Afrikaner self-asphyxiation


The second major challenge that Van Wyk Louw claimed for the Afrikaner people is that a significant number of Afrikaners are beginning to doubt whether we should indeed continue to exist as a people.

In that case, as Louw said, they may even thrive – flourish – and be prosperous as individuals, but they no longer identify with the people and therefore only continue to exist as individuals, preferably absorbed into Anglo-Saxon or a black, or as Louw put it, Bantu culture.

In the current times, the greatest cultural risk is somewhat different, namely that self-doubt leads many of our people to push the nation to one side and simply join a formless global English-speaking world.

If, for example, a million of us were to become convinced, says Louw, that the people are no longer needed, that is the end of the matter. “It’s as good as being overrun militarily or being ‘ploughed over’ by mass immigration.”

The danger of this becomes at its worst when, as Louw says, Afrikaners rightly experience that the spiritual life of the group is no longer enough for the individual to live on; when group life becomes a prison for the individual; when the language offers too little to satisfy the hunger of the mind and when the common thoughts of the people have become rigid, and man isolates himself from the wide world outside.

Cultural and intellectual impoverishment

One can hardly overestimate the importance of this insight. What Louw was warned against is that a people – here, the Afrikaner people – impoverishes, narrows and stiffens, to the extent that it becomes the nature of a mere exclusive clique, a club, association, sect, a party, a denomination, or something in the joints; and that the people offer space for only one point of view, belief, confession, principle, way of life or something similar and exclude others and apply censorship against them. That kind of thing – an unification – runs directly counter to, and in fact is completely incompatible with, what a nation as a cultural community really entails.

There may be numerous organizations in a nation – parties, church associations, associations and similar groupings – which always nurture and promote only one or a few points of view. It is well so; actually the more the better, because it is indicative of a lively civil society. But if a single party, denomination, association, denomination or similar grouping or a single belief, point of view dogma, etc., pretends to encompass the people as a whole, or if agrees with a single dogma, belief or point of view as a requirement for membership of a nation, such “nation” is indeed no longer a nation, but simply a group or sect – at best merely a part of the nation, but never its entirety.

Such a sectoral or sectarian view of a nation distorts the essential image and reality of what a real nation is. A people includes all these diverse beliefs, points of view, emphasis and such things. It is precisely because of its comprehensive nature that a people is a people.

Especially in our era, much more than when Van Wyk Louw warned against the narrowing and hardening of the people 72 years ago, there is even more reason to endorse the authentically comprehensive whole character of the people and this by way of a to endorse and practice comfortable mutual tolerance and accommodation of all Afrikaners.

Unlike then, we currently live in a much more overwhelming global English world. If you therefore experience that your own Afrikaans cultural world freezes and lands you in something of the nature of a cultural and intellectual dungeon, you culturally migrate easily to the English world and you are lost to the Afrikaans world and to the Afrikaner people. Because of the almost ubiquitous English-language globalism, the risk for this kind of migration is now much more serious than ever before.

Individual and nation not against each other

In our thinking, we should be very careful not to contrast the nation and the individual (the individual members of the nation). The desire of individuals to be fully themselves and to express themselves freely with all their talents is not opposed to the necessity for the recognition and flourishing of the people.

On the contrary, it is necessary and feasible to think of the individual and the nation completely in step and in harmony with each other; so as to simultaneously grant coherent recognition to the people and individuals (individual members).

Individuals thrive when they have the opportunity to express themselves freely and can diligently give free rein to their talents in order to achieve, receive recognition for it and experience personal happiness.

If, on the other hand, they are expelled from their own national community because of censorship; if the view of Afrikanership is so narrowly defined that Afrikaners are excluded from the national community, these individuals are adversely affected. They are denied the opportunity to live themselves as Afrikaners.

Such a narrow view of Afrikanership can particularly adversely affect the innovative, the new-thinking, the eccentric, the non-conformist, the cross-dressers, the critical minds, the angular (instead of even-minded) and the minority-minded. They are then subtly or less subtly forced to make a choice between the uniqueness of their own persons and a distorted and narrowed so-called “true” Afrikanership. In this way, they are disadvantaged as individual persons since, viewed on the face of it, they are banished from the national community.

It is then when folk life suffocates individuals, or in the words of Louw, group life becomes a prison for the individual. Precisely then there is the (forced) migration of such individuals out of the nation.

The people as a whole community – not sectoral or sectarian

However, this narrow view of the people is not only detrimental to the excluded and ostracized individuals involved. From the point of view of the people – from a nationalist point of view – it is just as detrimental to the people themselves.

The nation lives thanks to its individual members, or more appropriately, thanks to those who belong to it. The more individuals (individual Afrikaners) belong to the nation, the potentially higher the intellectual quality of the nation as a whole, the more its energy and ingenuity, and the stronger its material well-being and, the better and healthier the condition of the whole of the folk and the folk life is all the richer, more interesting, more captivating, vital and exciting.

When members of the Afrikaner community leave the national ranks because they experience intellectual and cultural incarceration and impoverishment, this is obviously detrimental to the national community. When the people define themselves too narrowly, too “purely” and therefore too excluded (exclusively), they bring disaster upon themselves; then he applies censorship to his own people and thereby drives his own people out of the ranks of the people and injures himself. Then it is not an (external) hostile force that harms and destroys the people through assimilation or subjugation. Then it is the people themselves who let themselves bleed to death because of narrow-mindedness. Then the people themselves became their own fatal enemy.

What’s more is that this narrowness usually drives the best and the free new creators, being at the same time the non-conformists, the free thinkers, the angular and the naysayers, out of the folk community. It is they whose departure from the people causes the greatest loss.

It goes without saying that a people has a place for whom many will consider the narrow-minded, cramped, benepenes and sectarians of all forms. But these people are evidently by no means the (whole of) the people. The people are all – all the Afrikaners.

In my opinion, there is not a big risk for this at the current time. Nevertheless, the risk is always lurking for any cultural community and must always be guarded against.

Especially a nation small in numbers must be aware of this, because it cannot afford any loss of numbers – not because of being overwhelmed by a hostile force, not because of assimilation, and apparently not because of unwise self-inflicted narrow-mindedness.

Three challenges for the Afrikaner against the background of the insights of NP van Wyk Louw: This is the second of three articles on the challenges facing the Afrikaner in the current times. Like the first, it is approached on the basis of the insights into the writing of the great Afrikaans writer, NP Van Wyk Louw, in 1952, 300 years after the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck at the Cape.