Brave new world

Oct 03 2012 07:26
Adriaan Bester
SPRINGBOKS can be rather skittish.

This insight, along with a few other pearls of wisdom, brightened my days over pints and ponders while my mind stretched across the wide expanses of neighbouring Namibia last week.

They, the springboks I witnessed in Etosha, got a big fright from the sly jackals that appeared embalmed in the presence of a mighty herd of zebras.

With neither a kick, nor a storming of their hardened horns, did they attempt to retaliate the annoying ankle-biters. They only trotted off, desperate to survive.

The jackal, it appears, is not the only creature who takes comfort in hunting in (or for) a pack.

While travelling there last week, I tweeted my #AfrikaLite discoveries, one of which was similar to: As a white South African, I face a myriad of stereotypes, both within our borders and abroad.

But the one I fear most is bumping into white racists that think they can find a confidant in me.

My cyber search for solace had some responses back home, best accentuated by comments such as "I’ve same fears. While living abroad I never acknowledged being Saffa when white Saffa were within earshot" by @bohoparadox and "That the combo of my accent and skin colour suggests I appreciate that still distresses me" by @easyleesie.

As if deprived from doing so until the moment of our meeting, they leap into medieval views on life, knitting their archaic and tired expressions with derogatory language designed to elevate their supremacy.

These people are not in every pub and market, nor are they uniquely South African. But often they are expatriated. From somewhere. With some reason.

What I am yet to master is plain language to put an immediate stop to being bullied into their embarrassing and boring monologues.

In most cases, I get quiet. Then very quiet. I often slip through the back door of the trap I find myself in, not stepping up to the evangelic moment of converting a lost soul.

Like a springbok, I guess. Threatened by the little jackal that bit me while intoxicated by the fumes of his mates and liquor that pump in unison on his caveman views on life.

I need the skill to turn this moment into a confession of what makes me proud. How do I explain the chambers that fill inside me in equal measure when I think of the work done by my homegrown heroes?

I brim with the same pride when reading Antjie Krog and Eugène Marais as when I think of the brave worlds opened by Robert Sobukwe and Steve Biko.

My soul cries as intensely as it reaches to Poppie Nongena as it does when I grasp at the memories of District Six offered by Gregoire Boonzaaier.

And while I nod my head when another present voice I tune into, Mamphela Ramphele, says we should not wait for a miracle leader to rise, I am aware that like many of my country cousins, I yearn to look at the example set by great men and women so that I can trace my footsteps in their journey.

Back at the Windhoek ranch, I debate with a different mindset the plight of the Marikana miner than the expat I bump into.

With little encouragement, he will expand the fleeting conversation to his cousin that cannot get a job at Woolworths (or Eskom or department of fisheries - fill in any name here) – "and yet these miners act the way they do".

I drown the ridiculous image of him, or said cousin, rock drilling for platinum, or packing shelves in my convenience store. Namibia really offers great beer. For these and other moments.

Looking at us from afar, with scatterings of our hurt dotted in modern diaspora, I wonder if we are trapped in finding fault with one another. For the traveller, Namibia looks like a happy nation, with clean streets and solar panels aplenty, functioning in some shape of unity.

While we turn on ourselves, the world takes another leap forward.

With my new skills set, I am not aiming to reset my history, nor do I expect a magic wand to erase the wrongs that have been committed over and over again – and the ones still being committed today.

Rather, it must fuel the new generation to rise from wimpish springbok to mighty mammals that marvel at the moment of making a difference to the way we are and the way we ought to be.

 - Fin24

You can follow Adriaan’s explorations on Twitter as @aiBester.

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