Why white men can’t dance

2011-04-13 10:06
I think I have finally figured out Julius Malema. It took me a while, because he is a complex fellow. But now, the penny has finally dropped. It happened when I read the following sentence which he uttered last week-end: “Very few white youth attend and participate in activities that celebrate national holidays such as Freedom day, Human Rights day, and Youth Day.”

At face value, this is a perfectly normal sentence. It drips of sanity, good sense, and homespun values. What’s more, it’s true. White people don’t go to stadiums on public holidays to listen to speeches by ANC politicians. I don’t go either. I have only attended one speech by an ANC leader, and that was very, very long ago. It was when Mandela was live at Soccer City after his release. I remember it as a very happy day.

So, what’s the problem? Why don’t white youth, or white people in general, turn up at these joyous, festive occasions any more? These parties sure sound like a jol! There’s a lot of toy-toying going on, and one can listen to President Zuma singing his machine-gun song, or Malema singing his favourite Boer tunes! Why can’t us whiteys get into the spirit of things! Surely this is what the New South Africa is all about! Singing Boer songs, chanting slogans, eating sushi, and having a great time? Even Helen Zille seems to be getting the hang of it!

Black and white

When one compares this Malema utterance with other Malema utterances, however, the picture changes. Sanity flies out the window. What remains, in the end, is the image of a sad, isolated individual who lives in a very small room without any colour. Everything in Julius Malema’s world is stark black and white, with nothing in-between, not even brown. It’s a bit like the early Star Wars movies, where all the bad guys are dressed up in white space-suits.

What he is in fact saying is this: “Since you white okes do not attend these festivals, you are not really interested in taking part in the social and political life of South Africa.”

That would be a bit like the editor of Die Huisgenoot saying: “The fact that black people don’t attend the annual Skouspel Extravaganza, proves that they are not interested in good music.”

Which, of course, would be crap. And that is why the editor of Die Huisgenoot would never say such a thing. Not even if you threaten her with a cup of tea.

Free choice

Because even the editor of Die Huisgenoot knows that, while the annual Skouspel event is a well-attended, enthusiastically supported and extremely profitable event – I heard a rumour that they have settled their differences with Steve so that they can get him back on stage, which of course will make the event even more profitable, which will enable them to settle with Jurie Els, which would truly be a happy ending for everyone! - it is only a small part of the totality of South African artistic industry.

Attending Die Huisgenoot Skouspel to listen to people like Bobby van Jaarsveld is a matter of free choice. As giving up a perfectly good Saturday afternoon to go to some soccer stadium to hear president Zuma singing Umnshini Wami is a matter of free choice. As for me, I have difficulty deciding which is worse. We all have different tastes and the strength of South African culture lies in its voluntary diversity, not in some imagined forced conformity.

I think I understand Malema now. But, alas, that still does not mean that he is making any sense.


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