By Pieter Jordaan
On a recent trip to Europe with a tour group from the Solidarity Movement, we experienced mixed feelings around almost every corner, turn, canal and cathedral.
One of our many aims was precisely to look at specific communities in Europe with “different” eyes. These are communities from whose past, and present, we can possibly learn something good and appropriate.
Some of these lessons can help in our own way of thinking about a prosperous survival for Afrikaners here in South Africa – specifically from a minority perspective.
When you travel in this way, you see different things than the average tourist. Sometimes you even see through the obvious and unmistakable European beauty.
We start in Switzerland – on the outskirts of beautiful old Zurich, where we admire the cleanliness, order and mutual respect, as characteristics of their unique federal system. A model state of peace. Their coexistence as an alliance of cantons is essentially much older than the official 175 years as a federation.
But what we then also experience in this peaceful strangeness is a kind of anxious silence. This is something that one of our tour group members only identifies later: Where are all the children then?
In Switzerland, like many other countries in Europe, the birth rate is falling sharply. It leaves a void that you can sometimes feel around you. The absence of children, a lack of noise, play and laughter. In several EU countries, the admission of even more immigrants is considered a kind of countermeasure for low birth rates, it is said.
En route to the Netherlands
On our train journey to the Netherlands we travel through Germany. Being able to be here is a privilege, even if we soon notice how our group’s cheerful “loudness” upsets some passengers. Faces around us are only half stiff and stiff. Yet we are also hardly fat from laughter when repair works on one track, and staff shortages on another, make us chip from one train car to another in a platform-to-platform platoon.
I am surprised because I have been told about German punctuality since I was young. It is out of desperation that we knock late at night at a place to stay in Düsseldorf. A few other things are also not in line with expectations: the demographics of the hordes in the German station building there. Also the numbers of intoxicated, homeless, apparently deranged and confused. Comfort comes via a message from a friend who lives outside Munich: rather come and visit the German countryside. There it is still German.
In the Netherlands, the lack of space naturally strikes us. Our ancestors’ total territory is about the size of two Gautengs, but with a larger population than even just one. At the same time, there is so much to cherish.
We learn and respect stories about a people with an old culture, within which challenges have as a rule been transformed into opportunities. When even the great sea wanted to overwhelm them, plans were devised with dykes, polders, dams and mills.
Their relationship with water, their suffering because of it, then gradually became part of a culture. It expands them, and it leads them to creative innovation, to a point where the question had to be asked: Did water divide them, or did water unite them?
In the face of such a superior force – the sea – the lessons of perseverance for Afrikaners, even on dry land, are very clear.
Unfortunately, these lessons are nowadays being washed away by a modern wave. In Nüwe Nederland, so we hear here, as a global citizen you like to stay away from conversations about identity and culture. These are now only relative, it’s to pick and choose. You are actually bound by an unrestrained, progressive “freedom” in which not the royal flag, but the rainbow flag rules.
Just like with the Dutch, we experience in urban France how Frenchness “faints”. On a boat trip in Paris, we now notice small tent towns, immigrant shelters under the overhang of almost every bridge that arches over the mighty Seine. And graffiti.
At the train stations it’s just dirty, and you just feel the destruction. While the city’s biggest monuments are still standing, it still feels as though splendor and splendor without a cultural foundation here might die.
The new Paris
This compares us to Hungary – the new Paris if you like. The trajectory is the opposite.
After decades under communism, and centuries as a buffer zone for Christianity against the east, Budapest is once again a work of art in the making. Hungarians are a proud majority and Hungarian culture, its folk heroes and its stories, are empowered and protected. Almost everywhere you experience a refreshing emphasis on building, with officials who want to keep immigration control strong, for the good of their people.
In Hungary, they are looking forward to a bright future, even if they are also vilified from the continent.
We also find it in South Tyrol, the northernmost Italian province. This is where we end up last saddle. An autonomous region, in Italy, with one big difference: it’s a German minority that gratefully clings to culture and language, even though it is surrounded by Italy, Italians and Italians.
Here it is said that culture gives them a “why”, and its cohesion a “how”. There are more than just geographical boundaries to respect. In such unanimity there seems to be still strength, which can resist an overwhelming force. As a reward, they receive much more than just quasi-culture. South Tyrol is now also Italy’s richest province, and one of the richest in the European Union as a whole.
Our tour group from South Africa looks at all these things and asks: which of these communities is building a future – and in the interests of their descendants? For which of them the future is bright, if you had to guess? Do they really see merit in that childless, churchless, identityless and borderless thought?
Maybe we are sitting on some of the answers ourselves, we who are not used to anything and are so urgently looking for answers?
Because what gives us Afrikaners, after 370 years of enduring and enduring, the courage of conviction to believe in a future, not only for us, but also for the next generation and the generations after that?
It is something to talk about and write about. I chose writing and here is my footnote.
A rediscovery in Europe, on the toll of the church bell, every hour…
…there we dig for our roots, or for golden age wisdom about a future here.
We see ancestral deeds, deeply enviable: monuments of culture greater than the present. Architecture.
One generation’s mason of faith in measured granite stone and marble.
Built by a generation after that, always with God, without even a glimpse of the fruits that your labor may bear.
But we also notice the bizarre, very regrettable: an old world suffocated in two thousand graffiti. Contempt of culture. (And you say something… censorship).
It’s generations’ work of faith betrayed.
Cultureless cult, the one that determines your new culture. There is no God, sham piety without shame, right in front of the altar, there in the cathedral.
There we stand with questions, diaspora on a journey. Where here does the Afrikaner still feel at home at all?
Do we know the Alpesneeu and how safe are the Rhineland nights? May the Black Forest still hold secrets, and where, oh panting deer!, do the rainbows over Amsterdam’s canals end?
Our roots now look like fossils, like an extinct animal. Who has the answer? Europe as he looks now, or our cramp here?
Is the tractor road a kind of freedom guide, a warning against destruction? Who learns from whom, and who is the master? Are we below perhaps inspired by standing together – crying, kneeling and praying?
Was there poison in the enlightenment, and what do we see here? Are the enlightened ones completely lost in the darkness, and is there a torch burning…
…always where people believe in Old-Time Simplicity… or even in a promised African land?
- Pieter Jordaan is manager of news and publicity at Solidarity.