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Ready for reverse imperialism?

2011-05-23 06:45
“Democracy works in South Africa,” the newscaster remarked as she was ruminating about the high voter turnout in the week’s municipal elections. That’s about the best news we’ve had since the Soccer World Cup! In spite of all the glitches and the scuffles and the racist remarks and the corruption and the scandals and the ghastly crime statistics, in spite of Joost’s disease, in spite of Harry breaking up with Chelsy, yes, even in spite of Vernon Koekemoer’s hairstyle, every time when we really have our backs against the walls, South Africans tend to dig deep and finally manage to do the right thing.

It’s only this RACE thing. Hell, if we could lick it…

For, like Lady Macbeth, the more we rub that spot with soap, the more we try to bury it in the past, the bigger it seems to grow, the longer we seem to hide in the lengthening shadows of the past.

Will we never be able to stand up, as a people, and say to ourselves: “We are all South Africans, never mind the colour of our skin?”

Wrong thinking

I cannot speak for black racists. I know they’re out there, and yes, I know that many of them, unfortunately, have valid reasons for bearing those grudges. Having lived with white racism all my life, though, I can tell you right now that dealing with white racism is perhaps a more complicated than black racism.

There are two varieties of white racism: the old-fashioned stoere-boere beard-and-pot-belly racism of the old AWB, and the more sophisticated snootier-than-thou I-wish-the-squatters-would-go-away racism of the neo-liberals. It is the first type of racism that says “blacks are stupid”. It is the second one that says “blacks aren’t naturally stupid, of course, but, let’s face it; they haven't discovered the wheel yet!” Both kinds of racism are wrong, both are rooted in wrong thinking.

Oh, it’s tempting to vault our Western way of life. After all, we have aeroplanes and science and free trade, don’t we? We are the civilized ones. The clever ones, not so?

Pretty primitive world

Last week, I happened to pick up two paperback books on two different airports. They were The 4% Universe by Richard Panek and The Eerie Silence by Paul Davies. These two books were like a wake-up call to me. It made me realize that, on the whole, we Westerners still live in a pretty primitive world.

I realized that we still know virtually NOTHING about the universe we live in, for the stars and the planets and the galaxies we can see through our telescopes, only comprise a tiny 4% of what’s out there! The rest is all dark matter and energy! And no-one, not even our best scientists, have any clue what dark matter or dark energy IS…

I also realised that, even though we may think we know all about how our planet came into existence, how man evolved, etc., we still do not have the FOGGIEST CLUE how the first life form started out in the first muddy pond! We just DON’T KNOW…not even evolution can explain that.   

So, while we are bravely and mightily going about our daily business, tweeting and gossiping and living it up, perhaps we should sometimes just stop and ask ourselves whether we really are all THAT smart, all THAT elegant, all that COOL… and to what extent we have truly understood the messages brought to us by “third-world” prophets such as Madiba and Gandhi.

For if we don’t heed these voices of our collective planet conscience, one day we might just wake up from our computer screens with our oceans turned back into primordial slime, our nuclear reactors blowing off steam, and our cities reclaimed by the African jungle.
That, of course, would be imperialism in reverse.

Read more on:    koos kombuis  |  columnists

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