearly of extremely poor circumstances. This is now a shrine to racial superiority. This is now a place of pilgrimage to a divisive and destructive philosophy. This represents the resurrection of hate.
One of the most profound theological insights I ever had as a student was when I read a theologian called Paul Tillich, following Rudolf Bultmann. It was there that I first considered the possibility that resurrection, if it happens ever and at all, it is most likely to happen inside of us. We each have a level of choice in the matter. Will the bloodstained and divisive spirit of Eugene Terreblanche be born in us today? That is the question, I suppose.