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Perceptions about Afrikaners
I write this section as a fellow Afrikaner.
Like with many groups, the fight for the soul is an interesting aspect. I think of the Russians, some are very Western and Euro-centric. Others are very nationalistic and anti-West. The Jews -- some are inclusive and want to work an honest peace with the Palestinians, others feel history has spoken and that any connectedness with the Palestinians would be the first steps to softening up and self-destruction. And and can go on about how peoples are divided in how to approach their identity.
It has been fascinating to view the morphing of Afrikaner identity over the years. Afrikaners were at the heart of the master plan of racial separation, as well as the struggle. Afrikaners are known as being strongly individualistic, yet they have a strong sense of "helpmekaar" (support each other).
As I think back of my visit to Philippolis in the southern Freestate, I see Afrikaners using all their creative talents and physical energy to labor for the welfare of the less fortunate. It is a beautiful experience to feel of that part of the Afrikaner -- a people with a strong faith in their God, a deep commitment to the continent and to serving others. People like this make me proud to be one of them. Some of them live simple lives, they have meager means by which they can accomplish their ideals, but they are rich in spirit and live.
Then I have mingled in the richer urban suburbs with Afrikaners that suffer from the blight of materialism. Where liquor abuse is a problem, where there is a focus on covering low self esteem with flaunted materialism, where there is a real problem with infidelity, honesty, and having a clue what really matters in life. Yet, in this same group, I have found also many goodly souls who invest in the training of others, the building of faith, and who deeply care about the well-being of the less fortunate.
Then I have walked the path that President Zuma has spoken about. I have seen the desperation, the feeling of being down-trodden. In some there is little dignity left. Poverty is a terrible curse.
Anecdotaly I have asked those who are not White how they view the White folks -- are they all the same to you? ... I have received answers that group well in their perceptions.
It goes like this. "No, Whites are not all the same. There is a marked difference between English and Afrikaans folks."
"With the Afrikaans folks, you can tell easily if they like you or not. They will tell you. With the English, you do not know who likes you and who not. They all smile at you the same, yet you know some do not like you."
My comments to this ... I mentioned the independence and individualism of the Afrikaner. That comes from their roots as farmers. If you saw the smoke of your neighbor's chimney, you guys were living too close to each other. :-) Yet, this spread-out existence also brought about an understanding of the need to support and help each other. Well, this rural life-style has made for a very frank and honest person, but also for a person who lacks in diplomacy and social finesse. The English in turn, come from the urban centers of England, where you lived with many in cramped places, and the need to get along was much greater. They developed the art of diplomacy and smoothing things over. That is a wonderful skill that Afrikaners can learn from. But then, they can be too smooth as well, and hide their feelings and actual being in the process as well. ... and that is where they can learn from the Afrikaner again.
I asked those who I interviewed, "With this difference, what do you prefer?" and the answer was expected, "we prefer the Afrikaner, because we know what we've got and where we stand."
I have heard an old Hungarian lady speak about returning to Hungary after the end of Soviet dominance over her country. She loved to be back and experience her culture, but she felt that vulgarity is far too common and she wishes for the sense of duty and integrity she knew in her culture as a young woman.
I share a similar feeling about my culture. I sense that vulgarity and liquor abuse is a tragic blight we have to deal with. Yet, I still see those with a noble commitment and a strong faith, and that is energizing.
My identity has shifted greatly too. I used to see myself first as a Du Plessis, then as a Christian, then as an Afrikaner, then as a South African, and lastly as a global citizen. This has changed with the evolving New South Africa. I see myself as a Du Plessis, then as a Christian, then as an Afrikaner, then as an African, and lastly as a global citizen. As you noticed my South African sense of identity has been replaced with an African sense of identity. I associate plenty with Africans from all over the continent, and I feel that we all in Sub-Saharan Africa share a common sense of helpmekaar (ubuntu). I feel as connected to an African from Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya, or Nigeria as I do to someone from anywhere in South Africa. To my total delight, I have found that my Africa brothers have accepted me with the same warmth and heartiness as I accept them. Together we face the blight of substance abuse, of corruption and crime. We love our continent and our people. ...that makes living sweet.