To be repulsive because of injustice


The third major challenge, also explained in the 1952 essay “Culture in Crisis”, which Afrikaners face, is to be repulsive towards others because of injustice.

Louw explained that there is a danger that the belief can take hold among many Afrikaners that it is not necessary to live in justice with the other peoples in South Africa; that mere survival is the main thing, not fair does not exist. Louw’s point of view on this was unequivocal: “I would rather perish than continue to exist through injustice”. He adds a little later: “How can a small nation continue to exist for a long time if it is something hateful and something evil for the best inside – or outside of it?”

In the four decades after these words were written, Afrikaners have indeed become “something hateful and evil” for many inside and outside its own ranks. This was when we did everything in our power to maintain the Afrikaner-controlled white rule and try to defend it against a local and foreign attack.

In the experience of many black people, Afrikaners have become hateful and evil. Foreign, more specifically Western, opinion also increasingly shared the sentiment of hatred. And over time, many Afrikaners also became repulsive in their own eyes.

Several apartheid measures, now largely forgotten, were seen as humiliating and brutal. When, especially since the eighties, a domestic uprising against white rule arose, the then government and the security forces effectively put it down. Some of the measures, such as detention without trial, used for this were necessarily harsh. This provoked further revulsion and led to exactly the hatred and malice that Louw feared.

In light of the devastation the ANC is wreaking, there can be no doubt today that the then government and our ancestors were completely equal in their fear of an ANC rule. Their political instinct and judgment was justified that the ANC could not be trusted with the country’s government and with Afrikaners’ interests, and that it therefore had to be prevented at almost any cost.

In order to avoid a simplistic majority government, however, we should have been able to divide the country into something of the nature of a confederation of self-governing units long before – by the middle of the last century. However, the political forces of that time were not such that this happened – and I do not blame anyone for that. (This is an issue that can be addressed in another discussion.)

What happened, however, is that during the second half of the last century we ended up in a growing crisis and had to cling to power with opinion. Among other things, the communist takeovers of Angola and Mozambique and the growing connection between the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the support they received from the Soviet Union and East Germany (Compare on this for example From inequality to new inequality – from white minority rule to a black oligarchy) only further intensified our justified sense of crisis.

We were therefore obliged to act increasingly vigorously in order to maintain our position of political power, but in the process we unfortunately acquired the taint of injustice and became precisely more repulsive – hateful and evil -, also in the minds of many Afrikaners themselves.

Precisely this was one of the most important reasons why we finally handed over power to the ANC in 1994. Of course, it was extremely difficult – and dangerous – to do so. But Afrikaners believed – and were wrongly deceived – that enough (constitutional) measures had been taken to protect us. Nevertheless, the surrender was at the same time an enormous relief for most Afrikaners. The burden of iniquity and of malice and hatred was off our shoulders. From a conscience point of view, we could breathe freely.

Several of us – myself included – obviously knew full well that the constitutional dispensation of 1994 was fundamentally flawed and placed Afrikaners in an extremely vulnerable position; that no nation could exist without self-determined power over our own interests; and that the 1994 order therefore had to make way as soon as possible for a balanced long-term dispensation – something for which many Afrikaners are relentlessly campaigning.

For the time being, however, Afrikaners rightly lamented their relief from the taint of former hatred and evil.

There are no grounds to argue that Afrikaners have behaved in any way since then, which can (again) make us hateful and evil in the eyes of others. On the contrary, in my opinion, Afrikaners’ actions are as close to impeccable as it can be. We make a constructive contribution in all respects, not only in our own interest, but also in the interest of other communities. And as far as Afrikaners act in our own interest, as we should do, since no one else is going to do it for us, we do it with due consideration of the interests of others.

In the present time, there is no longer any reason to worry about the question of whether our pursuit of survival, self-preservation and growth will be tainted with injustice towards others. Louw’s warning at the time is theoretically still valid, but in the current situation does not really have any practical relevance. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that Afrikaners are currently enjoying increasing respect and esteem precisely because of our growing ability to look after ourselves, as well as our active cooperation with other communities – especially among black people.

Afrikaners’ pursuit of self-government therefore does not suffer from the taint of unfairness. It is an enormous asset.

However, the title of this discussion does not refer to “hate and evil”. The heading is “To be repulsive because of injustice”. Repugnance strikes much wider than hatred and malice. A nation can also be repulsive because it behaves without self-respect; because it lacks self-confidence to claim what it is entitled to; is too timid and afraid to defend himself against unlawful attacks, or because he becomes a follower, accomplice and accomplice of opponents and enemies who harm him, instead of defending himself and taking his rightful place. If he acts in this way, he indeed acts unjustly again, but then unjustly towards himself and for that reason he becomes repulsive in his own eyes and in the eyes of others.

In the current times, unlike when Van Wyk Louw elaborated on the three dangers that threaten Afrikaners of his time, this kind of dishonorable behavior has become a much greater source of repulsion than the hate. In place of the danger of injustice to others, injustice to ourselves now comes first. It is similarly a blemish from which we, we must defend ourselves. This happens through responsible assertive action.

Three challenges for the Afrikaner against the background of the insights of NP van Wyk Louw: This is the last of three articles about the challenges facing the Afrikaner in the current times. As with the first two, it is viewed from the insights of the great Afrikaans writer, NP Van Wyk Louw, in 1952, 300 years after the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck at the Cape.