It's been an enlightening few weeks.
- On June 15th, in response to a panegyric that was so over-the-top it was nauseating, I published an article titled "No, the Afrikaners were NOT 'The Heroic White Tribe of Africa' ". To say that it attracted negative feedback is an understatement. From the attacks launched in the comments beneath that article, you'd think I was assaulting truth, justice and the American way (if not motherhood and apple pie into the bargain).
- In response to those attacks, I wrote a follow-up article a week later titled "Defending my thesis about South Africa and the Afrikaners". Again, it was greeted by very negative comments, which you can read for yourself at the link.
- Finally, to put the cherry on top, as it were, three days ago Instapundit linked to my first article. The comments on Instapundit were almost uniformly vitriolic, to put it mildly.
I think there are several important lessons displayed by the reaction to my articles. I'd like to lay them out here, in the hope that they may help some people think more clearly. I daresay I won't convince most of my critics, because they made their mind up long ago. Nevertheless, there are some people who still have an open mind on the subject; so here goes.
First, note that the vast majority of negative comments did not address a single point I made. I'd taken care to provide links to support my claims, and/or cited specifics that are very easy to check in the history books. Nothing I said about historical fact was a lie; everything could be confirmed - yet it was almost universally ignored by respondents. Instead, they raised all sorts of different points, as if unwilling or unable to answer those I'd made. I found that very revealing about their motivation.
There's an old saw in the legal profession. It goes something like this:
- If the facts are against you, argue the law.
- If the law is against you, argue the facts.
- If the facts and the law are against you, discredit the witness.
I submit that's exactly what many of those who attacked my views are doing. They couldn't dispute the facts, so they criticized me as an apologist for blacks, or because I ignored what they saw as the reality of race relations, or whatever. It's a classic case of "discredit the witness", or what in other circles would be termed "shooting the messenger". It's also fundamentally dishonest in its refusal to face the facts.
Second, many of the respondents introduced untruths to support their criticisms. I'm not saying that all of them were deliberately lying (although I'm sure some were), but many had clearly been at least indoctrinated or misinformed. For example, one of the most frequent claims was that, as Afrikaners advanced into the interior of southern Africa, they found it empty, devoid of black tribes. This is completely false. It's a shibboleth put out by the Afrikaners decades ago, trying to justify their nonsensical claim that South Africa belonged to them as pioneers, not to Black tribes who were trying to stake their own claims. (I addressed that point in the second article, pointing out that "If [the Afrikaners] were alone, who were they fighting?" - a reference to the many bloody conflicts in southern Africa between black and white during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.)
Third, the respondents almost uniformly made no distinction between the individual and the group. To my mind, this is the most fatal flaw in the arguments of those who argue that this, or that, or the other race is deficient, or inferior, or flawed, compared to another. To say that any race is more violent, brutish, uncivilized, etc. is untenable when one considers that the same race will almost certainly produce highly distinguished individuals who would be a credit to any group. If all of them are "bad", how can some individuals be "good"?
Yes, Africa as a whole is pretty much a basket-case, as I've freely admitted in these pages. Black tribal culture and everything that goes with it is one of the most important reasons why that's so. Nevertheless, that reality can't be allowed to become an excuse for the inhuman way that Afrikaners and their sympathizers treated other races. To coin a phrase, "two wrongs don't make one right".
Of course, if the majority of any given race or group or religion behave in a negative way, every member of such a group will be regarded by other groups with suspicion and dislike. I spoke about that when considering the terror attacks in Paris in late 2015. The comments made about Muslims in that article can be applied to any group that another perceives as a threat, irrespective of race. In Northern Ireland, it's Catholics versus Protestants. In Ukraine, it's Ukrainians versus Russians. In Syria, it's fundamentalist Islamic terrorists versus the Assad regime. The opposing sides hate, fear and demonize each other six ways from Sunday. The Afrikaner-black South African conflict is no different.
I'd like to circle back to the argument I made earlier: that most respondents didn't address the points I'd made, but rather argued about other points and issues that were/are more important or relevant to them. I think this is critical in such a discussion. If we allow that to happen, we aren't talking to each other, but past each other. Even Adam Piggott, whose opinions I respect and who has replied to me in two articles on his blog, appears to have fallen into this trap to some extent. I'd like to elaborate.
I never once spoke about tribes in general, or races in general, or culture in general. I addressed the very specific acts of Afrikaners, and the policies that they implemented, as the reason why they were now facing opprobrium, violence and marginalization in South Africa. Respondents have almost all avoided facing that reality. Instead, they've argued that what's happening to the Afrikaner is because of a wider conflict that's occurring all over the world; even that it represents what will happen if blacks as a group take over anywhere. I did not address those issues at all, and I will not, because the subject I tackled was very specific, and should still be.
If respondents will not address the plain, simple, historical facts of what the Afrikaners did, and why those acts have led to their present situation, they are ignoring the point at issue. It's very simple. If the Afrikaners did not do those things, then I'm a liar, and I should (rightly) be pilloried as such. Furthermore, the rationale for the current oppression of Afrikaners is undermined. However, if the Afrikaners did do those things, then they are as guilty of human rights abuses - even atrocities - as the Serbs and Croats in former Yugoslavia, or the Soviets in Afghanistan, or the Chechens in the former Soviet Union, or . . . you get the idea. If they're guilty, the way they're being treated now becomes much easier to understand. It doesn't condone or excuse it, but it explains it. It's not about broader race issues: it's that "they sowed the wind, and now they reap the whirlwind". Sadly, most commenters are largely refusing to acknowledge that, and bringing in other points - unrelated to the original article - to excuse or sympathize with the Afrikaner tribe as victims of discrimination.
I said in the first article in the series:
I've written at length about the evils of apartheid, and the immense damage it caused to South Africa over the years. I summarized most of the issues in a 2013 article titled "Was apartheid South Africa really that bad?" Yes, it was. I cited my own experience, and that of others, and tried to show how things really were pretty darned evil under that policy. I concluded by asking my American readers:
Finally, to people who try to make excuses for apartheid and the conduct of the then-South African government, I can only say:
- If you were treated like a slave, a sub-human and a pariah in your own country;
- If you were stripped of your citizenship and civil rights in the country of your birth because of the color of your skin;
- If your education depended upon your skin color for its quality (or lack thereof);
- If your choice of what to do with your life, or where to live, or who to love or marry, was restricted by your race;
- If you were denied free travel inside your own country, forced to carry an internal passport and subject to instant arrest if you forgot it at home or lost it;
- If you were forced to accept menial labor as the only work open to you, paid a starvation wage, and denied the right to bring your family to live with you near your place of work;
- If you were savagely beaten and imprisoned if you dared to protest such restrictions and indignities, or even shot out of hand rather than arrested;
would you calmly accept those things? Or would you take up arms to overthrow the system that placed such restrictions upon you?
I know what my answer would have been, in my younger years. It would have been the same as Nelson Mandela's in the 1960's.
I'd like to appeal to those respondents who have not yet done so, to read that earlier article in full. If someone had treated you that way, how would you respond? I'd like an honest answer. Sadly, most respondents clearly did not read it. I fear it was often a case of, "My mind's made up - don't confuse me with the facts!" When you read "Titflasher's" accounts (linked in that article) of how anti-apartheid activists were treated (including the most brutal and hideous tortures inflicted by South African police, which I can confirm did happen - I saw them too), how is it possible for anyone to regard the Afrikaners as "heroic"? In their enforcement of a system so inhumane as to be reminiscent of Nazi Germany, many of them were no better than the Gestapo or SS concentration camp guards.
The current backlash against the Afrikaner grew out of the lived experience of millions who were forced to endure their jackboot on their necks. That's the bottom line. That's the way it was. Sure, not all Afrikaners were that bad, just as not all Germans supported Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party and what was done to the Jews of Europe - but that didn't stop all Germans paying the price for it. The Afrikaners are in the same boat today.
I've lived and worked with a large number of Afrikaners. I regard some of them as my friends to this day. Nevertheless, when I look at what many Afrikaners did to South Africa, and then see how they're being treated today, I can only say, "They asked for it." They did unto others, and it's now in turn being done unto them. Just as their "tribe" treated others, so they are being treated today.
Unless and until apologists for the Afrikaners address that specific issue, instead of talking around and above and below and past the subject, their criticisms ignore reality. I said at the outset of this whole kerfuffle: "No, the Afrikaners were NOT 'The Heroic White Tribe of Africa' ". I still maintain that - and I'm still waiting for respondents to prove me wrong. Indeed, by so strenuously avoiding that issue, and instead making excuses for the Afrikaners and/or attacking other tribes and/or races, I submit that many respondents are painting themselves in colors and patterns that are very easy for the rest of us to identify. It's not a flattering picture.