Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Kevin Pietersen giving South African whiteys a bad name

It's a sad fact that South Africa loose thousands of very talented and skilled citizens to emigration every year. This is partly due to globalization, which makes professionals and otherwise skilled individuals globally mobile. In South Africa's case other factors that play a role include crime, affirmative action, unwillingness to live under a black government (racism), etc.

Around the time of the fall of Apartheid (1994) the term "the Chicken Run" was coined. The Chicken Run basically referred to white South Africans who were scared out of their wits by the prospect of living under black rule. The writing was on the wall for Apartheid. This had definite implications for the advantaged life that whites have enjoyed for 300 years of colonialism (Dutch & British) and 40 years of Apartheid. Many wealthy and skilled whites hastily packed their bags. Most headed for Britain, as many English speaking South Africans still have British passports. Others headed for Australia ('packing for Perth'), New Zealand and the US. At one time a bumper sticker appeared reading: "Will the last person to leave the country please switch off the lights"...

Luckily many more whiteys decided to stay put. Many English speaking South Africans have no wish to leave the country of their birth and would love nothing more than to raise their kids on African soil. Afrikaans speaking whites (mostly referred to as 'Afrikaners') find themselves in a rather unique position. A large portion of them have been living in the country for over 300 years. In that time Afrikaans evolved from Dutch, German, French, Malay and other influences to a distinctively separate language. While it is still close to Dutch and Flemish it is a language in its own right. Afrikaans culture went through a similar process of evolution and is totally separate from the original Dutch culture, as well as others which influenced its development. The simple fact is that Afrikaners cannot easily assimilate into the Dutch culture as many may believe. I for one do not feel at home in the Netherlands at all. On visits there I do find the similarities in language intriguing, but the land could not feel more foreign. Thus, Afrikaners who joined the Chicken Run tend to stand out as immigrants with a strangely different culture wherever they choose to relocate to.

This is not to say that Afrikaners can't successfully start a life outside of South Africa. Most Afrikaners have enjoyed a privileged education. The Afrikaners also has a long history of rising above difficult circumstances. Thus many Afrikaners are able to succeed, even in difficult circumstances that may be foreign to them. The issue is rather whether they will feel at home anywhere else, but in South Africa? In my mind the answer in the majority of cases is a resounding NO WAYS.

In the end the vast majority of whites chose to remain in the country, most because they would never consider leaving anyway and some because they did not have the financial means to leave. Many whites in the country have developed a extremely strong 'new South Africa' patriotism. I believe most has no longing for the 'old' South Africa whatsoever. However, an uncomfortably large number of whites still view the country through thick racist spectacles. Crime is not only an unacceptable fact of life, it is simply 'proof that blacks can't manage anything' (sic). The same goes for, admittedly huge, problems regarding school education, the beleaguered struggle against Aids, way too much corruption, etc. This last racist grouping cannot talk about these serious scourges without race entering the picture, it's like a badly prepared gravy poured over your beef. Whether you like the beef as is or not, they can be trusted to always spoil the meal by pouring the gravy of race (blacks this and that) over your meal...

One of the ironies of present day South Africa is witnessing how national sports can unite not only different races in their mutual passion, but also racist and non-racist. Few things peeve white South Africans more than having their national teams face South African born opposition. We absolutely 'hate' the likes of Clive Rathbone and Kevin Pieterson. These guys are excellent sportsmen, but how on earth can they be playing for a team other than South Africa? This country gave them only love and tender care in their formative years. Rathbone played in, and celebrated with, the victorious (South African) under 21 world cup winning rugby team. Everyone was looking forward to seeing, among others, Rathbone move on to the senior squad (the Springbok rugby team). How on earth can he pull the Australian jersey over his head to face his former compatriots and not feel like a COMPLETE FAKE, dare we say - a traitor? To add insult to injury the other half of the centre-pair is South African born as well.

However, where South African sports lovers completely loose any sympathy, not that much is left to start with, is when these fools start bad-mouthing the country that raised them and nurtured their skills. Finally, if you then have the complete lack of style or brains to give a South African crowd the middle finger you should seriously consider never touring South Africa again - ever. If you then feel aggrieved getting boo-ed by capacity crowds whenever you do something on the sport field, good or bad, then all hope is lost. You've lost the plot mate.

Archie Henderson plays to these kind of feelings in his column in News 24 (excerpt and hyperlink below). I could not agree more with his final paragraph: "But good luck to KP ((Kevin Pieterson)). He is a rare talent, he is also a real 'windgat' ((blow hole)) - and he is good for the game. But he should just stop being such a cry baby. He gives the rest of us whiteys a bad name."

'Let your bat do the talking': "Archie Henderson.
Kevin Pietersen is a modern South African tragedy.
It has less to do with South Africa's perceived unrequited love for the man, or his alleged victimisation than with his attitude towards the land of his birth. "


Anonymous said...

What do you call ""WHITEY'S WHO STAYED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE but after 12 years decided that there was no "new"South Africa ,just a reverse of the "Old"SA."That the racists were now black.

Everyone has a right to choose.

Mike said...

Anonymous. Everyone has the right to choose, indeed. What would have been nice is if Kevin Pietersen were known for saying something like: "I appreciate the opportunity to play for England and am proud of the team and my contribution to it. It's a pity that I did not get a chance to play for the country of my birth but it will always stay close to my heart." Something in that order. Badmouthing the country that gave you a good education and that nurtured your talent will not be received well by citizens of that country, whether it be England, South Africa or Australia.

As for the rest of your comment. Yes, the honeymoon period after 1994 is over and yes we do have many problems. Some of our problems would have been unavoidable (e.g. poverty) and could not be wished or worked away in 12 years. Others are with us because of weak political will, mismanagement, corruption and weak leadership. These are matters which have to do with a liberation movement becoming the governing party (which has lead to worse conditions elsewhere), ideology taking priority over pragmatism, poor leadership again, a culture of entitlement, etc.

While the article on which you commented touched on race in a playful manner (whiteys), it has in fact nothing to do with race and everything to do with patriotism (to country and team). The solution for our various problems is not returning whites to government, or shipping in whites to 'do the job'. The solution lies in committed and principled leadership and civil society. In terms of the role that white citizens (and other minority groups) have to play in the country, government needs to be accommodating and even handed. Thabo Mbeki did not build bridges and build a common nationhood, as Nelson Mandela did. He did quite the opposite. That will be his sad legacy.

Manny said...

For those who don't have the stomach for Africa, leave. Just leave; don't look back and don't dis what you're walking away from. Shut up and go. Africa aint for the feint-hearted, so if that's you "Anonymous" then just go. Kevin, too, should shut up and let his bat do the talking (as should Smith).

For those who really love ZA, the pleasures and pains, the sonskyn, braai vleis, bokke, black taxis, Brakpan, Boksburg, Bellville, brandes en BJs op Blouberg en lekker boere meisies, stay and play.

Manny C (a whitey from Cape Town, nogals wiff EU passport).

Anonymous said...

Didnt kevin leave south africa because he wasnt selected?...isnt that then SA's fault for letting him go?