Wednesday, May 12, 2010
It's Cool by the Pool, Right? [COLUMN]
Black Psychology in the Rainbow Nation - by Nick van der Leek
According to John S. Mbiti, "African people behave and are motivated by what they believe, and what they believe is based on what they experience".
Okay I don't know about you, but when I say the words White Psychology, or Black Psychology, different ideas spring to mind. Part of White Psychology, as far as I'm concerned, pertains to fussiness and perfectionism. There's also a hard grained materialistic greed. There's a preoccupation with things. Now what about Black Psychology?
Black Psychology. Is that like the opposite of a 'white tendency?' Oops have I said something politically incorrect, something that is objectionable? Really? So we can discuss and criticise White Psychology but Black Psychology is racist? When black people talk about 'white tendencies' and openly insult and threaten white people with songs, are we too ensconced in guilt and discomfort and fucking irony to see the obvious?
In South Africa, whites are particularly susceptible to a sort of compartmentalised schizophrenia. An example of this - just one example mind you - is the Soccer World Cup. I've experienced the World Cup in Korea and yep, it's a huge party and it's awesome. I remember how Koreans made a lot of sacrifices - they learnt various languages, they told each other not to eat dogs, but Koreans are very polite and civilised people anyway, not much preparations were needed, but they prepared anyway. It would be nice if the fantasy that South Africa is a reasonably okay country to travel to and stage an event like this were true. It's not. We certainly have the stuff that's not part of the human equation in our favour - beaches, mountains, scenery. The problem you see, is the human equation in South Africa. It's not lekker, and it's not just not lekker, it's badly not lekker. What do I mean?
I mean that while it's clear that significantly fewer tourists are coming here than expected [who knew? why? boo hoo!] SA Tourism is saying it's not a problem, the World Cup will still be a massive tourism boost in terms of advertising for the country? Really? Do you think so? After Buffoona Buffoona exit in the first round having played excellent football, but having lost 4-0 and 3-0 respectively, there's plenty of time for mischief-making. SA Tourism presumes an awful lot - that there are no protests [like the current one paralysing what passes for public transport in this country], no crimes committed, no acts of terrorism [by disgruntled blacks, terrorised whites or bona fide terrorists]. Let's be clear - we have borders so porous in this country you have Mozambicans classified as our most wanted criminals. A Mozambican after all is the prime suspect in the Marzanne beating. You can murder a Sleaze King, call the police, and still skip the country. Just how hard is it, if you really want to, to turn a couple of unsuspecting mini-bus taxis into a Heritage Square massacre in the heart of Johannesburg's already defunct CBD.
There is an enthusiasm and focus on an event while, let's be clear, the rest of the country is on a downward spiral. It should be disturbing but we try not to think about it. If it isn't the SWC distracting us it's something else. The Bulls. Or Idols. Or something. It's schizophrenia.
Many people hoped that since visitors were coming the government would clean up its house, but rather than repairing the driveways and improving security, they renovated and luxurified their own inner sanctums, even built extensions onto their en suite bathrooms, and held lavish birthday parties.
And what did the people do? They protested. Our leader read a few speeches, slowly, and obviously not written or understood by himself. They murdered and stole. Crime in itself is part of the human condition, let's be fair. In South Africa though, crime is of such a disturbing nature that it becomes unspeakable. And lately, unthinkable. Hence many choose to live in Soccer World Cup fantasy, even if the tournament has been hijacked - absolutely - by white greed at its worst.
Currently we've seen the violent disposal of rightwinger, Eugene Terre'Blanche. The murder is a clanging symbol for South Africa right now. Each person may respond in different ways, but Terre'Blanche's murder speaks to the heart of the South African condition. This is not an exaggeration. When you realise this a nasty chill ought to run down your spine; that things in South Africa have deteriorated so far,and so rapidly. By 'things' I am really referring to the morale of all South Africans, and by morale I include their inner resentments, which many set aside for a time.
Now, in these increasingly troubling economic circumstances, they're surfacing, simmering and stewing. Some of this kitchen work was natural, but some has been the bread and butter of one Julius Malema. An opportunist who knows the Black Psychology of South Africans very well.
It is a very simple psychology. It is based on neediness, victimisation, blame and anger - in that order. We are poor and neglected, we're suffering and have no work. This is because whites invaded our country, stole our land, killed our ancestors and have maintained a grip on us ever since. Our suffering is the fault of whites. They own all the wealth. They own the government. They grew rich by stealing from us. It's time to take back what is ours. Kill the boer, kill the farmer, kill the rapists...bring me my machine gun...one settler one bullet.
So it is no surprise that Terre'Blanche was hacked so that he was virtually disemboweled. That his brain was flowing out of his skull, his tongue was cut and his liver exposed. That his two farm workers that he tried to employ and placate seemed to think that by killing him, their boss, they would be heroes of their community. And they were. And that by killing him they would be the boss, they would be able to take his farm and live happily ever after. This seemed realistic because they had the support of their fellow squatters, similarly impoverished, who had spoken daily, usually when drunk on weekends, on how much they wanted to kill the boer. And so even after the act, Mahlangu thought nothing of calling the police - black men like himself - who had his unqualified support in hating the likes of racists like Terre'Blanche.
Of course in the real world, if one person is a racist, we can dislike the quality, or, of course, their behaviour can awake our own racism. And that is no better. This of course is what is at work with Malema, and it's the devil's work. The divisiveness that he sows is actually the gunpowder that can blow this country apart. Because in each South African - who can blame us - we carry pain and sacrifices and burdens that Australians and Poms and most Americans know nothing about.
In South Africa, the word 'racist' has the same implications that 'Nazi' had in Germany, post World War II. It's ridiculous how powerful the accusation is when racism is usually very obvious. People habitually make racist remarks and find their resentments bubble over. Mood swings are allowed. Personal tastes are allowed. And some discrimination is justified. Whites ought to be criticised for their cold-hearted greed, their selfishness, their self-centredness. Blacks ought to be criticised, when they are poor and needy, for being so naive to think that waiting can solve their problems. In this world you have to work. The choice to commit crimes and express one's resentments is a fact of life in South Africa, and this is perhaps the nastiest and meanest and most hopeless element of Black Psychology here. But you will never hear their leader mention this. Because nobody wants to hear it. And when there are babies beaten half to death, babies gang raped, we don't like to speak about that either.
The denial amongst whites is chronic. I have an aunt living in the Cape who employed a fella, and within a short period items from her home began to disappear. She suspected him, but didn't confront him and so when I turned up for a few days, I also had all my cycling kit disappear. The only person with access to the inner sanctums of her home was this guy, but she wouldn't hear of me making any accusations. Of course she went to church that Sunday and the pilfering continued.
I think it got a little much when camera equipment disappeared. In any event as it turned out, this fella was addicted to dagga, and had been rampantly stealing up and down the neighborhood, and everyone had reacted in the same way. Trying not to suspect him; being good Christians. But the story doesn't end there. He was finally caught, perhaps because some judgemental and unforgiving person reported his illegal activities to the police [a normal practise in most civilised countries] and went to jail. Once released he returned to my aunt and she once again employed him. I'm not to clear on the details of the story, perhaps it was after his jail term that he seized the equipment, which was as faras I know literally the last straw, but I also don't blame him for trying to infiltrate the homes again of so many people too stupid to know what he was doing every day, for weeks, in broad daylight. I still miss that cycling kit; I bought it from a specialised triathlon store in Bath, England. Such is life in South Africa because such are South Africans.
And now the World Cup is almost upon us and Coca Cola are inviting us to visit the golden trophy and we wear the yellow shirts of our national team to show our support. We might even buy those plastic trumpets that anyone in their right mind would not. But we do. Because like sheep on a farm and code in a computer, we're programmed to run when the marketing dogs chase us, and fritz through the mainframe according to our programming.
For as long as God is the creator of the earth, its problems belong to him and not to us, and you can imagine, those problems will fester until we graduate from this equation, much diminished in number, but perhaps somewhat wiser. Perhaps not, perhaps belief supports survival, even the belief is not well founded at least it is hopeful in a cave of great darkness and despair.
The consequences of this global economic deterioration are simply this. More and more have-nots will be created. People will fall out of the economic system. And they will want to find someone to blame. The reality is, each person is to blame, and each is culpable for this one single crime - the failure to think. I've explained above why we don't. Because it is too painful, because we choose not to. But nevertheless, that is a decision we collectively made. Naturally when the consequences turn up, we can't think about that either. But by then there is very little choice.
You can sit on a pavement, watch the beautiful go by, and think about sitting in a jacuzzi, but chances are you're not really going to improve your situation, your mood isn't really going to change.
And now we cover full circle. I once discussed with the writer James Howard Kunstler, author of THE LONG EMERGENCY which places in the world would be better off when economic contraction - a decades long process [set off principally by Peak Oil] - where would it be, well, safer? I suggested America with its massive gun owning middle class population would quickly devolve into what it once was - the Wild West. I suggested, that since South Africans know crime, and have already set up our palisade fencing, and secured ourselves, that we might weather the storm better than most.
He responded in a manner that I questioned when he first said it, but now find alarming for its insight. We were standing somewhere in Melrose Arch when he said to me: "There's a large population here that are still upset about what you did to them, or what they think you did. And when they lose the little bit that they have, that will be their chance to seize it, set fire to it, kill it, because they still have a score to settle."
I have a feeling that the World Cup has been a sideshow for a steady plunge in the prospects of all South Africans. What will save us and what would or could damn us depends to a large extent on our leadership. But, if we can face the painful realities collectively, we can, in spite of our leaders, also save ourselves.